A phone with question marks instead of numbers
Collage by Lia Kantrowitz | Photo via Shutterstock

How Phone Numbers Will All Die

Time for your weekly edition of the Funbag. Today, we're talking about saunas, whether "dog" and "log" rhyme, parking, and more.
January 14, 2020, 7:00pm

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Recently a reader asked how many phone numbers Donald Trump knew. While I enjoy a dig on the president as much as the next person, how many phone numbers do ANY of us know? I know my wife's number and that that's it. I can give you my childhood number, my grandparents’ number, and my number in college, but all of those numbers are dead. Thanks to cell phones, I don't think anybody knows any phone numbers anymore. How many numbers do you know off the top of your head?

Does 588-2300 EMPIRE!!!!!! count? No? Okay, then the answer, I believe, is a paltry three. I know my number, the number to my parents’ house, and my wife’s cell phone number. That’s it. I don’t know my sister’s number by heart, nor my brother’s. I don’t even know my DAUGHTER’S number, which is a horseshit effort on my end. When my wife and I took our kids to Busch Gardens once, we wrote our numbers in marker on their hands in case they got lost. Since then, we’ve drilled them on memorizing those same numbers in the event of an emergency. Meanwhile, one of them gets a phone and I can’t be bothered to learn it. If I get lost at an amusement park, it’s ME who is supremely fucked. I would be orphaned, left to be raised in the wild by the two stoner teens operating Apollo’s Chariot.

So yes, you’re right that I can’t rag on people for not knowing phone numbers when cell phones have all but rendered the practice of knowing them obsolete. To that end, I’m stunned we still have phone numbers. Phone numbers are a vital part of the original landline system’s engineering, acting as a simple code to connect lines quickly and without the need for a middleman. Cell phones, presumably in order to work with the landline system, are designed the same way.


But that shit will change somewhere down the line. I’m sure tech companies and ISP providers have thrown out any number of ideas for killing phone numbers, but they’re helpless to do so with the communications infrastructure we currently have in place. But that infrastructure will be updated. One day. Not SOON, mind you, but one day in a distant, cyborg-ized future. I’m on a run of supremely unearned positivity, so let’s say that America eventually gets superfast, free WiFi everywhere down the road, essentially replacing phone lines in the process.

Or, and this could be much sooner, wireless providers will ditch the 10-digit phone number format because people no longer bother to memorize numbers anyway (local numbers are in seven-digit sequences so that you remember them more easily), assigning each person with an extended serial number that automatically links to their Apple account ID, or whatever other phone account they have. Thus, your phone ID would become your main point of contact, with the numbers behind that contact consigned to background algorithms.

One way or another, your phone number will eventually become a coding afterthought. They might even assign you a designated contact serial number when you’re born, which is then part of your permanent file as a US citizen. They could even put it into a SIM card and implant it in your head. NOTHING BAD COULD COME OF THAT! Actual phone numbers will become a thing of the past, fetishized by old puds like me who prized getting them from girls back in the day. I even remember the phone in our house that I used to call them up on. It was red. Very cool phone.



Why does everyone seem to be backing into parking spaces these days? I know new cars have backup cameras, but even so, most people still suck at backing up. In my parking garage, every time there's some idiot straddling the line, it's someone who's backed into the space.

As long as the lot isn’t all jammed up with cars hunting for an available spot, I don’t have any problem with people backing in. I do it when the mood strikes. You back in now so that you don’t have to back out later. That’s just being proactive. When I stuff myself with pizza and want to go home so I can get EXTREMELY stoned, I don’t wanna waste any time. I want to be the Pack Leader.

I make sure that I’m between the lines properly when I back in. I live in a state where drivers can’t be bothered to abide by those lines even when they DON’T back in. It’s like they had a kindergartener park the car for them. Or they drive an asshole Silverado truck that is literally too big for the space itself. If you own a truck like this, you should be forced to park it on the fucking moon. You shouldn’t get the privileges of a standard parking lot with your MAGA-ass ride. Buy a fucking Pinto if that inconveniences you. It’s a better fit for your personality.

Also, way too many people on Twitter despise drivers who pull through to park. I am baffled by this. It’s like there was a meeting I wasn’t invited to where these people decided that other people who pull through are Satan’s afterbirth. Like THAT is somehow the most egregious breach of etiquette in Donald Trump’s America. Fuck that. I pull through. You’re telling me I can go to the supermarket without having to put it in reverse once? I’m in. I know there are people who pull through WAY too fast, like they’re begging some poor asshole in the other lane to smash right into them because they believe that spot is wide open. But if you pull through slow and responsibly, I’m not gonna hold it against you. You WON the parking lot. I have to respect the hustle.



My idea to "fix" instant replay: put the decision-making onus on the refs. Under this plan, only refs can ask for replay AND they are limited in the number they can use in a game. Two ref challenges per game feels right to me. After the two are used…that's it, all calls—two minutes be damned!—are live and in real time.

This is partially how college football replay works. They still have challenges, but refs can ask the booth for help on plays if they feel compelled to do so. If you watch college football, you know that replay there still sucks anyway. The number of replays a ref can ask for isn’t capped, because everyone would be pissed if the refs used up their challenges early and were therefore unable to reverse a critical late call. Thus, they go to the well over and over again, in a sport where, as last night proved, the games are already WAY too fucking long. So if the NFL adopted a policy similar to that, replay would remain a pox upon the sport, just with different symptoms.

I hate that I hate replay. It makes me feel like a fucking dinosaur. But I have been around long enough to see that replay blunts the natural instincts of officials. They don’t make calls with confidence anymore. Or they tailor their calls (letting a play go because they know it’ll be reviewed anyway) specifically because they know someone important is looking over their shoulder as they’re working. That is the unfixable problem with replay. It has undeniably made refs worse at their jobs. It casts a pall over games even when it’s not being used in given moments. Every play has a potential BUT attached to it at the end. I’ve seen enough. I don’t need a second opinion to know I’m fed up.



One day, I heard someone in my group of friends pronounce the traditionally female name "Erin" and the traditionally male name "Aaron" the exact same way. This blew my freaking mind. I immediately brought it up and asked the person if they were aware that they just pronounced two clearly different names the same way, to which they replied, "Of course. They are the same." A more sane human would let this go, but I have died on this hill. Erin and Aaron are just not pronounced the same way. They are spelled wildly different for crying out loud. We live in a society with laws, not anarchy. Please tell me I am right here?

This reminds me of the time my former Deadspin editor Barry Petchesky insisted that DOG and LOG do not rhyme. He even posted a voice memo in Slack to illustrate the differences (there weren’t any). He remains completely fucking insane: a prisoner to whatever slight New York accent he happens to be affecting. To normal people, those words rhyme, as they should. [Ed note: They do not rhyme.]

I am half-deaf and have had to undergo a lot of listening therapy to help optimize what small amount of hearing I have left. So yeah, when I say ERIN and AARON out loud, I can detect a slight, slight difference on the front end of those names. But it’s barely a difference at all. In general, those names are both pronounced AIR-UN. The fact that they’re spelled differently means nothing. This is English, man. Have you seen how TOUGH is spelled? Makes no goddamn sense.


You can die on this hill if you really want. Makes for a good, pointless argument. You could even bust it out at dinner parties. But you’re still acting like you’re the one-eyed king in the land of the blind. If I tell you that your name is pronounced the exact same as "mat," (it is), how will you react? Will it leave you unable to function?


Am I a jerk for not bagging my own groceries at the grocery store? I swear some cashiers will intentionally not bag the groceries while they ring you up in hopes that you will do it yourself. Then they give you the stink-eye when you are just awkwardly standing there while they are bagging up your groceries.

I don’t think you’re an asshole for waiting. I bag my own groceries at the store, I’m a pushy dickhead and I believe that I will be able to bag my own shit faster and more efficiently than Pizzaface behind the register, who I already know is destined to put every last egg and blackberry at the bottom of my bag and lay a six-pack of Fanta directly on top of them. I can’t abide that. Also, I don’t wanna spend any more time in the store than I have to. Hence, I wanna be my own bagboy. It’s a very European way of going about things.

But here in America, that ends up being something of a jerk move. Like me, you’re announcing to the cashier that you don’t trust them to bag their stuff, nor do you have the time to wait for them to do it. You’re too important to let them do their job. Hence, it is YOU who are the jerk for not being patient. I would be better about this if I could. I would allow the grocery bagging process to be completed according to proper American protocol. But nope. Never gonna happen. I can’t stand there one more goddamn second while the old person waiting in line behind me gets in my asshole and starts shoving my Oreos to the front of the belt. I gotta go.



Let’s say you can only own one car for the rest of your life. The kicker here is you have to do all your own maintenance. If you get in a wreck you can take it to a body shop, but anything that you would normally use a mechanic for is now your responsibility. What car do you choose? I (being less than mechanically inclined) think it has to be an old VW Beetle or VW Bus on account of a dude once told me that the engines in those vehicles were very simple to work on.

I have to change the oil and shit? Oh god. Okay, I am not picking a Volkswagen, because everyone I know who’s owned a VW has had to take it to the shop an average of seven times a year. Fuck that. I can’t do any routine shop work because I have a bad back, and because I am extremely not a car person. And VWs need a LOT of upkeep.

To that end, I’m not picking an old car, no matter how easy grease monkeys claim it may be to switch out the timing belt on an ’86 Cutlass Ciera. I am picking a new, boring car from either Kia or Honda. I’m picking the base model, so that I don’t have to fuck with too much computerized equipment (the IT of cars is a new frontier in auto mechanic extortion techniques). And then, I’m making YouTube my maintenance bible. You can change a car battery in five minutes watching one of these things! Surely it would be as easy for me to do the job as it is for Frank Socket from an official Pep Boys video to do it.


I drive a 2012 Kia Soul. It’s a handy little car. More important, the fact that it’s mass-produced to 21st century standards means that everything, both under the hood and on the interior, is clearly labeled and relatively accessible. It means that parts are easier to find. Most important, cars like this are built to have a very low cost of ownership. That means less maintenance, which means less opportunities for me to accidentally trap a field mouse inside the carburetor.

So for your question, I need the most practical car humanly possible, which is akin to the two cars that I already own (the other being a minivan). A cookie cutter car. In a sense, I already bought my car for life in the Kia because I have no interest in trading it in unless I absolutely have to. My plan is to drive it into the ground. The suspension is fucking terrible, though. You’d think Immortan Joe designed local speed bumps when you ride around in this thing.


You once wrote in a Funbag about the horrors of growing up fat (the name calling, the shaming, etc…). I also struggled with my weight as a kid, and the battle persists to this day. This is irrational, but sometimes I blame my parents for my fatness due to their letting me eat whatever I wanted growing up. Snacks were everywhere in our house, and I never was never one to hold back. I am a current father of a one-year old, and I’m already concerned that he will also struggle with his weight like I did. As a father, have you taken any proactive steps in the hope that your kids don’t get fat?

My mom used to get on me for overeating when I was a kid, so I can’t really blame her for my weight problems. She even signed me up for fat camp once. This wasn’t a fat camp out in the sticks, where a drill sergeant has you running hills and dangles Twinkies in front of you on a stick for the entirety of August. This was just a class at a local hospital in Minneapolis, and I agreed to go because I was sick to death of being fat. Thus, like you, I did worry about my kids suffering from a similar adolescent fate.

None of them, as of yet, have grown too heavy. In fact, I have the opposite problem as a dad because my two youngest children—my sons—are too goddamn picky and not packing on sufficient weight as a result. We’ve checked with doctors and nutritionists and read articles on The Parenting Street Journal or whatever to solve the problem, but the discouraging thing is that they all told us to do shit we were ALREADY doing. You’re supposed to cook your own food, which we do. You’re supposed to encourage your kids to help with the cooking, which we do. You’re supposed to offer them balanced meals and, as a role model, EAT those balanced meals, which we do.


Those are also techniques you can use to prevent your kids from overeating, by the way. But they still haven’t resulted in my sons eating whatever they’re served and not complaining about it. Dinnertime becomes a power struggle and then the kids learn to hate food even more because they associate it with familial discord. FUN!

My daughter, by contrast, eats pretty much everything. She also watches her portions because she once told us she didn’t want to "get fat," which is really not a thing you wanna hear a 13-year-old say. So I used to fear my kids getting overweight, but of course that fear was derived from a worldview dating back to 1989. I am not parenting in 1989. It’s over 30 years later and I’m not about to scream LAY OFF THE CHEETOS TUBBY at my own progeny. All I can do is engage in healthy eating (impossible if there’s sour cream and onion dip around) and give my kids all of the resources they need to do likewise. My wife even drew up a chart and put it on the cabinet door for them to reference when they get hungry. They really do like to look at it.

Does this stop them (or me) from horking a bag of Ruffles if one happens to be fresh from the store? Nope. But there’s only so much you can control. I’m not gonna force veganism on my children and I’m not gonna clear this house of tasty snacks in an inadvertent effort to get them on primrose path to body dysmorphia. All I can do is give them the tools to eat well (such tools are not so easy to come by if you don’t make a ton of money) and hope the light goes on. And it will. It may take longer than I planned, but that’s true of pretty much every aspect of childrearing.



I met the two weirdest sauna-goers today; the first walked in wearing sweatpants and a hoodie but stripped down immediately and sat by his clothes, the second walked in without a shirt, wearing shorts (not strange), but wearing shoes and socks. Which is weirder? Why strip in the sauna? Why collect all that shoe stank?

Were they old? Because wearing shoes and socks in sauna is a strong old person move. Old people are either way too overdressed or way too underdressed at the gym. That’s hard law. I walk into my gym’s locker room and one old guy is putting Vaporub on his nutsack while another is gearing up for the treadmill like he’s about to climb fucking Everest. There’s never an in-between. One old guy at the gym the other day was on the elliptical in a hoodie and wearing a BACKPACK. A full backpack, too! So either he was a) cutting weight for a wrestling meet, b) training to walk the Appalachian Trail, c) Icelandic, or d) Just fucking weird. I think D is the simplest explanation.

As for your question, I think saunas naturally bring out the inherent strangeness of people, and not necessarily just the elderly. I don’t even know how to act in a sauna. Do I go in nude? Should I have flip flops on? One time I laid down on a sauna bench to rest my back and prayed to God that on one would walk in on me and assume I was preparing to masturbate. Other people have no such hang-ups about gym sauna etiquette. They may as well be in their own TV room, they’re so uninhibited. They clip their nails. They talk on the phone. They order mob hits. There’s a whole sauna culture they belong to that I don’t ever want to be part of. I fear sauna people.



If you could redistribute America's regional accents to be re-concentrated in different parts of the country (but locals still retain their demeanors), what are the most amusing potential outcomes? My votes go to the "Minnesota nice" accent taking over NYC, the Philly accent going to sunny San Diego and the Pacific Northwest no accent at all prevailing in Texas.

Okay if every New Yorker talked like they were extra in Fargo, I’d be pretty goddamn amused. HEY THERE YA, I’M WALKING ACROSS THE STREET DONTCHA KNOW IT?! That’s even funnier than if Boston and New York were forced to switch accents, which would be entertaining for six seconds before being just as annoying as the current accent distribution, if not more so.

I do not support exporting the Philly accent because, as I’ve said before, the Philly accent doesn’t exist and people there made it up because they’re jealous the other cities in the Northeast Corridor get to have them. I also don’t support a flat accent in Texas because, in my travels, I’ve found that a shitload of Texans don’t have a strong accent anyway. Americans are all transplants like that. So then, here are some other ideas for accent immigration:

  • San Francisco gets the Virginia plantation accent. I DO DECLAY-UH THAT THE NEW GOOGLE BUS HERE IS THE OPTIMAL FORM OF TRANSPORT YES I DO.
  • Maine gets the Alabama accent.
  • Alabama gets the Maine accent. It would really enhance white Alabama’s status as cave people.
  • New Orleans gets the Michigan accent. Yes, Michigan has an accent and it happens to be the worst thing you’ve ever heard. Imagine a Wisconsin accent, only without the charm. That’s Michigan. So I’d pay to have some snotty professional Cajun type to wake up one day and be like OH MY GAAAD THIS GUMBO RACKS!
  • Boston and Atlanta switch accents. Both these towns think they invented culture, so I propose they switch accents just so that I have a month-long grace period wherein I get to hear their respective forms of insufferable provincialism. Tommy from Quinzee being like Y’ALL AIN’T FROM ‘ROUND HERE SO YOU DON’T GIT US OR WHY WE LOVE DIPPIN’.


I’m looking to start baking my own bread at home and was wondering if you had any tips or recipes. I’ve been googling up some recipes but feel like I would fuck it up somehow or just make something really bland.

I don’t make bread or pasta at home because I’m lazy and because good versions of both are readily available at the corner store. However, everyone I know who’s made bread swears by this "easy"(always beware recipes labeled as easy), no-knead bread recipe. This recipe requires a Dutch oven, but Amazon now makes their own line of knockoff Le Creuset enamel cast iron Dutch ovens for, like, a tenth of the price. Are they cheaper because they’re made in a hollowed-out mountain somewhere in Guangdong province where Jeff Bezos personally oversees the knotting of all employees’ urethras? Probably. But still, WHAT A DEAL.

Email of the week!


I don't know if you're still taking grandpa stories, but a guy I work with is old enough to be my grandpa, and whenever we work out in the field together, he brings soda in a pair of nested large cups from Sonic. Styrofoam, so it squeaks constantly in the truck cup holder while we're bumping down rough caliche roads. I assumed it was a spit cup at first since it certainly looks gross enough by now, but nope, it's for beverage. Everybody else around here is naturally mad for Yeti drinkware, but my man's got the perfectly adequate substitute, I guess.

Indeed he does.