This column ran first in The Cambrian on March 30, 2006.
Dummy, dummy, dummy.
How many times will I look at a 924- telephone number in Cambria ... anddial 927- instead?
I probably know the number by heart, or I've just looked it up. Still Imisdial. When will I ever learn?
It's the communications equivalent of knowing your hand is in the way andslamming the trunk lid anyway.
If the phone company had just added the 924- prefix to the mix recently, Icould forgive myself for forgetting. After all, before it arrived, we'd allbeen on automatic pilot in Cambria, phone-wise. Nobody had to say the firstthree digits of their North Coast telephone number.
"Just call me at 1234" was all anybody needed. Everybody's number startedwith 927-. It was so simple.
Then the town grew. E-mail and fax lines began to chew up available numbersequences. We ran out, and "they" added the 926- exchange for specializedcommunications equipment only.
Then 924- arrived for everyday phone lines, and our telecommunicationsirritations have multiplied ever since, like upper-body itches after ahaircut.
Cell phones only magnify the problems. There's no one place any more where Ican find out how to call somebody - not 411, not the phone book, not theInternet.
And most phone numbers in the want ads no longer give me a clue about wherethe sellers live. That's no help when I'm trying to figure out before I callif I really want to drive that far to look at a used widget with a ding onone side.
Changes can drive me nuts so many ways.
How many times have I driven toward a specific place, only to find I'veslipped a mental time cog and automatically turned into someplace where Iused to work 10 or 20 years ago?
You're not immune either, chum. What happened the last time you moved theliving-room furniture around? The next night as you staggered out in thedark to get the book you forgot, an immovable object just leapt right outand bit you on the leg, didn't it?
It hurts to think about it. During a couple of decades, every Tanner barkedshins on my Mom's 800-pound gorilla, a rough-edged redwood table. It was agorgeous, man-eating piece of furniture that gave us a lifetime of memories,instant-recall pain and a few permanent scars just below our kneecaps.
The consternation of change can lurk everywhere, even in an action asinnocent as moving the Bengay menthol rub to the place where you used tostore your toothpaste.
Those of us who aren't quite Mensa candidates at 5 a.m. usually spend thefirst couple of hours each day operating by rote, and rote doesn't like itmuch when things get moved about.
I also remember when Shirley Miller (Doerr) was launching the Grey Fox Innin the old Souza house, where Robin's is today. Shirley was testing recipesand made a big sample batch of her famed hot-fudge sauce.
Her oh-so-willing taste tester took a mouthful of sundae and got a wild-eyedlook in his eyes.
"What's wrong?" Shirley asked.
"Mooohkadhjht," he said, and gulped. "I think you've got salt in your sugarcanister."
Thank heavens he caught it before she served it to paying customers!
So, my failure to remember 924- prefixes when I'm dialing isn't a big thing,in the grand scheme of things. But I'm sure it's a pain for those of you onthe receiving end.
So, let me issue a blanket, "I'm so sorry!" to anyone who's answered thephone in vain, and then had to tell me, "I think you dialed 927 by mistake."
I also want to thank those of you who accepted my mistake with grace and arueful laugh, or took the time to be helpful, offering up the right phonenumber. This had obviously happened to you before.
And, more than one prefix, Cambria's still a small town, thank heavens.(Hey, it still only has one Zip code.)
A couple of times, I've gotten a 927- friend on the phone while trying tocall a 924-buddy. My stupidity netted me two good chats instead of one!Patch us all together and we'd have a party line.
Which reminds me --- not so long ago, this area had lots of party lines andthe old Cambria Phone Company, with Mabel Bright, Bertie Magetti or otheroperators plugged into the switchboard in what was then Walter Warren's redhouse on Center Street.
Then, if you called a pal, but didn't get an answer? Mabel would cut in. "He's not home, Susie. He's at the barber shop. I'll ring him for you."
I'll bet she'd have remembered the 924-.