Columbus, Ohio has a new area code. For decades, we’ve been the 614 area code. It’s snappy. It’s catchy. It’s got the traditional lower number in the middle configuration, like the 202 or 212 or 312 area codes that are used by big cities in the country. Columbus is so associated with its long-standing area code that (614) is the name of one local magazine.
But now Columbus has a new area code, too — 380. It’s clunky. It looks like the kind of number that would pop up on your phone when it’s an annoying telemarketing call from India. And even though most people who live in Columbus couldn’t tell you what the new area code is if you asked, we’ve already grown to hate it. In fact, “hate” doesn’t even begin to capture the depth of feeling we have for the new area code. “Despise it with every fiber of our being” comes a bit closer, but still might not even get there.
Why? Because 380 is an overlapping area code. That means that, rather than creating some new area code out in the suburbs defined by a specific geographic region, the 380 phone numbers will be doled out to people who live in the 614 area code territory.
It’s not that we mind 380ers in our midst, like they’re unclean or something. No, it’s because now we have to dial the area code to make what used to be local calls. So if I want to call Kish to tell her that I am heading home after the end of the work day, I have to dial three extra digits. That might not sound like much of a burden, but understand that Kish’s cell phone number is firmly engraved onto every synapse in my brain, right there with the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies. When I pick up the phone and think “time to call Kish,” the mental reflexes kick in and the finger punches the number automatically — and there’s no 614 area code involved. The 380 area code is basically requiring me to reverse decades of consistent mental conditioning.
We’re told that we need the new 380 area code because the 614 area code is running out of numbers. It’s not just new cell phone numbers, either: we’re told that now vending machines and other devices that take credit cards need phone numbers for “machine-to-machine” communications.
Really? I need to rewire my brain just so an office worker can use a credit card to buy a Zagnut bar? Well, I say the vending machines can bite me. And the 380 area code can, too.