Worth a Thousand Words: ‘For a good time, call’

The above headline is part of a verse from the popular, yet controversial 80s song “867-5309/Jenny,” by Tommy Tutone. The reason it is so controversial is because 867-5309 is a legitimate phone number in many area codes. Once the song became a hit, anyone with that number began receiving tons of calls asking for Jenny, or “for a good time.” Many people wound up changing their numbers just to get rid of the crank calls. Some others actually asked for it as a publicity stunt, with mixed results.

The song is also an easy ear-worm to pick up, which is the reason why I am writing about it now. A week or so ago, my thoughts indirectly went to this one-hit wonder after a conversation with a friend of mine. I needed her to send me a certain photo via text message, so I told her my cell phone number. Her immediate response to seeing it was “how did you get a 689 number for your cell phone?”

As many people know (although that number is probably quickly shrinking), “689” has been Cambridge’s prefix for a long time. Pretty much anyone who purchased a new landline service from this area was automatically given a “689” number. In Isanti, it was a “444” number.

This factoid has pretty much dried up now with not only all of the four-digit combinations being taken up, but also due to people only using cell phones, which can be assigned all sorts of numbers. It is that last reason why my friend was so surprised to hear I had a cell phone number that began with the well-established Cambridge prefix.

To explain, I purchased a land-line when I moved into my apartment back in the late 90s and was given this 689 number. When I got a cell phone, it had a 612 number. When I went to drop my landline and strictly go with a cell phone, I decided I really wanted to keep the “Cambridge” phone number, so I had them port that landline number and I dropped the generic cell phone number.

For old-fashioned people like myself, a person’s phone number is part of their identity. For a long time, you didn’t even have to say “689,” if the person you were giving your number to knew you lived in Cambridge. When I worked retail down in the cities, I would actually freak a few people out when they told me a 689 or 444 phone number and I would respond with “ah, you live in Cambridge/Isanti.”

By extension, before it was broken up into four different area codes, the entire metro area up to our neck of the woods all had 612. In fact, when I lived up in Ely, locals would (not so nicely) refer to anyone from the metro area as “a 612-er.”

 But with the popularity of only keeping cell phones, that form of self-identity has fallen by the wayside. In fact, many times even if someone moves a great distance, they are still keeping their original cell phone number. 

At the same time, though, doing this is just another form of maintaining your identity. It’s so much easier just give it out to your new friends and acquaintances than to force all your old friends to learn a new number. And in a sense, you are keeping yourself connected to your origins.

Come to think about it, people taking this approach back in the 80s would have greatly eased Tommy Tutones’ mind, as a repeated refrain of the song is “Jenny, don’t change your number...”

BILL STICKELS III is editor of the Isanti-Chisago County Star. He can be reached at 763-689-1181 ext. 107 or editor@countystar.com. 

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