Recently I cancelled my US phone contract. I know. I know. I kept it because I did not want to lose my number and when I travelled to the States, I would use that phone. I suspended service when we were out of the country and assumed I would restart it when we moved back in 2015. But by July 2017, it was time to admit I did not need a US number anymore. So, on August 4, I gave up my US cell service contract with the help of Brian from Verizon. We spoke briefly about my moving to Switzerland. I was too embarrassed to admit I had kept an American contract while living abroad for such a long time so I told him I was moving to Switzerland that day. It was a white lie. Today- give or take four and a half years.
Brian was very helpful and asked all the right questions- Are you sure? Could someone else use this number while you’re gone? I can’t suspend service until August 9, is that okay? I assume this is because he was following a script but each question had a layer of finality and poignancy to it. I had that number for 15 years- as long as I have had a cell phone. It was a great phone number with some numbers repeated, easy to memorize. Was I sure?
After a brief pause, Brian said, “Mrs. Grizzle? I thought service would end on the ninth of August but I accidentally sent the request for termination for today so most likely this will be your last call on this number.”
My last call. On my lifelong number. Was spent speaking to Brian from Verizon.
All of this has led me to think about that number and my phone and how much meaning I attached to a ten digit number. When we lived in Houston, I got daily phone calls for two months from Ernie Cobb. He was an elderly man whose daughter had purchased a cell phone for him and he was convinced that my number was his number. So he called me regularly to check his voicemail. I thought at first that it was some kind of scam so I had Josh call him back. I sat next to Josh and listened as he spoke to Ernie for twenty minutes. Turns out Ernie had spent some time in Houston and now lived in Virginia. He and Josh had a lot in common. He kept calling after that but at least I knew it wasn’t a scam. For years I saved one of Ernie’s messages on MY voicemail, “Hi Jane. Guess we haven’t figured out this number thing yet. If you see this number calling just know it’s me, Ernie Cobb.” I don’t know what happened to Ernie but he stopped calling so I assume he figured out what his own number was.
I have a handful of numbers memorized. My mom and dad’s. My dad’s pager number. My brothers’ and my neighbors’ from growing up. When my water broke with Forest, I called my mom and found out she had the stomach flu and would not be able to be there for the birth. What did I do? I called the only number I could remember from childhood and got my mom’s neighbor to go down to the house to check on her. Thank God I had at some point memorized Dianna’s phone number.
We were with my brother and his wife recently and she told us that he had made a point to memorize her phone number because they had read a study that showed that couples who knew each other’s numbers were more likely to stay together. I thought that was sweet but in light of my conversation with Brian, the study had more weight to it. We don’t memorize many phone numbers anymore so it shows a level of commitment and intentionality to commit these ten digits to memory. I think about numbers I used to know and numbers I have kept in my brain. I do not think it shows that I lack care for those I have not memorized but there is something special about the numbers I do remember. It’s the same with birthdays I remember without looking at the calendar or Facebook. Those analog memories mean just a little more somehow.
So, you can call me on my Swiss number. Just don’t try the 434 number. You might get Ernie Cobb.