Saturday, November 18, 2006

Social Code

The Torontonian obsession with status and image is perhaps simply an exaggerated manifestation of the same superficial obsessions of urbanites everywhere, but surely not even the most slavish trendster worries about not having the right area code :

When Derritt Mason moved to Little Italy in September, he was twice saddled with three little digits that made him feel like he was not a "real" Torontonian.

The 25-year-old educator with the National Film Board of Canada got stuck with a landline and a cellphone number with the city's 647 area code, the lesser-known companion to Toronto's iconic 416 code.

"I just feel like whoever is giving out cellphones is trying to prevent me from ever feeling like I really belong in Toronto," Mr. Mason says with a laugh.

"The 647 in some strange way is kind of similar to the 905 in that it's somehow not as authentic as a 416 area code."

Area codes might not mean much in another slice of the country, but in the Greater Toronto Area -- a place where area codes serve as a convenient shorthand for the urban/suburban divide and where backroom boys craft election strategies to win over "the 905" or "the 416" -- the three-digit sequence at the start of a phone number carries heavy symbolic weight.

The numbers 905 conjure up images of minivans, soccer fields and sprawl in the towns and cities that encircle the Big Smoke, while the digits 416 invite visions of smug, established urbanites living in the heart of Canada's biggest city.

So what does the relatively new 647 area code symbolize?

Glenn Pilley, the director of the Canadian Numbering Administrator, says the 647 code is only assigned to people who need new telephone numbers.

It is almost always assigned to new cellphones and BlackBerrys, because wireless carries have snapped up most of the exchange codes in 647, he added.

As a result the symbolism of 647 cuts two ways -- its either a badge of cool brandished by people too busy to be tied down to a landline or a three-digit reminder that the user is new to town and thus not a "real" Torontonian.

I wouldn't worry about that, Mr. Mason. Your fixation on such a petty trapping of image shows that you have become a real Torontonian.

Source: National Post


These people need a life . . . said...

647 + 416 = Stuck on Stupid.

Canadi-anna said...

People like this would win gold if Navel gazing were an Olympic sport.

SUZANNE said...

When I used to take pizza orders, all the 647's were cellphones from Toronto.

William said...

I'm a 416er. Take that all you 905ers and 647ers!

Jim said...

I screen my calls. I didn't know 647 was local.

Anonymous said...

Fuck 'im

Derritt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derritt said...

Hello there, friends. Mr. Mason here. I stumbled across this post (in a fit, perhaps, of "navel-gazing" self-googling ... come on, who doesn't do it?) and I thought I'd pop in and offer a quick response to this hasty notion that I am somehow superficially "fixated" on "such a petty trapping of image."

First, let me preface my remarks by saying that if I really, genuinely and sincerely cared about an area code damaging my image as an uber-trendy urbanite, I would scream and bitch and change cell phone companies until the cows came home and I landed a coveted 416 prefix. I would also probably be currently carrying a Motorola razr phone. But really, when it comes down to it, I don't care. People largely don't memorize phone numbers anymore, anyway -- once spoken, they're tucked neatly away into a memory chip.

Let's also acknowledge that it is, at the end of the day, a bit of an annoyance to have a 647 number. As one poster already mentioned, s-he didn't even know it was local. When I make phone calls out-of-province and give my phone number, they have no clue where I'm calling from. People mistake my 647 landline for my cell phone number because they think that 647 is for reserved for cell phones only. How many failed text messages have been sent to my landline? I'll never know. A minor inconvenience, sure, but enough of one to challenge (as I said in the article) the current "authenticity" of the 647 area code. 647, really, is not yet fully associated with the city of Toronto in the minds of many.

Really, I don't think that I came across in this article as a slave to image. I thought that the appropriate qualifier "Mr. Mason says with a laugh" was pretty indicative of the (lack of) seriousness with which I was treating this heavy-hitting, Pullitzer-destined piece of news. But I recognize, friend Loyalist, that it's also pretty darn trendy at the moment to have a sassy, cynical blog, peppered with colourful adjectives and complex sentences, designed to (controversially?) eschew certain values while broadcasting your own ideological and political positionings. So, as a fellow trendster, I'll forgive your rapid judgment of my character. :)

And as for Canadi-anna's accusations of navel-gazing ... well, the same could be said for self-indulgent bloggers (not that I'm necessarily labelling any of you as such). But that, I suppose, is the subject of another post.