Pick a number

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my father lately (86 on January 14…happy birthday, Dad!), and our conversation the other day somehow turned to numbers. He reeled off his parents’ ancient phone number (PLaza 3-2611). I saw him with my mother’s parents’ 4-2501, and raised him with his 1950s work number: 3-2501, extension 377. We then spun off into our own early-’50s 5-6688, and my Aunt Helen’s 3-0777. (When we moved to Woodbury in 1955, shifting exchanges from PLaza to COngress, reaching all these numbers required operator assistance, despite the fact that we were all of 12 or 13 miles away.)

We had a high old numeric time, eventually expanding to street addresses and license plates. The conversation didn’t start going downhill until I, inevitably but illicitly, got going on baseball batting averages.

Most of us can do these sorts of things with these kinds of numbers. They’re short, of course, and linked to something of personal importance. Many also also present a cadence or rhythm that can be fun to play with. But the other day was really just an enjoyable, increasingly precious, exercise in oddball nostalgia between a father and son.

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