Irrational Numbers

An irrational number is any number that cannot be expressed as a fraction. You can try, as in the case of π, but it won’t be accurate. 22/7 gets you 3.1428571 …. π, as we all know, is 3.1415926535… So the number is irrational.

The other key to an irrational number is the digits to the right of the decimal don’t ever end and don’t repeat. For example, 1/3 yields 0.3333 …. It’s rational. The square root of 2, on the other hand, is irrational.*

Another irrational number is 6103260317.

Not because it can’t be expressed as a fraction. It’s a phone number. And I can bravely post it on the blog because it’s not real anymore.

The number’s irrationality lies in the sentimental attachment I have to it.

You're giving up our number?!

See, that’s been the Dotts home phone number since 1972. When I didn’t live at the house, my sister did. One of us has had this phone number for 39 years! Granted, the area code back then was probably 215, but you get the point.

Or maybe you don’t. I live in the house in which I grew up. My library lives in my sister’s old bedroom. My old bedroom is a cross between a massive storage closet and an in-progress redecoration project. My current bedroom used to be my parents’. Their stuff is still in the basement.

In trying to save money, I decided to get rid of my landline phone since I hardly used it. But I tend to form overly sentimental attachments to inanimate objects. And numbers. It took me a couple of months to even be willing to call someone and say “please take away this tie to my entire life history.” After all, they’re just numbers right?

Dad and my sister by the kitchen phone

I thought about asking my sister for approval, but worried she’d think I was stupid for being attached to a number. She’s since told me she would have felt stupid for wanting me to keep the number. Yeah, we both had (have?) a lot invested in those 10 digits.

Those digits were dialed when my mom was dying. And when community-theater directors called to ask if I wanted a lead in a play. My first real job offers came from someone punching those numbers into a phone. When I was in college, I dialed those numbers often to stay in touch with my family. My cousins used the service associated with the number to prank call my grandmother when my sister and I had a party with our parents out of state.

Dad's 40th birthday

When my engagement was falling apart, that number kept me sane. People used 3260317 to discuss homework and high-school cast parties with me. Friends asked me to dinner or the movies with that number. People used the number often enough to reach my sister that she got a phone in her room at one point. My caller ID in New Jersey showed the numbers when my dad died.

A lot happened by people calling that number. To disconnect it seems wrong somehow. But I did it anyway. Because that’s what grownups do when they want to stop spending money on something they don’t use. They recognize sentimentality for what it is and try to remember that all the good and bad that came through that phone number would have happened with a different phone number and that future good and bad isn’t dependent on that number.

3 2 6 0 3 1 7. Just numbers, right?


*For full-on math geekery, imaginary numbers also exist – even though they’re imaginary, which should belie existence. I don’t completely understand them. Okay, I don’t understand them at all. The Internet tells me it has something to do with a square that is negative, which is impossible, but sometimes you need the square root of a negative number. No, I don’t know when you might need that, but if you do, leave a comment and enlighten those of us with BAs. Go back.

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2 thoughts on “Irrational Numbers

  1. My sister-in-law and I just had a long chat about our lake house’s phone number. My mom was going to get rid of that land line, and a massive cry was heard from my brothers. She agreed to keep it, but we had to almost beg the phone co. to reinstate the number. We siblings have always been attached to the number, but apparently she had always resented it because back in the day, a neighbor or another family member “got” a number that had been ours. Drama!

  2. My sister reminded me of some other moments in which 3260317 played a critical roll: I called the number when I dropped out of college and when I went back to college, I called the number to tell my parents I wasn’t their little girl anymore because I’d gotten drunk for the first time. My parents wisely told me to go to bed after that second call.

    Then there was the call about having a killer in the family, but that’s someone else’s story to tell.

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