- 'Téléphone décroché en bakélite' by Frederic Bisson, natch
UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: Verizon spokeswoman Sandra Arnette has called back with the 411. She says that the reason the time/weather numbers are still operating is that somebody... or something... (she was quite vague) has expressed an interest in taking them off of Verizon's hands. Negotiations are ongoing, and Verizon will decide what to do with the numbers when they conclude, whenever that might be.
Interestingly, Arnette said that a similar offer had been extended by the Washington Post earlier this year. "They were interested in taking it over, but for whatever reason that changed," she says. Which kind of sucks... I think it'd be kind of neat to have a telephonic Fuego/Frio weather report in the morning. Definitely more bracing than coffee.
ORIGINAL: That's what time it is.
Earlier this year, D.C.-area folks who treasured the old and sacred were dismayed to hear that Verizon was discontinuing its cherished time and weather numbers. During my childhood in the '80s, calling these free services at 202-936-1212 (for weather) and 202-844-1212 (for time) was the quickest way of comprehending my precise status in the universe; the automated voices of Philadelphia meteorologist Neal Pizzano and chrononatrix Jane Barbe conveyed the soul-warming news that a snowstorm had canceled school and that time had not, in fact, stopped.
But we live in a different era nowadays, one where everything arrives via tubes. These telephone numbers are obsolete, explained a Verizon spokeswoman, because "people can get time and weather information from radio, TV weather channels, online sites, wireless phones, PDAs and many landline phones.” Verizon vowed to cut the services on June 1.
Thus commenced a wailing and gnashing of teeth. John Kelly of the Washington Post quoted one customer who didn't seem to know what to do with the news:
"I'm so disappointed," said Amanda, who contacted me, frantic, upon hearing the news. "I'm about to turn 40, and I've been calling the weather line since I learned how to dial the phone."
Amanda has four boys, ages 4 to 12. "They know the number," she said. "They know to call to find out what to wear for school. I don't have to worry about turning on the computer for them or the TV. I love Neal Pizzano in the morning telling me it's National Blueberry Day or Celebrate Thumbs Day."
Facebook groups sprung up with names like Save the Verizon DC Weather Line 936-1212 and Save Neil [sic] Pizzano and the Verizon Weather Hotline, 202-936-1212, whose members' collective grief is quite evident in its profile picture:
But wait! Turn that frown upside down, people! While writing a story today about AudioNow's new D.C.-forecast phone service (try it at 202-349-0185), I decided to tap in Verizon's old digits just for nostalgia's sake. And guess what: They still work.
Is this a temporary resurrection, perhaps spurred by passing of Hurricane Irene? I'm not sure yet; I have a call out to the local Verizon spokeswoman and will update the second she gets back to me. All that's certain right now is that ringing up 202-936-1212 and 202-844-1212 (which also work for 202 and 301 variations, in some cases) will bring you these messages:
The weather downtown temperature is 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
The time is 2:26 and 55 seconds. BEEP.