Aug 19, 2010  •  In NYC, Personal, Random

Area Code Elitists

Remember that scene in the Sex and the City movie (the first crappy movie, not the second, crappier, insightful film about life in the Middle East and cross-cultural exchanges) when Carrie needs to get a new phone number and is dismayed to find that there are no more 917 numbers available, and that she’ll need to settle for a 646 number?


“I’ve got hoes, I’ve got hoes…in different area codes, area codes…”

Well, I’m not sure about other cities but here in New York, it sometimes does seem like there is a social dichotomy based on area codes. In other words, your cell phone’s area code may very well determine just how long have you been a loyal New Yorker.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this phenomenon when I stumbled upon an article called 212 Area Codes Now “Retro-Chic” in the Gothamist. According to the post, 212 numbers (which is the original area code for Manhattan) for your mobile phone have become the new rent-controlled apartments: few and in between, and very difficult to obtain.

I actually do not know anyone in real life with a 212 cell phone number. But about half of my New York friends tote 917 numbers, which came right after 212, and have become pretty difficult to obtain themselves. I still proudly cling onto my own 917 number knowing that it is an “endangered species” (so to speak) and know that I would probably have the same reaction as Carrie if I ever had to change my number and became stuck with a 646 or 347 number.

Very mature, I know.

Have I become an area code elitist? Should I be concerned, because — as one commenter to the aforementioned Gothamist post says — you “can’t get much more shallow and insecure than thinking your area code makes you cool or not.”

Can anyone outside the New York area chime in on this phenomenon? Or is this another silly occurence specific to New York?

16 Responses to “Area Code Elitists”

  1. haha!I have a 646 number…and I don't even live in New York (nor have I ever!).
    Long story on how that happened… I'm used to my number now, so I'm pretty sure that I won't ever want to switch (plus I'm on a family plan, and my sister has a GREAT #… she'll never switch)

  2. ABC:

    Knoxville is small enough that you have drive a decent distance to find a new area code. But we are shallow enough that our area code is 865. It spells out VOL…The name of our beloved University of Tennessee football/basketball teams. And in my memory, we've switched from 615 (which is now Nashville) to 423 (which is now split–people both North and South of Knoxville have that area code) to 865. And that whole VOL acronym was big news at the time. Some businesses still list their numbers on billboards as VOL-555-1234….

  3. Nani:

    not really all San DIegans have a 619 or 858 area code depending on the area. I have never met anyone with a different number (save people from out of state) and I can understand clinging to your area code. I hold onto mine very tightly even though I am in NC now. I refuse to give up my last material bit of california-ness.

  4. Kristin:

    If anyone watched the OC- you may remember that "Chino" was the bad area. In reality, it's not too bad, but it borders Orange County. My best friend just moved there (and into a cell dead zone). When she went to give me her home number she was so bummed to have to give a 951 area code instead of 949. Around here, there is a definitely stigma from 949 to 951 or 909. However dumb and elitist– people feel it.

  5. @ABC – Haha, my cell phone still has an 865 area code from when I went to college there. I live in Nashville now, but I'm far too lazy to get my number changed to a 615. It's funny that no one here knows about the VOL thing though. I always get asked, "Where's that from?" whenever I have to give out my number.

  6. Mina:

    i have a 646 number and totally know what you're talking about (and i'm envious of your 917). i was like, wha? i don't get a 212 number? it so clearly says "I MOVED HERE RECENTLY AND AM NOT A REAL NEW YORKER".

  7. I'm a proud area code elitist. In fact, I got called out on it by a guy at club in Vegas when I refused to talk to him after he told me he lived in the 909. In LA… the conversation at a bar usually goes like this, "Hey! Where do you live?" "LA? Oh really? What area code?" I had a dating rule that excluded dating anyone outside of the 310 all purely based on traffic and my desire to never venture into the valley or east of WeHo.
    Still have our 310 numbers now even though we left LA three years ago. I'm pretty certain I'll keep it forever now that area codes really don't matter and I have a google voice local number.

  8. It's true! I am that way! When I switched phone companies to Verizon a few years ago, I almost peed my pants and hugged the sales guy because he was giving me a (917) number. I vow never to get rid of if I can help it. :) I guess it takes me back to my early 20's when I first was living on my own and got my own cell phone. 347 or 646 represent a new different NY to me once that took me awhile to get used to when I moved back. It's not necessarily a bad one (although at times I pine for parts of old NY) just a different NY.

  9. bohemianbailie:

    I have to add to the 909 area code thing, I am from a 714 area code which covered most of Orange County originally and calling out your area code really does matter. Calling someone a 909'er is actually an insult at least where I am from. It is really crazy but people will always find ways to segregate people as a means of understanding there own place in the world.

  10. Chiming in from Canada! We have a 416 number here in Toronto and it is golden. They're now trying to pawn 647 (the newer GTA area code) off on people, so I am happy I got my number when I did.
    And yes, I know it'll sound harsh, but I kind of look down on 905ers because it's the suburban code. If you know someone in their 20s with one of those numbers, it generally means that either they're too afraid to move out of mom and dad's place so they still live at home or they are living some weird Everybody Loves Raymond lifestyle where their parents are less than 15 minutes away.

  11. Hey, love your article and as a person who actually sells these numbers I can say that they are pretty popular, mostly to New Yorkers but many people outside of NYC also purchase them to use for business purposes, the prices start at $45 for a bsic number and goes up as the number becomes easier to remember

  12. There is a bit of that in Northern Virginia/DC. 703, 571, 540… and rapidly expanding.

  13. It happens in Beirut, Lebanon.

    Cell phone numbers changed from a 03 to 70 suffix around 3 years ago.

    Having a 03 number is something that provokes comments.

  14. ey:

    I would neverrr give up my 310 area code!

  15. I'm originally from the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan and despite the fact that it covers 16,452 square miles, only 3% of Michigan's population lives there, so the entire U.P. has the same area code- 906. It makes sense since such a small portion of the population lives there, but it's kind of funny since it makes up a third of the land area of the entire state!

  16. gonatgo:

    I have to agree with girlonthepark! I have a 416 number and have had one since I first got a cell phone, even when I didn't live in Toronto. I would die if I had a 647 number or, god forbid, a 905! No one who lives in Toronto likes the 905-ers who decend on clubland every weekend and trash the city. The Toronto Star recently had an article saying even 647 is running out and there will soon be a new Toronto area code, possibly making 647 numbers cool!

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