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Don’t Leave it to Siri. Know Your Numbers.

April 04, 2016 Thomas A. Gray

I had just gotten home from work one Friday evening when one of my neighbors approached, looking rather distraught. She had locked herself out of her house. With no keys or cell phone, and no easy way back inside, she didn’t know what to do.

I walked over to her house to analyze the predicament. I checked her windows – all were locked. I asked if she had a security system with a remote entry mechanism. She replied no. I asked whether she might have a hidden key stashed away. She hadn’t done that in years. I asked if she had a relative living close by who might have an extra key? “Yes,” she told me. One of her sons lives in Durham.

“Excellent,” I said. “We can call him. What’s his number?”

But, she didn’t know his phone number. Like so many of us, when she calls him, she doesn’t dial his number. She uses speed-dialing. No memorization required.

Years ago, through repetition and necessity, most of us committed to memory dozens of phone numbers. Back then, I memorized all my important phone numbers. I remember a time that while traveling abroad I even memorized the 16-digit number of my parent’s Long Distance Phone Card, so I wouldn’t have to use coins at a pay phone. The younger generation might ask: “You needed coins to make a phone call…that’s funny?”

Fast-forward to today, and with speed-dialing and smartphone technology, one doesn’t need to memorize phone numbers. We just dial by name. Truthfully, I only know my wife’s phone number.

Why am I sharing this? Certainly, not to bash cell phones or demonstrate my uselessness. Rather, it’s to point out that we need not trade safety for convenience. Just because we don’t need to memorize phone numbers doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. It can only take a few unfortunate events, lined up just right, to find ourselves in a rather uncomfortable situation. Had my neighbor been able to recall her son’s phone number, she could’ve been back inside her house in a matter of minutes vs. having to call a locksmith and wait around for one to arrive. The point is, be safe. Memorize a telephone number or two, or at the very least, hide an extra key under a rock.

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