Notes from Perry Street: Memorizing Phone Numbers is a Lost Art


By JOHN A. WINTERS, Publisher

I wrote this column seven years ago … almost to the day. The only things I would add are that the subject of this column has destroyed our ability to form correct sentences, understand how to balance a checkbook or even write a check. Handwriting is now hieroglyphics or chicken scratch at best. We send money (what, pray tell, is “cash”) and write entire chapters with apps. Conversations, at least the face-to-face kind, are replaced by texts.

Not too long ago, I realized I did not know any of my sons’ cell phone numbers.

I discovered this while filling out some form and had to include one of their numbers. Had no clue what it was. Talk to him all the time on the phone, but I wasn’t even sure about his area code.

Horrible parent right?

But let’s switch chairs here. How many of you know your kids or grandkids’ cell numbers by heart?

Years ago I had countless phone numbers memorized. Had no choice. I was not one to carry a phone book around. Friends, family, businesses, restaurants, knew them all. Now, I can unequivocally state I know my number and the Little Black Dress’ number.

I also know my home phone number, but I try to never call it because I don’t want to call and have myself answer. Just a weird phobia I have.

So here’s what I’ve learned: smartphones are just making us dumb. And we are getting to the point where some of us cannot survive without them.

We don’t need to memorize anything anymore. We have our contacts in our phone. We have the important ones on speed dial.

We have everything we need, until we don’t.

Example 1: The LBD has been in Oklahoma the last couple of weeks serving as chaplain for the Miss Oklahoma pageant. One night I get a call from one of her friends she’s hanging out with in Oklahoma. Now, getting a call from a friend when your wife is out of town kind of makes your heart stop for a moment. Was she in an accident? Is she hurt?

It was The Dress.

So I’m all “what are you doing calling me on your friend’s phone/you freaked me out/don’t ever do that again” rant and she basically tells me to zip it. Appears she left her phone somewhere and borrowed her friend’s to call.

The LBD’s problem was she and some other friends were going out later that night and she couldn’t call them because she didn’t know their phone numbers – they were on her phone.

Example 2: Eldest SON of Thunder is helping deliver our new weekly newspaper this summer. Out of the blue his phone just up and died.

He’s freaking because he can’t contact his friend for lunch. I told him to use my phone. He doesn’t know his friend’s number. I shake my head.

I suggest he go out and deliver some more newspapers. He looks at me strangely, points to his phone and said, “it’s dead. I can’t use GPS.” I suggest he try this thing called a “paper map.”

He looks at me like I’m a Neanderthal who just saw fire for the first time.

Smartphones are making us dumb. We are using our brains less and less and rely on buttons instead.

My father-in-law, up until he died a few years ago, ran a successful veterinary practice for 50 years. He never used a cell phone. He never had an email address. If he needed to remember something, he’d pull out this little pocket spiral notepad that was all crumpled up and write it down with a stubby pencil he sharpened with a pocket knife that was older than he was.

He did alright.

As for me, I think I’m going to spend the next few days learning my sons’ phone numbers, just in case.

Until next time.

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