The View
from Here:
  Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline, and when she's not organizing the St. Barthelemy film festival, or supervising the local volleyball league, or writing for various magazines, she turns her sharp eye upon local happenings.
  December '01
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   The Numbers Game
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  It all used to be so simple. Now it seems we are overwhelmed, literally swamped by numbers.
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   I used to remember them all, from phone numbers to social security numbers. But now there are just too many digits. More digits than you can count on the digits of your fingers and toes. Even more than you can count if you had four hands and four feet. I guess that's the result of the world turning its back on analog; everything has gone digital and that means an overabundance of digits. Ones and zeros.
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  Just like the phone numbers around here. Used to be six digits (used to be "sorry no telephone" but those days are long gone!). Now everybody has multiple phone lines - the telephone, the fax phone, the modem phone, the cell phone - where are all these numbers supposed to come from? Six digits just didn't cut it anymore, so we all have 10 digit numbers, and instead of just 12 digits to call from the USA, for example, you now have to dial 15 digits to reach St. Barth (that's right, dial the 590 twice and you'll get right through; unless of course you are calling a cell phone, then its 590 just once, then 690 and you'll either reach your party or some underdeveloped nation where no one speaks any language you know and can't imagine where you are calling from).
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   So to call my brother-in-law, who lives about 50 yards away, I have to dial 10 digits. It's quicker to call out the window and see if he's at home. I can usually tell if he is if his car is parked out behind his house. A car with a new license plate where the number of numbers is the same but since they ran out of numbers that would fit with the old SBH designation for Saint Barth, the new ones have letters that don't stand for anyplace in particular. Maybe when they'll run through the cycle of numbers again, we can go back to the familiar SBH and have a license plate that means something.
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   And if all that weren't enough, we now have to deal with the Euro. We can no longer ask our favorite question of "How many francs for a dollar?" (My father tells me when he was a kid you got three for a dollar but he's talking about the kind you put mustard on at the local hot dog stand...). So the French have not only lost their empire (except for a few outposts left over from the colonial era like this little island), and the international importance of their language to English, they are now cashing in their cherished French franc for the Euro. Fortunately for those of us with more than enough numbers swimming in our heads, there is a little calculator to help translate the Euro into francs and vice versa (if in doubt a Euro is almost equal to a dollar but not quite.)
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  It's all a little too much for me. These days my favorite string of digits is 000000000. Zero, nothing. For nothing special, nothing happening. Just another perfect day in paradise with nothing in particular to do.

  More to come,

  Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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