Irritations of Modern Life: 33. Ex-directory phone numbers
A couple of days later, guess what? I lost Kate Moss's phone number, too! I told the person on 192 that I thought she still lived in Shepherd's Bush. I needed her number because I'd lent her a couple of chairs for a dinner party, and now I wanted them back. This didn't impress them at all. "That number is not listed," they said.
A short while after that, I was chatting with Arnie Schwarzenegger about a hot new script I'd seen that was ideal for him. I was astonishingly drunk, but he got enough of the idea to be impressed. "Ya, dat's good," he said. "Gif me your phone number und we'll talk tomorrow, ja, ven you've sobered op a bit."
"Actually," I said, "I can't quite remember my phone number right now. Just call Directory Enquiries, I'm in the book."
"Vot? You mean 192?" he asked. "You sure haf balls."
All right, all right. So none of the above exchanges really took place. But some of them almost did. Not in the matter of celebrity phone-number swapping - that's just my little joke - but in the matter of ex-directory phone numbers. Suddenly, everyone's ex-directory. Most of my friends and colleagues are. And very few of them, if any, are celebrities.
Why? Are they still anxious about being stalked? Is the pace of modern life getting too much for them? Do they have a really bad problem with unsolicited marketing calls? Or do they - and you think this when you find yourself in a strange town, recall that your old mate So-and-so lives there, call 192 to get his number only to be told that "That number..." - only do it to avoid YOU?
It's getting worse. In 1994, 25 per cent of domestic phone numbers were ex-directory. In 1998, it was 39 per cent. I can understand the desire for privacy - as a society, we're becoming increasingly more agoraphobic and paranoid. ("The mistake is to speak to people," said Samuel Beckett, and he had a point.)
It's the vanity that gets me. People should count themselves lucky that anyone wants to speak to them at all, not make it more difficult.
And then the handing over of the sacred phone number, when it happens, becomes charged with significance, an icky moment of trust and specialness. Excuse me? This is your phone number, not your PIN number.
The worst thing is that it signals the breakdown of society; it would appear that its standards are already low enough for 39 per cent of us to decide that our phone numbers should not be in the public domain.
This is bad, like covering your house with barbed wire and searchlights. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, the breakdown of society. Act like it's happening and it will happen.
So, be brave, everyone. Become communal-minded and open once more. Show society you welcome it. Shake off your Howard Hughes-type fears and get back into the telephone directory.
Because I've lost my address book again and I can't get hold of a soul.
An enlightening finale for Don DraperTV
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 JK Rowling horrified by Harry Potter actor Matthew Lewis's raunchy photoshoot
- 2 As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
- 3 Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
- 4 Georgia Army veteran arrested for breaking window to save dog has charges dropped
- 5 New Zealand 'the best country to work as a prostitute', says sex worker advocacy group
Cannes Film Festival rejects women from red-carpet screening of pro-LGBT romance 'Carol' for not wearing high heels
Game of Thrones rape scene criticised as 'disgusting' by US senator Claire McCaskill who says she's 'done' with show
Beyonce angers fans by pouring expensive champagne into hot tub in Nicki Minaj 'Feeling Myself' video
Mad Men, TV review: Perfect harmony? Not quite, but an enlightening finale for Don Draper
Love, Cannes film review: Visceral brilliance sets Gasper Noé drama apart from standard porn
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Labour leadership: Battle lines are drawn as members battle over party's ideology at first hustings of the contest
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland