Yesterday, while taking down a co-workers phone number, I found myself freaking out (with joy) over his 213 phone number. See, we’re a dying breed, us hangers-on to the 213 area code. It’s too often I’ve seen people knocking phone numbers associated with central LA and (God forbid!) Downtown. I’ve spent lots of time selling cell phones, and when setting up new accounts, found myself time and time again defending the 213 customers were randomly assigned, after facing their disappointment over not getting 323. I had a friend change his number to a 323, after holding his 213 cell phone number for several years, in good part because he said 323 just looks better when handing it out to those in the music and/or entertainment industry. But my phone number ties me to my city, helped me take root in Los Angeles and not give in to becoming one of its many more transient or temporary residents.
I got my first cell phone from the Radio Shack by USC when I first moved out to California for college. And, of course, I was given a local 213 number (this was back when I thought it would be important for locals to be able to call me without incurring long-distance charges). I grew attached pretty quickly. I felt way cooler than all the other out-of-state students who brought with them cell phones with their hometown area codes. Back when I still kept a land-line, I felt slighted (and also a little confused) when I moved to an apartment building just a couple blocks away from my previous place, and was told I had to change to a 323 number instead of a 213. And I was awful proud of myself when a professor told me how useful it would be in my post-college job search to already have a local phone number listed on my resume, and I was already all over that! Since then, I’ve lived in fear that I’ll end up the West Coast version of Elaine in that one episode of Seinfeld where she loses her all-important 212 phone number and it kind of ruins her life.
213 was Southern California’s first area code. It’s got history. It’s got some street cred. Here in LA we judge people a lot by their area code, neighborhood, or even their zip code (or maybe that’s just me?). As lots of people who own them had their 213 numbers since before the 323’s birth in 1998 (or at least long enough ago that the 323 wasn’t quite as prevalent), those numbers give one an air of authenticity as an Angeleno; that person doesn’t come off as “new guy who just moved here from Middle America (and will probably be gone again in three years)”. It’d be a whole other blog post to discuss my (and your?) feelings about all the other area codes around here (or maybe a series? eh, maybe not. I don’t even think I’ve ever seen a 747 number in real life.). But I felt I needed to stand up for the 213, just as I stand up for the Los Angeles River, Downtown, and most everything else associated with the area code that’s pretty well defined my existence for the last 6 1/2 years.
But maybe I should be glad nearly nobody else wants a 213 number. It makes mine that much more special, not conforming to the 323 norm. I’m going against the grain and daring to be different, and using my phone number as a way to express who I really am (Wait? Did I just turn into a hipster? They’re gonna make me move to Silverlake and get a 323 phone number now, aren’t they?).