Whenever I call someone with Caller ID (which would be everybody these days), they’ll see my 617-Boston area code flash on their screen even though I now reside in Minneapolis. It explains why most of my local calls go straight to voice mail. Who in Minneapolis would be getting a call from Boston? These days, with long distance being no distance, many of us hold onto our hometown area codes if only for nostalgia’s sake. It gives us a sense of home in a very mobile society. One woman told me how she’d be a 612 (Minneapolis) girl for the rest of her life. A man remarked how he held onto his coveted 212 (NYC) code as a status symbol. The day will probably come when area codes are obsolete. In the meantime, we hang on to our identities despite the inconveniences.
In the midst of a winter snowstorm, I was picking up a pizza when my smartphone accidentally slipped from my coat pocket and dropped into the snow accumulating on the street. Because it hit the snow, I didn’t hear it fall and therefore didn’t realize it missing until a few minutes later when I wanted to check the football scores while driving. Realizing what must have happened, I quickly turned around and headed back to the pizza shop. The snow was deeper by now, so I decided to call myself from the pizza shop phone, and listen for my nifty Hawaii 5-0 ringtone in the snow. However when I explained my plan to the pizza people, and asked them to use their landline to call me, they said, sorry, but we’re not allowed to make long distance calls. “But my phone is right out in front of your store!” I pleaded.I would have called my wife at home and had her call my smartphone, but her area code is Boston too. Long distance. And we don’t have a landline. So now I was stranded, helpless as I stood on the cold snowy street. How was I to make it without my smartphone? What if someone was trying to text me?
I started ice-fishing for my dumb phone, growing ever more frantic as I realized how much of my life was tied up in that piece of gadgetry: contacts, calendars, emails, photos and texts. Connections to everything with which I have built my digital life. I know I am not my gadget, but it sure feels like it some days. I’m old enough to remember rolodexes and wall calendars, stamped letters and Kodak, all of my connections piled in a box where I can still go and look through them and remember. I can practically mark the day when the box filing stopped. Now I flip through my phone photos to remember, but they only go back to far, usually no more than two years when the contract gives out and it’s time to recreate my identity again (I know, use the cloud, OK). But maybe that’s another reason to hold on to an area code. For continuity’s sake.
My wife found my phone. I went home and sent her over to the pizza place with hers, where she called mine and retrieved it from its frozen grave, run over, crunched and broken but still functional. There’s a commentary on identity. I got a sermon illustration out of that.