Move Over 516 and Make Way for 363


Batten down the hatches. Nassau County is running out of phone number combinations that begin with the area code 516.

Since the 1950s, Nassau and Suffolk County businesses and residences were assigned a phone number with the area code 516. In 1999, you would have thought the world was ending when it was announced that Suffolk County numbers would be switched to 631. But the sun came up the next day, and thus the great “Area Code Rivalry” was born, with Nassau County residents celebrating and taunting the obviously second-class “631-ers.” As an added insult, Suffolk got a second area code, 934, in 2016.

Honestly, I’m not sure the area code means much anymore.

It used to be that you could recognize an incoming call just based on the area code, but the fear of Y2K changed all that in 1999. Manhattan’s exclusivity of 212 and the outer borough’s 718 soon required a scorecard, as 347, 332, 917, and 929 have since been added. Why bother with an area code if it doesn’t correctly identify the geographic area?

Most people who still have landlines (that’s the strange-looking device connected to the kitchen wall with a curly wire that once was used for talking and listening) know that in addition to the area code, their exchange (the first three digits after the area code) also identified their location. Exchanges 798, 799, and 541 were permanently assigned to Massapequa and Massapequa Park.

Of course, the increase in cell phone usage has made area codes and number exchanges moot. A cell phone can be used anywhere a wireless signal is available around the globe. Phone numbers are no longer unique. They might seem like randomly assigned numbers (my seven digits do), but in reality, they are not.

The North American Numbering Plan Administrator sees to that. What qualifies a person to be the NANPA remains to be seen, but someone has to make sure numbers assigned across the country, including area codes, are distinct.

Of course, most people have been adding a “1” to the beginning of all the numbers they dial (adding a 10th digit to the process) for the last few months, but now it is required in Nassau County as 363 comes into play.

I stopped paying attention to area codes some time ago, mainly when spammers use your local area code and exchanges, so you think it’s a call from your friend. That may work on the elderly, who are the only ones who know what those numbers really mean. Nobody born after 2000 would know what you were talking about if you asked them for their “area code.”

In my childhood, remembering phone numbers and your address was vital to your survival. I still know the parent’s numbers for my friends Bruce and George. My mother has had the same number since we moved to Massapequa in 1967. If I lost my cell phone today and could not retrieve my address book, I could only call my mother and either Bruce’s or George’s mother. Unfortunately, both of their mothers are long gone.

It looks like 363 will be a nothing burger in Nassau County, especially for residential phones. Most people I know are ditching their landlines and relying only on their cell phones. I can’t remember the last time I actually answered my landline when the person on the other end wasn’t a robot or a recorded message. But I like my landline number. We’ve had it since buying our house in 1987. It’s part of our identity. Even my 90-year-old mother now calls me on the cell phone instead of what used to be called the “house” phone.

When we eventually move out of state (like the rest of the population our age), we’ll take our cell phone numbers with us, and it will officially be the end of our landline number.

Until then, this is 516-799-xxxx, saying good night, America!

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