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Still Have My Landline

Credit: HD Mengt

516-485-8905.

It has been more than 50 years since I last used that phone number, which was our telephone number in West Hempstead, where I grew up.

But it’s still etched in my memory.

I also remember the phone number for Hillel, my best friend at the time: 516-483-3536.

And a host of other long forgotten landline numbers.

I have found that one of the big differences between those under 35 and those who are my age is the ability and the need to remember phone numbers.

You see, when we were younger, there was a value to learning a phone number by heart.  You wouldn’t have to look it up in a phone book or in an address book.  I prided myself on being able to rattle off the phone numbers of dozens of my friends and family members.

The younger folks who grew up with their Androids and iPhones have no need to remember phone numbers.  With their cell phones always by their side, they can easily dial the number from their contacts or go to their recent calls and automatically dial from there.

I’m a creature of habit.  While most of my friends and family have cancelled their landline service, we still have a landline — for a few reasons.

First, if there is a power outage for an extended period, it’s nice to know that I can still make phone calls without charging up a phone.  Second, there are still a few people who know our landline number and prefer to use it to reach us.  And finally, there are times where our cell service is spotty, so it’s nice to know that there is an alternative.  It’s worth the $20 a month extra that we pay to keep the line active.

I remember a couple of decades ago when you were able to make local calls without an area code.  Then the increase in nationwide area codes forced the phone company to require that you dial the area code even for local calls … and we all had to get used to doing that.  And then you had to add a numeral 1 before the area code and number.  But when cell phones arrived, you didn’t have to dial a numeral 1 before the number.  I still find myself dialing the 1 on my iPhone, though.  Old habits die hard.

I also remember the excitement of getting our annual copy of the local white pages delivered to our door. I would always look up our name to make sure that our address and phone number were listed properly … and see if there were any new Feldstein families that might have moved into the local area. I don’t think they print white pages anymore — I haven’t seen a copy in years.

Address books have also disappeared, of course. We saved our old, printed address book with phone numbers, on the small chance that we might need to look up an old phone number or address from 20 years ago. We never have, though. My 93-year-old computer illiterate mother, God bless her soul, still has her address book from 1980, patched together with scotch tape and somehow still surviving in this smartphone era.

I recall how excited I was when cordless phones became popular — and how we finally didn’t have to be tethered to the phone base when making a call. When we purchased a cordless phone, a new problem emerged— in which room did we leave the receiver?  We solved that problem by purchasing a cordless set with five phones tied to the same number and left a phone in each major room in our house.

I know most folks hate getting telemarketing calls, but I am the exception — I always welcomed them. When a call originated from an organization with which I was familiar, I enjoyed briefly talking to their representative and found it an efficient way to make a donation (much better than spending Sunday morning answering the door and having to be pleasant to multiple fund raisers from yeshivas and other organizations). I even don’t mind getting cold calls … I’m in the marketing business, so I always like to evaluate the different pitches I get to make a purchase or donation.

So … if you read my columns, and you want to talk to me about something I wrote, send me an email at michaelgfeldstein@gmail. I’ll send you my landline number. It still rings in our home.

About the Author
Michael Feldstein, who lives in Stamford, CT, is the author of "Meet Me in the Middle," a collection of essays on contemporary Jewish life. His articles and letters have appeared in The Jewish Link, The Jewish Week, The Forward, and The Jewish Press. He can be reached at michaelgfeldstein@gmail.com