A few months back, I flew to Latin America for work and came up with this elaborate experiment to stay in touch with my family and friends using Skype on my iPhone tricked out with a Skype Online Number. This new phone number allowed my friends and family to reach out to me without the iPhone burning a hole in my pocket by racking up ludicrous roaming charges. Once I allowed Skype to take control, the rest was free.
Quite a parlor trick! (though I needed to be tethered to Wi-Fi zones)
Sure, I paid $18 to set up my new Skype uber-number for three months.
But after that, I was in business as Barrett Lester, International Man of Tech Mystery…. reachable around the world… all for the cost of a domestic call.
I was digging it.
My experiment was a huge success. And I came home to a hero’s welcome.
I put my passport away and returned to my Clark Kent life.
Doubling Down on my Online Skype Number
Fast forward a couple months, and I get a friendly email from Skype.
My Skype Online Number was expiring. Would I like to renew it?
Hmmm. Well, I hadn’t used it since returning home. And I didn’t have any immediate plans for another international trip. So I wasn’t really sure why I needed to hold onto it. Still, I liked the idea of having it.
Though I live in Connecticut, I had chosen a New York City mobile area code for my Skype Online Number as I work down in NYC everyday.
(Yes, I am a Road Warrior.)
But there was something more to the choice.
I simply liked having the 917 area code.
It felt like it connected me back to my birthplace.
And to the place I currently spend most of my weekday waking hours.
Or maybe I simply coveted having a New York City area code, again.
I hadn’t realized this, but it held some value for me.
Those three digits were something of an identifier.
Being able to say those numbers just felt… good.
Operator, Would You Ring Up William Powell and Myrna Loy?
It was the same for my father when I was growing up. He would always enjoy sharing our Upper East Side area code to anyone and everyone when the old area codes began with two letters.
Ours were “R-E.” And these letters referred to a word- “Regency.”
I still remember how he would begin articulating our phone number in his deep voice with “Regency 7…” It rolled off his tongue like smooth whiskey. For me, every time he said it was like watching one of the “Thin Man” movies from the 1930’s.
How classy is that?
I think it was a badge of honor for him.
He occasionally talks about it the same way I still pine after my old DVR/DVD combo TV recorder that no one makes anymore. (I really loved that unit.)
In the New York of the ‘70’s, still having a “Regency” extension was an identifier. It said, I’ve had this number for a really long time.
Kind of like saying, “My relatives came over on the Mayflower.”
And now, through the magic of Skype and $54 a year, I can buy an identifier that says I am still a New Yorker. Plus I chose a coveted area code that most can’t get anymore. (Not sure how Skype pulled that one off.)
Problem? What Problem?
But I don’t live in New York City.
I’m buying into a tech identity (“tech-dentity”) that is not truly my own.
Is this a moral dilemma?
Many others have actually defaulted into this exact scenario.
They just pick up and move to a different state and simply don’t update their cell phone number. (like my wife)
And why should they? It’s a pain changing the number and an even greater challenge cajoling all their contacts to update the number.
So they just let it ride, right?
Ultimately, the concept of your phone number as one identifier for your
tech-dentity will blur over time as cell phone numbers continue to move around with the population.
But we’re not there yet.
Logic Not Required
So I signed up for a full year of my swanky Skype Online Number.
But wait… There’s more.
Then Skype offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse.
(I know. Someone should stop me.)
They sold me a GE Skype phone for the deeeeeply discounted price of $10. And yes, it also connects to my home line. (Which, by the way, I’m thinking, perhaps I don’t need anymore.)
You’re probably saying right now, “How many phones and phone numbers does this guy really need?”
I’m telling myself I’ve got grandiose plans that some day I’ll use this technology to crack the code on how to restructure my home/personal phone communication plan so I feel I’m no longer funding the operating budget of a small country. And maybe even integrate Google Voice into the equation for not additional cost.
(A topic for another time.)
But for now, I’ve got to admit; I have only one tangible justification for holding onto the number – pure and simple v-a-n-i-t-y.
Vanity as a once, current, and, I suppose, always New Yorker.
Okay, now I’ve got that off my chest.
I feel better already.
Today, I pulled the trigger and forwarded my Skype Online Number to my regular AT&T cell phone number. So both numbers will now ring on my iPhone. Remember, Skype works on a regular wireless connection.
(Wi-Fi not required)
At any moment, I may choose to fully activate the latent New Yorker DNA in my soul and fully use my 917 Skype Online Number which says,
“Hey, I’m still a New Yorker! Hear me roar!!”
Because I can.
But for now, I’m keeping the quaint suburban number that says,
“Hey, I live in the ‘burbs with two pear trees and a backyard.”
Because I do.
I am at peace with my complex tech-dentity.