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He’s got your number

ROB LONG is a contributing editor to National Review and a commentator on KCRW.

WHEN THE NEWS came that the Public Utilities Commission had voted to create a new telephone area code for Los Angeles and environs, I got it on my BlackBerry.

I immediately called a friend on my cell -- which I prefer to the BlackBerry phone -- and told him to fax me a copy of the news report. When I got home, I called my friend on my home land line and told him not to bother faxing it: I’d found it on the Web. And then my other home line started ringing.

Count ‘em up: That’s five telephone numbers, all in the 310 area code -- that internationally recognized “right” Southern California area code. All registered to me.

I know how things work here in 310 land. The outcry against the sinisterly vague “overlay area code,” which will cover new phone numbers from Malibu to Torrance, is really about the way it will instantly negate the way we figure out where, exactly, you belong in the hierarchy. How much, exactly, you have in the bank. The first cut in the social sifting process -- 310? 323? Um ... 818? -- eventually leads to a finer, higher grade of cut.

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Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean, because I know that you know: You live in Brentwood? North or south of San Vicente? North or south of Sunset? East or west of Barrington? The Palisades? Riviera or Huntington? Which part of Rustic Canyon? North or south of Montana? Yoga? Which studio? Which instructor? The big room or the small?

The bad news is, the 424 area code is going to add a lot of time to this Westside catechism. Because 424 can mean, apparently, anything -- from a light-filled Spanish hacienda on Amalfi to a poky apartment in Hawthorne with cottage-cheese ceilings. Snobbery, like real estate, is all about location. But the 424 won’t tell anyone anything about the price of your house, whether you have a Waterworks toilet seat or if you drive a Prius.

So here’s the deal. As I mentioned, I have five 310 telephone numbers. So to those hapless, status-crazed, insecure, grasping 310bies who make the mistake of getting a new cellphone or installing a new land line and are about to be doomed to the nonspecific connotations of the 424, I am offering at least four of my numbers for sale, once the “overlay” overlays us. It’s possible that I’ll even sell my final, precious, fifth 310 number, if the price is right.

This isn’t strictly legal, I guess, but out here in the 310 area code, where reality shows get hatched over lunch at Toscana and ramshackle teardowns get flipped for a 300% return, I’m not going to lose too much sleep over it.

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And please, don’t worry about me. I’ll just learn to live with my 424 area code, slipping into high-pitched, nasal pleading, trying to convince people that no, seriously, 424 is so cool! Because, hey, when Paris Hilton got a 310, I thought to myself: “310? Done!” Over here in 424, people are, like, younger?

Just keep thinking how proud that 310 is going to make you. Let the bidding begin!


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