Gather ‘round, kids, because here’s a story we old-timers tell.
Back in the day, when you wanted to call, say, the radio station, you’d walk over to the telephone appliance installed in your home, perhaps consulting the “phone book” on the way, and, after picking up the “receiver” and waiting for the “dial tone,” you’d either dial or tap out seven digits — 7, 8, 6, 5, 9, 7, 8 — depending on the type of appliance you owned.
Those first three numbers — 786 — meant that you were calling a location in Ferndale, which might have meant that you were calling “long distance” and would incur extra charges. The last four numbers represented the particular telephone owner you were attempting to reach.
Believe it or not, some people still communicate this way!
And as of this coming Sunday, they’re going to have to change up their routine. On that day, they will have to start dialing four additional numbers before the traditional seven. Those numbers are “1” and “707,” the latter of which you may recognize from local cannabis-themed clothing products.
Why must you dial 11 digits now when you had only to dial seven before, you may ask as the rage turns your face purple and you feel yourself drowning in despair?
Take it easy, grandpa, because it’s for a good reason — specifically, the rollout of the national suicide prevention hotline, which people in need will be able to call by simply dialing three digits: 988. That rollout is hindered by the fact that there is already a 988 prefix — Whitethorn — in the 707 area code. Imagine it: If you don’t dial the “707” first, the system won’t know if you are experiencing a crisis or just trying to reach your friend in the hills.
The FCC explains it here.
But why must you start dialing the “1” first, in addition to the local area code? You know, that’s a great question. Because they told us to, I guess? In the old days the “1” meant you were calling long-distance, and it seems as though “1” has been deprecated on cell phones for a long time now. But dial the “1” you must. Here’s the California Public Utilities Commission on that.
Still on the horizon: The introduction of an “overlay” zone on top of the 707, in which new numbers in our traditional territory will be assigned to a different area code entirely, leaving 707 itself to us high-status OGs.