Wrong Number

In May, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said it will introduce 942 as Toronto’s new overlay area code on April 26, 2025. The new digits will come a year before all existing 416, 647, and 437 phone numbers are expected to be exhausted. As you may know, the reason we now run out of telephone prefixes at a dizzying rate is that pretty much everything that enables a human to connect to the internet requires a phone number. And actually, not just humans. Fridges too.

But area codes are not just three-digit numbers minding their own business. Like it or not, they connote cachet and geographic superiority. I remember when the 416 area code (beloved by Torontonians and reviled by everybody else because of its association with Toronto) was overlaid with 647 in March 2001. This was Canada’s first overlay and made ten-digit dialling mandatory in Toronto. It was an angst inducing double-whammy. Not only was there mortifying danger of being assigned a bland 647 number for your new Nokia flip phone (this was before numbers were portable), it had to be included every time you gave out your number, exposing your unworthiness as an inhabitant of the centre of the universe. Let’s face it. Living in the ‘7’ is not at all the same as living in the ‘6’. Just ask Drake.

Apparently, people will actually pay good money to acquire a particular area code. Want to make it look like you are ensconced in Manhattan? Snag yourself a 212 prefix, although this is easier said than done, because 212 ran out of real estate years ago. Or maybe you want to pretend you hang out in Silicon Valley (415) or are a mover and shaker in Washington (202) or schmooze with movie stars in LA (310). A fashionable area code can make that happen.

When I severed my landline several years ago, I also cut ties with my 416 identity. At that point, I could have transferred the number to my mobile world but I decided not to because we were still in that blissful phase when telemarketers and scammers didn’t have access cell coordinates. I cast my lot with my 647 number and returned the coveted 416 back to the pool, no doubt to the utmost joy of its new owner (at least until they learned they’d inherited my duct-cleaning salesmen and fast-talking get-rich-quick schemers and that ex-boyfriend that turns up like a bad penny every few years). Hasta la vista, baby.

And, with more than 20 years of legitimacy behind it (1,000 in technology years), 647 has acquired elder statesman status, kind of like my Hotmail address that everyone makes fun of, while overlooking the fact that it means I was an early email adopter. To all future owners of 942 numbers, I wish you well. But if you aspire to a higher area code plane, give me a call. Anything’s available for a price.   

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