Monday, September 19, 2011
212 and 2:12
Many non-residents cannot fathom why New Yorkers tolerate so many extreme hardships, while life outside the city is in many ways so much easier and less expensive. I have created a category for some of my stories called Slings and Arrows, which illuminates many of these day-to-day dramas. In Dwanna, I told of how one new resident (who hailed from Tennessee) left nearly as quickly as she got here, even though she was ambitious, hard-working, and successful in finding a good job and housing. Her reason for leaving? Life was just too hard.
But yet there are so many extraordinarily wonderful things about this city, many arguably not found anywhere else, particularly in such close proximity. It is this density of services and culture that led me to coin the phrase Sirens of Convenience to describe the city's lure in spite of rocky shoals. So therein lies the key to understanding this whole perplexing situation: New York City is not a place of moderation, it's one of extremes, and for most, it's a Love/Hate thing. When Love overrides Hate, then you're a New Yorker. When Hate overrides Love, you don't want to live here. Or, in the case of a long-time resident, he or she may be inclined to leave.
Many New Yorkers who truly love the city obsess over iconic minutiae, such as having a 212 area code. This area code is one of the oldest in the United States, created in 1947. It was assigned to New York City because it could be dialed fastest with a rotary dial (at that time, 0 and 1 were not allowed as the first digit, the second digit was either 0 or 1, and the third digit could not be the same as the second digit).
Hence, there's a cachet to 212: it is historic, with implied roots and stability of the owner of the number, both residential or business. New phone numbers with the area code 212 are no longer available; someone interested in the area code must rely on getting a recycled number via luck or purchase such numbers through specialized websites. This prestige associated with a 212 area code was even used as a minor plot thread in a Seinfeld episode, The Maid. So, New Yorkers Love 212. As a long time resident of the city, I am pleased that my home and office numbers all have 212 area codes.
But this weekend, I even found Love/Hate sides to 212. Saturday night, I was returning to Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge, which courses up Chrystie Street. I was exhausted, and there was bumper-to-bumper traffic. Incredibly, it was after 2 AM, adding insult to injury. I just wanted to get home and sleep, but I was forced to slog up Chrystie and across Houston Streets behind a sea of yellow cabs and the cars of late night revelers, commuters, and what have you.
In reviewing the photos this morning for exact time, I found in a serendipitous numerological twist that the exact time my photos were taken was 2:12 AM. I always knew the currency used to pay for New York City was a two-sided Love/Hate coin. Now, carefully examining both sides, I discovered it clearly marked: 212 and 2:12 :)