Where Does God Figure in All This? `Number, Please?'

Article excerpt

I AM OLD ENOUGH to remember when we picked up a telephone and the operator asked that question.

If I was calling my grandmother, the answer was, "New Westminster 1135-Y-3, please."

Even more cryptic was the exercise of calling from my grandparents' home to a friend in that area of Burnaby Lake to ask the operator for "L-2 on this line, please."

In order to answer the question, "number, please?" you only needed to know one telephone number.

Two generations later, I am asked the same question countless times, but never by a human being.

Before I came to work this morning I checked the voice mail at home. To do that, I needed to remember two code numbers and enter them as requested by a recorded voice. Between the streetcar and the office I stopped at the bank to get some money. Another number to enter when prompted by a computer message. To enter the elevator in our office building, I entered yet another number.

At my desk the voice-mail light was flashing, so I entered yet another number to listen to messages. At the same time I was opening my computer and entering three different passwords so that all the necessary connections could be made and the day could begin.

During the day I was asked for my social insurance number and I had to say, "I don't know; ask payroll."

God has given me a strange faculty in the memory department. I can remember some things, numbers and letters that I use frequently, without a moment's hesitation, but really important things like, "What am I doing this afternoon? …