I feel bad for the kids just coming up today. They'll never know the sheer joy of packing up a U-Haul, getting on the road and disappearing—poof!—to where nobody can ever find or hear from them again. Unless they want them to.
See ya! I'll get you my new phone number just as soon as I know it. Or not.
I disappeared plenty of times myself when I was younger, sometimes by moving to a new apartment only a mile or two away. Where I come from (New York City), there are so many area codes and phone exchanges that it never took much of a geographic shuffle to require getting a new set of digits. I counted up all the apartments I rented back in the day and came up with roughly a dozen, give or take, and within no more than an 8-mile radius. If memory serves, I never had the same telephone number twice.
There was always enormous freedom in this way of life—provided you could get over the guilt of forcing friends and loved ones to spring for a new address book every couple of years, just to keep up with your own comings and goings. (One time I got over it by handing out new, leather-bound address books to all those people who were closest to me.) Casual acquaintances or former work colleagues didn't have a prayer at keeping up with me unless I wanted them to—which of course meant giving them my new number after I'd moved.
Everything's so different today. I finally ditched the land line around six months ago and now all I've got is the cell. I've already had this phone number longer than any phone number I have had in my entire life—and the truth is that it's starting to creep me out a little bit.
Think about it. This cell number, which I can keep no matter what provider I sign up with and no matter where I decide to live, and which there is no reason whatsoever to change, is probably the last phone number that I will have, and for the rest of my life. That's right. If you're looking to get in touch with me at the nursing home 30 years or so from now and you've got this number, then you're all set. Provided I can hear the phone ringing over my bunkmate's TV, of course, and so long as I remember not to leave the iPhone 86s in the walker or at the afternoon Bingo hall.
But it's even worse for the youngins. Their first phone number could be the only one they ever have. In their entire life. Can you imagine?
I can't. In fact, I find the whole thing just way too depressing. It's like never growing up and moving out of your parents' house, or maybe being forced to spend a lifetime with the first girl that ever kissed you. Sure, she might be cute and all, but is that really how things are supposed to work out?
If I had a son or daughter, I know exactly what I would do to make certain that their lives were filled with experience and adventure and wonder and, yes, considered and thoughtful risk-taking. I'd cut them off the family plan just as soon as I was able. And then do everything that the law (and the almighty cell provider) allowed to prevent the kids from taking their phone numbers with them to a new (and hopefully self-funded) cellular plan. It's in their best interest, I tell you.
Nobody should have to travel an entire lifetime knowing only 10 digits.