Originally published 19 June 2008.
Okay, this one is more than a little Andy Rooney-esque.
Let me explain the situation to you. I live in Toronto, but Iknow that similar things exist throughout the +1 phone dialing area. So if you live in or near even a moderately big city, it will most certainly apply.
Toronto's main area code is 416. It's also overlaid with 647. The main area code of the areas around Toronto is 905, though it's overlaid with 289. So far, so banal. Some Torontonians actually make a point of calling the area within the city limits of Toronto 'the 416' and the suburbs around it 'the 905'.
Well, some Torontonians. Not me.
Okay, as I said, so what. When I was a kid,the whole mess was 416, now there's a lot more phones these days. It happens throughout Canada and the USA, and is no biggie. The local calling area in Toronto is larger than the whole 416 telephone exchange. So there is actually local calling across four area codes. When you get a number that starts with 905, it might be local. It might be long distance.
This is where it starts to get odd. When a number starts with 416, I know it's local. When it starts with, say, 212, I know it's in Manhattan and, ergo, long distance. When it's 905, it might or it might not be.
But what makes no sense at all is that, when I dial a long-distance 905 number without putting the '1' first, the phone company refuses to put the call through. It tells me it's long distance and that I need to hang up and dial the damn number again.
For the life of me I can't understand this (additionally, when I'm outside Toronto I can't use my cell phone's address book since I need to go in and manually add that '1' to all the numbers). 80 years ago, when Bell was staffed by little old ladies pulling out and pushing in cables, this might have made sense. But certainly it can figure out how to insert that '1' all by itself, right? Certainly the pleasant operator voice could say "We're sorry. That number is long distance. Please press 1 to put it through." Would that be so big a deal? Why force me to hang up and call again? Do I have to memorise the entire list of suburban and exurban Toronto hamlets to know which ones are local and which ones aren't? After all, I'm still going to call that humber; just this time I'll have to pay for it.
Perhaps I doth protest too much, but a computerised phone system that can't sick in a '1' makes no sense at all.