Ten-digit dialing: Fingers will do a lot more walking

April 30, 1997

If those Texas separatists really want to make themselves useful they will move to Maryland, take over Bell Atlantic and pummel the company executives into submission.

And President Clinton wants volunteers? I volunteer. I volunteer to vent my spleen over how outrageous it is that we have to now dial 10 digits for a local call. Bell's always said to let your fingers do the walking; they never told us they'd be forced to run a marathon.

I know. Dialing 10 digits on a touch tone takes less time than seven on the old rotaries we grew up with. But then we at least had the small joy of dialing a zero and then giving our finger the free ride back to the starting point.


But this is a technological step backwards. Bell Atlantic gives a great big spiel of why it had to do this, that Maryland is a small state and we have too many pager numbers and blah blah blah blah. Anyone can do the math. If they had our convenience in mind we could still have our seven-digit calling.

But they don't have our convenience in mind, they have their convenience in mind.

My own form of civil disobedience is to write "(Varying obscenity, depending on my mood) YOUR TEN DIGIT CALLING" in Magic Marker on my bill each month.

Then I make the check out for 12 cents more than the total of the bill, just because I know it messes with their heads in the billing department.

Then in the place where it says "Do not write in this space" I write "OK."

Then I fold and/or staple my check and/or bill, depending on whatever it is they tell me not to do.

Naturally, I'm not recommending that you do the same. I'm recommending you go to their corporate headquarters and fill the executives' Cadillacs with cement.

I know other people who are angry at Bell Atlantic too, but for other reasons. Like the microscopic print in their phone books.

A nice fellow I know wrote in and complained. They mumbled something about doing their part to save the rain forest and mailed him a magnifying glass.

I realize Bell Atlantic, like other communication companies, is in a highly competitive field in a highly competitive time. But memo to B.A.: You better pay a little bit of attention to your customers, or you're going to be toast. Can we say AMC Pacer? I knew that we could.

Sooner or later Bell Atlantic will be asking consumers to choose them over some other phone carrier. I will have two words to say to Bell, each of which is "ha."

Someone just pointed out to me that I always need to dial 10 digits anyway, since all my calls are prefaced by "900." OK, fine, legitimate point.

But at some juncture, who's to say I might not want to call - I don't know, maybe a friend who lives in Washington County. Well then, at least check in at work with someone who wants to talk to me. Oh all right, suppose I wanted to order a pizza? What would I do then? Huh? I would be bothered, that's what.

I tell you, if Washington County government needs a windfall, all it needs do is slap a tax this week on people changing their speed dials.

But speed dial or not I, and probably a lot of other people, are going to forget to dial the three extra digits from time to time for at least six months.

Then we'll be treated to the moronic recording "We are sorry..."

No, you're not sorry, you enjoy it. If you were sorry your no-good computer voice - which is "smart" enough to know that we didn't dial the area code would know what party it is we're trying to reach and GO AHEAD AND COMPLETE THE CALL.

Oh how I hate that: "We are sorry, it is not necessary to dial a one when calling this number." Well since you obviously know what number I'm calling you digitized fink, then what's the problem?

And while we have to change the way we dial, Bell only needs a small change in it's motto: "Bell - the heart of (mis)communications."

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