OF OUR HILLS
Other Articles by Richard
It had to happen someday, and now it's going to. New Mexico
is getting a second telephone area code. Change,change,change.
Faithful readers of my musings will not be surprised to hear
me sigh over this latest tug on the Land of Enchantment toward
the modern, 21st-century world. But I'm really not upset or even
surprised that our familiar, durable 505 prefix will be joined
by a second number within two years.
I mean, just about everybody I call these days--except for some
diehard 212-ers in Manhattan and a sister in Denver who clings
to 303--has a different area code than they used to But there's
been something nice about watching other states keep coughing
up new codes while 505 still covered all of us.
The telephone book tells me that there are currently 11 states
with just one area code: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana,
North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming--and
New Mexico. Pretty classy company. But frontier New Mexico is
about to move on to bigger things.
It's all enough to make me recall the phone system I found when
I came to New Mexico in the 1970s. Although 505 had been the state's
area code since 1947, Santa Fe had just two telephone prefixes
back then, 982 and 983. Moreover, to call someone, you didn't
need to dial the 98--just either 2 or 3, then the last four digits,for
a total of five. My two favorite numbers in those days were coach
Carl Miller's (2-2222) and theater maven Jinx Junkin's (2-2221).
You didn't forget them.
There was often a long wait for hookups in the 1970s, so I did
without a phone for a while. When I finally got one, I was glad
that it had the 982 prefix, instead of 983. It felt more basic
somehow, closer to beginnings. Santa Fe had just one postal ZIP
code then as well--87501 was enough for us all.
Things changed dramatically and for always on Saturday, June
2, 1979. That was the day when Mountain Bell (the predecessor
to US West) activated a new system that required all seven digits
of the 982 and 983 numbers to be dialed. Though the conversion
was heavily advertised, it nevertheless infuriated Santa Feans,
thousands of whom called to complain.
One of the distressed was Richard Polese, a fixture in the Santa
Fe cityscape for many years. Two years ago he just missed being
elected to the City Council, and in 1979 he was editor of the
Museum of New Mexico's magazine, El Palacio. He did not care much
for the new, improved telephone system.
"It's a sign of creeping big-brotherism in Santa Fe--the idea
that bigger is better," Polese said then. "It's a minor inconvenience,
a mild irritator, but it's another sign of the inverse relationship
between growth and the quality of life. The change is small, but
significant--one of the little charming things about Santa Fe
is gone, along with many others."
That kind of sums up my own take on the most recent "sign of
growth"--the coming of a second area code. For more than 20 years
I've kept my original 982 telephone number, and I'm also proud
that my address is still in the original 87501 ZIP code.
How many ZIP codes have we added since the 1970s? First came
87502, then 87503, then 87505. And look at all the telephone prefixes.
It boggles the mind: 982, 983, 984, 986, 988, 989, 992, 995, 954,
820, 827, 424, 428, 438,455, 466,467, 471, 473, 474 and 476 are
all there, where 982 and 983 once served.
As I said, I'm not really upset. I'm actually part of the problem,
with two phone lines in my house, the second one for my computer
and fax. It's the way of the world today, and we should save our
fighting juices for more significant issues.
Even so, I'm glad that my ZIP code is 87501, that my phone prefix
is 982, and that when the new area code comes, I and Santa Fe
will still be 505, even if most of New Mexico changes. For the
past is with us always, and I'm fond of it.
Articles by Richard McCord