Nowadays, we have subcontracted out the memorising of numbers to our devices, not our brains. You used to have to know someone’s number to be able to dial it, or look it up in a phone directory or the soon-to-be extinct Yellow Pages.
It could be quite a soothing activity, sitting at your telephone table, using the rotary dial to get through to someone, consulting your Filofax to make sure you had the number correct. These days landlines not only no longer have the curly lines attaching them to their base, but also come with Caller ID. You don’t see the number calling you unless they’re not in your own personal directory, the one inside your phone, kept up-to-date by tiny elves. And if that number’s not in your personal directory, you’re obviously not going to answer. You’re going to ignore it in case it’s someone in India who is going to try to sell you insurance, or a robot asking you for your valued feedback on your annual boiler service.
Now, we live in an almost number-free world. We instruct our phones to call Mary or Matthew, or our mothers. If we lost our devices, we face the distinct possibility of never being able to communicate with our loved ones again in our lifetimes.
Unless we go round to their house and knock on the door. And then write down their phone number.
Or try to remember it.