Thursday, October 03, 2002


It’s been a great source of embarrassment, Jody’s cellphone. Some stare in disbelief, others don’t even recognize her circa-1995 Nokia 2120 for its primary function – communication. “No really, it’s a brick, right?” they cruelly joke.

It was my phone originally, my first, not long after we made aliyah. It has served us well. Our frugal attitude has always been: why spend money if the old is working fine? Let fashion be damned.

But finally, last month, the diburit (the car speaker kit) sputtered out. I didn’t even bother investigating how much it would cost to repair. It was time. And anyway, I wanted to migrate Jody to Orange, my cellphone provider from work, so we could benefit from the low rate of about 2.5 cents/minute between us.

But then came a decision we didn’t expect. You get to choose your number. Well sort of. It’s a crafty bait and switch operation. The “available” numbers are all fine, but the really “good” numbers, cost an extra $12. Well, I wasn’t going to spend my fettuccini money on a vanity number. But Jody was unhappy. The number I’d chosen was just so…plain. And it was missing those crucial repetitions that make numbers so memorable.

You see, Jody goes ga-ga over number combinations. She was heartbroken that our wedding date had to be on Sunday, August 7, 1988, only one day away from the infinitely more pleasurable 8.8.88. Another time she called me breathlessly from the car. The odomoter had just turned over to 55,555. It’s not better than sex. But close.

So I reluctantly called back Orange and asked them to read me some of the “good” numbers. And they were indeed really quite good. There were offering Triple 8’s, a variety of even/odd combinations (767 and 676), and mini-flushes (345, 789).

And then we found it: a palindrome. A number that reads the same backwards and forwards! There was no way to walk away from this. Even I couldn’t forget Napoleon’s immortal words: “Able was I ere I saw Elba.”

We got it. And I can’t wait to get home. We’ll light some candles and dial away, again and again, all through the night...

(I’ve been a big fan of the Puzzle segment on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. So I’ll open up my own little puzzle competition here. Who can guess what palindrome we got? You’ve got to know a little bit about which Orange area codes are currently available. And I’ll give you hint: we took 888 for part of it. If you think you have the answer, click the Comments button below and join in.)

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