Residents Play The Numbers With 410 A Sure Winner

October 30, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

In two days, a whole lot of people are going to have their wires crossed.

Friday is the day for the biggest change in Maryland's phonesystem since the advent of touch-tone service, as Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. slaps a brand-new area code on most of Carroll andthe rest of the Baltimore area.

Say goodbye -- unless you live in or around Mount Airy -- to 301 and hello to 410.

While the phone company for a year has been slowly preparing the nearly 2 million people affected by the change, the reality of a new set of phone-identifying digits has taken many by surprise.

Especially those who now will have to dial another area code just to call across the street.

"What?" asked Susan Vantassell,a resident in the 100 block of West Street in Mount Airy, in response to a question about how the new code will affect her life.

"I already don't like it," she said of having to dial 1 (410) before reaching the majority of her neighbors. "I'm going to be calling long distance just to get across the street."

She'll get the new code. Her best friend down the block won't.

Or how about dialing from one line to another in Mount Airy Middle School? If, for some reason, you wanted to call the school's 829 number from its 795 number, you'll have to dial the new area code.

"It won't really bother us," said Grace Mason, a secretary at the school.

C&P says the change is necessary to keep up with the demand for phone numbers in phone-, fax- and cellular phone-crazy Maryland. Without the change, the state would run out of phone numbers in two years. With it, we'll have enough to last until 2013.

The dividing line is fairly straightforward; eastern Maryland -- including Baltimore -- will get the new code.

Western Maryland -- and the Washington suburbs -- remain in 301.

Every county except for Anne Arundel, Howard, Frederick and, of course, Carroll, will be in a single area code.

The majority of Carroll phone numbers -- those beginning with 239, 374, 635, 346, 756, 775, 848, 857, 861, 875, and 876 -- will be switched to 410. Staying in the 301 area code are the 829 and 831 numbers.

What this all means is that Mount Airy may become one of the country's smallest two area-code towns. Only places like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago typicallyhave more than one area code within their boundaries.

At the sametime Mount Airy grapples with the new area code arrangement, folks in the northwest section of Westminster will be grappling with the second set of changes in their identifying numbers this year.

In June, the Postal Service announced that the Westminster area was outgrowing its 21157 ZIP code, so it was going to put nearly 5,500 addresses into a new 21158 ZIP code.

Debbie Bowmaker, who works at KingsdeneNurseries Inc. in the 1700 block of Littlestown Pike, said the shiftto 21158 has gone easily enough.

But the change to 410 won't sit as well with the Baltimore native.

"We're getting our mail all right, even when people don't use the new ZIP code," she said. "But whenI found out they were changing my area code, I was real upset about that. I've lived in Baltimore all my life, and now they're changing it on me."

People have until Nov. 1, 1992 to get used to the new area code; all calls in the 410 area can be reached by dialing 301 or 410. After that, the new code must be used.

Postal customers have until July 1, 1992 to use the new ZIP code.

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