Charlotte is an overlay area code zone; we have two different telephone area codes, 704 and 980, serving the same geographic area. What this means for the average person is that he must dial the area code for all phone calls, even for local ones within his same area code. These overlays are somewhat unpopular, particularly among older less tech-savvy people, and they were actually banned in California before they could really proliferate there. Therefore, in a place like San Francisco, the city itself is in the 415 area code, while the suburbs and surrounding cities are in a variety of other ones.

Charlotte’s overlay has been in place for years, and I’ve always wondered why. The whole thing seems rather unnecessary to me, mainly because I’ve never known a single individual or business to have a 980 number, whether for a land line, fax, cell phone, or anything else. I’ve never seen a sign nor an ad featuring one. Even brand new numbers, like my home number and our eFax number are assigned to 704. If adding a new area code had been so alll-fired important, you’d think that someone would have been given a number within it after all these years.

This morning, while leafing through the telephone directory in the bathroom (yes, I sometimes do this), I finally saw a 980 phone number. A whole slew of them, in fact. It seems the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools may be the only entity ever to have been assigned a phone number within the 980 area code. Apparently, Charlotte moved to 10-digit dialing so its school system could have its own area code. Now that’s bureaucracy…