Recently on this blog, several of us got into a side conversation, remembering telephone numbers from many decades ago. I suspect most of us don’t even bother to learn phone numbers any more; we just have them programmed into our mobile devices.
The first telephone number I ever learned—I still remember it—was CL6-2808. CL stood for Clearbrook. Back then, phone numbers had only seven characters, the first two letters standing for neighborhood exchanges. The second two phone numbers I memorized were TI4-1212 (844-1212) and WE6-1212 (936-1212). TI stood for “time” and WE stood for “weather.”
As kids, we used to call Time seconds before the stroke of the Daylight Saving Time switchover, just for kicks, so we could hear time go backward or skip ahead. Childhood’s tiny thrills.
Late last night a friend brought to my attention the sad news that, after 72 years, our local phone company will cease providing time and weather, effective the first of June. Apparently, among the last areas in which Verizon is cutting these basic lifelines is the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area (or, as the recording used to say, “Washington and vicinity,” which was the first I never heard the word “vicinity.”)
My friend who shared this news said the voice recording was one of her neighbors. This makes the news all the more disappointing. Talk about the end of an era.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. The phone company claims we no longer need a free line to time and weather, that we already have innumerable devices through which to learn if we are running late or whether to put our sunglasses or rain boots by the front door. And they’re right, we have smart phones and computers to give us what we need. Heck, I still wear a watch.
Still, there’s something about those pre-recorded voices and the two sets of seven digits indelibly printed in our memories that will make it so difficult to usher out yet another bygone era.
Does anybody really know what time it is?