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NUMBER OF NUMBERS THAT RULE EVERYDAY LIFE IS BEWILDERING

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In the great lottery of modern life, I have just been handed another number. This four-digit beauty is a timely addition to the extensive and highly esteemed collection of personal ID numbers that I am happy to call my own.

By merely pressing these handsome new little numbers on an electronic pad, I can make the security gate lift. Then I can drive my car with its designated license plate number onto the office parking lot that sits on a ZIP code number of its very own.I can even gain entrance to the building where I already have been assigned an employee number. My employee number, I hasten to add, is different from my health-care plan number, which I have memorized in case I'm carried into a strange emergency room bleeding from the head.

By the way, I can be reached at this office by a telephone number with an area code number or, if you prefer, a fax number.

I also have an AT&T credit card number which I can use to call you back from any phone booth. This number is long. How long? Well, let's just say that I can either call a foreign country or write a brief libretto in memory of Alexander Graham Bell.

If you want to know how many other crucial digits are competing for room in the limited storage space of my brain's floppy disk, stand in line. Or should I say, take a number?

Moreover, every friend on my Rolodex, every business card that passes my hands, carries a list of numbers for the faxes, computers, beepers and phones that litter offices, homes, cars and pockets.

It seems to me that with the energy it takes to store and remember the codes that track our lives, millions of numerically challenged Americans could figure out black holes and top quarks.

The dirty little secret of modern life is that every technological advance and every so-called convenience comes with the curse called complication. In this case the complication is multiplication and it's happening so quickly that pretty soon we'll need a master number to access all the numbers.

No, no, not to worry, I have not become a number in an increasingly impersonal world. It's worse than that. I've become dozens of numbers.