Friday, April 18, 2008

Dial "1" and the Number of the Beast

Bartholomew Dawkins, Staff Writer

Even in the best of situations, telephone area code splits carry the potential of public protest. Businesses must cover the expense of changing stationery. Reprogramming numbers in cell phones and databases is time consuming, and certain area codes--like some zip codes--carry a status that current customers do not want to lose.

The proposed area code split in Florida is not the best of situations, far from it. In March, BellSouth Telecommunications announced it would spawn a new code from the 904 area of Florida’s Atlantic coast. Residents of St. Augustine and nearby communities were immediately up in arms over their new area code, and their outrage was expressed more strongly than usual.

The reason? BellSouth proposed 666 as the new code.

“It’s the mark of the beast,” growled Pastor Tim Robbinsky of Holy Ghost Dove of Peace Apostolic Temple. “BellSouth wants to give the devil a foothold in our nation. If you give that forked-tongued, hoof-footed creature an inch, he’ll take a mile every time. This cannot be allowed to stand.”

“Is this a joke?” St. Augustine Chamber of Commerce President Leonora Poe wondered. “They can’t be serious about this. It would be mean death for our business community.”

BellSouth representatives would not comment on the record, but one employee promised that the 666 area code was not a joke and that the company “has a good reason for this.” It should also be noted that BellSouth’s hold music at the corporate office is a selection of muzac versions of AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Miley Cyrus songs.

Telecommunications expert and theologian Marcus Borg said that BellSouth might not have much of a choice. “There are only so many three-digit numbers available, and it is widely known that AT&T already has all the good ones.”

Most people in St. Augustine do not care why BellSouth chose 666. They are demanding a new number. “I don’t care if we get triple zero. Just give us anything but 666,” said Hillary McCain, president of the hastily formed “St. Augustinians Against Satan,” a collection of citizens who want BellSouth to reconsider.

Not everyone, however, is upset at the potential change. Carl Clements, owner of Satan’s Kittens, a strip club in Old Town, is thrilled. “How perfect is this? We’ll be getting a ton of free publicity out of our new 666 code.

“By the way, Tuesdays are Ladies’ Nights,” noted Clements.

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