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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2021 1 year ago

THESE TIMES Column: When a phone number is a security blanket

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Sometimes a phone number is so much more than a series of 10 digits.
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

The landline phone number 656-5000 has been a part of my life since I was 1 year old. (Prior to that, if people called the Quesinberry house, they dialed CY3 5279 — but since I was an infant, I really didn’t get any calls.)

The “five thousand” number belonged to our family in the span of four different houses. Last year, though, it was time to say goodbye; we canceled the phone number that had been the family’s connection to the rest of the world for more than 50 years.

Mother wrote on the back of the photo: “Talking to Daddy. 15 ½ months.”

I don’t know how many people actually cry when they disconnect a phone number, but this empath sure did.

In the 1970s and ’80s, area codes weren’t necessary to make local calls. If someone was calling us long distance, they used the original area code, 305. It was switched to 407 when new area codes were needed in the late 1980s, and mandatory 10-digit calling started in 1999.

My earliest memory of 5000 is calling Daddy to supper. Literally. Our house on Highway 50 included barns and a separate office space. After working all day as a general contractor, Daddy would piddle around in what would now be called a giant man cave.

When supper was almost ready, we picked up the light blue phone hanging on the wall in the kitchen and called our own phone number – making the circular finger-dialing motion for what felt like 100 zeros.

It rang maybe three or four times before a recording came on: “You have reached a party on your own line. Please hang up and allow the phone to ring several times before lifting the receiver to talk. This is a recording.”

Daddy knew to listen for the ringing phone and picked it up, knowing already what the call was for. And when he answered the call — usually being made by one his children — he always answered it on a tall, thin telephone with the dial under the bottom. A big, red button protruded beyond the base of the phone to hang up the call; my memory says the phone was orange.

As I got older, the ringing phone at dinnertime meant something else. It was a disturbance of precious family time. Without fail, it seemed, someone would call during supper, wanting to talk business with Daddy. And without fail, I said, way louder than a whisper, “Pass the salt!” I wanted to make sure the caller was aware of how rude he or she was. (Insert eye roll here.)

Those family dinnertimes were sacred to me, and I didn’t think about the importance of those calls. Daddy was always ready to talk about blueprints or trusses or framing at any time. He built houses for a living to put food on the table for his family.

Daddy had an office, but there was no one there to answer the phone. Instead, during the day, calls came to the house and Mother answered the phone with “Quesinberry Construction.” She took down any messages and gave them to Daddy either on his lunch break or at the end of the day. He got his first cell phone well after he retired.

When my younger sister and I became teenagers, Mother and Daddy added a second line, 656-5005, so they could make and receive phone calls now and then. Jeni and I had our own phones in our bedrooms, and I don’t recall us ever fighting over the use of the line. Most likely one of us slipped into the master bedroom and used 5000 if the other was on 5005.

They kept that second number even after the kids were grown and had moved out. Mother and I even devised an unofficial system — if I called 5000 and the line was busy, I dialed 5005, let it ring once or twice and then hung up. That was Mother’s cue to call me back when she got off the other call.

I remember people being surprised that Daddy included his home number on his “mayor of Winter Garden” business cards. He told them he wanted to be an accessible mayor, and I think residents appreciated that.

This number was my security blanket, my “In Case of Emergency…” contact, my ICE. Mother and Daddy were always on the other end of the line.

If I needed a bit of advice or help with something, I called that number. If I wanted to share good news, I called that number. If I needed an emergency babysitter, I called that number.

I don’t know who has this phone number today, but I imagine they get the occasional call from people looking for a Quesinberry. The number remains in my cell phone as my ICE — and will stay there, even though I will never call it — because it’s a comfort to see it at the top of my “favorites” list.

 

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Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990....

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