Opinion: Sorry, wrong numbers


I’d like to share a few numbers with you: 4927262920202826, 5736282018082727 and 9284748495483838.

Those are some of the tracking numbers for the Christmas gifts I bought online last month. I copied and pasted them into the shippers’ websites to track their progress. Of course, those aren’t the exact numbers. I substituted bogus numerals above because I don’t want anyone checking out my purchases. One time when I pretended to put my real phone number in my column, readers called it and then emailed me saying they got some poor lady in Metamora, who I later heard had a breakdown because her phone kept ringing in the middle of the night. And whose fault is that?

I looked up the term for a large string of integers, and I’ve discovered a whole new lexicon: quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, tredecillion and vigintillion. I’m going to play it safe and just call them all gazillions. Whatever you call them, it just doesn’t make sense that tracking a package should require so many digits.

The code 783930404X9056 was the confirmation number for my online pharmacy cholesterol medicine. I knew there were a lot of people with lipid problems, but my mistake was just counting people on this planet. I also don’t know what that X means, but it scares the heck out of me.

Here’s a similar conundrum: My house number is 9623, and no matter how many times I count the homes in my cul de sac, I usually get six. Even after three cans of Heineken Light, the most I see is eight.

My friend Jerry works at a small company. When I call his office, a prompt says: For William, press 3056, for Jerry press 3157, for Adrian press 3021. Where are the 3,000-plus phones? Imagine if we all got this pretentious!

“Mary Ellen, it’s your brother calling from Oregon.”

“Which line, Dick?”

“Extension 5696.”

“Huh? We only have two phone lines.”

“I know, but I hope your brother heard me say that. How cool does that sound?”

Then there’s my computer. The model number is 367892JY. I called the company and asked how many different models they have. “About 40 over the past 24 years,” they told me, so I posed the obvious question: “Do you have a model No. 6 or 12 or 27?”

“No, Sir. I think those missing numbers represent defective prototypes that didn’t pass all the necessary tests.” This makes me really happy I never flew to New York on a 742.

The original Social Security card, printed back in l936 with the number 001-01-0001, was issued to a man named Morris Ackerman. When he retired, his first Social Security check was for 17 cents. He was thrilled with how generous the government was. They sure had his number.


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