For nearly a year now, you should've known this moment would come. You've been reminded. You've been warned.
Now, D-Day is almost here.
Starting on Saturday, South Bay residents will be required to tap out 11 digits -- 1 plus the area code and then the number -- for all local phone calls. That's in preparation for the rollout of our brand-new area code, 669, which will join the familiar 408 starting next month.
And if this somehow comes as a shock, then you must not have noticed the television, radio and newspaper ads that have been trumpeting the change with the catchphrase: "When in Doubt, Dial it Out!"
The good news is that no one in the 408 has to change their number and there
"You just know that people are going to be ranting and raving about having to dial the whole number," said Jose Hernandez, a San Jose resident.
The folks at the California Public Utilities Commission think he's right, based on previous experience.
"Nobody is ever really unpleasant, but we always do get some calls from upset people saying: 'Why are they making me dial all these digits? What were you thinking?' " said Katherine Morehouse, an analyst with the CPUC.
The region, predominantly consisting of Santa Clara County, is getting its first new area code since 1959
While 32 percent of the 408 inventory of numbers still is available, the trouble is the dwindling supply of prefixes. Those are the first three digits of your seven-digit number and are assigned to specific geographical areas. That problem will be solved by the addition of 669, which service providers can begin assigning in November.
The primary culprit: our addiction to wireless gadgetry and technology. The need to be connected 24/7 has caught up to us in a tangible way.
"It used to be that everyone had one home phone," said John Manning of the Virginia-based North American Numbering Plan Administration, which oversees area codes. "Now it seems like every household has seven numbers with cellphones and home offices. You're in a growth area and eventually you need more area codes. It's the way of California."
After public hearings last year, the decision was made to do what's known as an "overlay." That means rather than slice our geographical pie into two distinct area codes, 408 and 669 will coexist in the same physical space -- which is why we'll have to dial the entire phone numbers. This is the first region in Northern California to get an overlay.
"You live in Silicon Valley, so you should be trendsetters," Manning said. "And that's why I can't see too many complaints. I don't imagine people there are saying: 'I can build semiconductors, but I can't dial a few extra numbers.' "
In the future, you might have neighbors with a 669 area code. It might be even closer. Adding a second line could mean two area codes under the same roof.
On the bright side, you won't be charged for long-distance dialing from your kitchen to your den -- no matter how long the hallway.
Having to redo your cellphone contacts lists to add the area code hardly constitutes one of life's larger headaches. But Cherrie Conner, a CPUC communications division supervisor, said the longer numbers can be an issue for children and seniors.
And, Conner added: "When people hear '669,' they're not going to know where that area code is at first."
At 408 Jump, which rents party bounce houses, they're even wondering if it might affect business.
"We chose that name because we wanted San Jose to know that we're a San Jose company," said Manny Kaloti, one of the managers. "But when you add a new area code, maybe some people won't realize that both codes are in the same area."
Hernandez, a caseworker with Sunnyvale Community Services, likes the overlay plan. But he helps needy families at his job, and his sense is the change is going to surprise many people.
"I've been advising a lot of my clients in Spanish that this is coming," he said. "I'm not sure the advertising campaign has reached into the Hispanic community, so I'm spending a lot of time telling them to be ready."
How did we end up with 669? Basically, it was available. The North American Numbering Plan Administration, which has a contract with the Federal Communications Commission, also thought it was different enough from 408 to avoid misdialing.
"When area codes are assigned, it's usually a disappointment," Manning said. "People think there's a great significance to the number in the community. But the reality is there's no special rhyme or reason."
There was for the Space Coast region of Florida, which includes Cape Canaveral, when residents successfully petitioned for 321. As in "3 ... 2 ... 1 ... liftoff!"
But Nevada was denied when it lobbied for 777 -- the slot machine jackpot number -- in honor of the state's gambling industry. That's because the Numbering Plan Administration reserves area codes where the second and third digits are the same for future uses. That's also why there is no 666 area code -- not because hell already has dibs.
Contact Mark Emmons at 408-920-5745.