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Tampa has a new area code so I guess it’s ‘Soylent Green’ now
It’s time for a cinematic spiral as Florida runs out of numbers.
Charlton Heston is all of us in 'Soylent Green.'
Charlton Heston is all of us in 'Soylent Green.' [ Turner Classic Movies ]
Published Jan. 14

A warning that this column will start out calmly enough, then devolve into nonsense indicative of the author’s headspace. It also has spoilers for a 49-year-old film. Ready?

Tampa is getting a new area code. In addition to 813, some customers will use 656, and everyone in Tampa Bay will have to use 10 digits to dial starting Jan. 22. The Florida Public Service Commission says that adding 656 will cover the area for another 37 years, so make your 2059 bug-out plans pronto.

Related: Get ready for the new 656 area code, Tampa Bay

Now, maybe you normally read this column for a whimsical, positive voice of reason. Reader, today is not that day. Today is alarmist and unhinged. If you would like reason, seek something about gardening in partial sunlight, or turn to Chicken Soup for the Soul.

A reasonable person would say that adding area codes signals a little city turning into a Big City, inevitable when a place is popular. As we have covered at length, we are popular. A non-conspiratorial type would say, “Who cares? All your numbers are stored anyway. Dialing is a construct.”

Ah! But a less reasonable person, one mired in an infinite pandemic of variants, masks, rationed toilet paper, antisocial behavior and general brow furrowing, would hyper-fixate on the fact that WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF NUMBERS. There’s also a new area code in Palm Beach County, and maybe more coming to Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys because they are also RUNNING OUT OF NUMBERS.

I repeat: the people have exceeded every possible numeric combination. Does that not freak anyone else out? An unreasonable person would then wrap herself in a homely blanket with sleeves, because that’s all she wears anymore, and spend part of Thursday re-watching the 1973 movie Soylent Green, which is $2.99 on Soylent, I mean, on Amazon.

Is now a good time to remind you that the movie based on Harry Harrison’s science fiction novel is set in… 2022??? Would this make you wrap yourself more tightly in the sleeve-blanket and stare into the endless void?

In the movie, the world is overpopulated and riddled with disasters caused by CLIMATE CHANGE and HUBRIS. There are FOOD SHORTAGES and anything left is EXORBITANTLY PRICED. Only the RICHEST can afford apartments and clothes that aren’t BEIGE. The people cry when they see BEEF. They steal ONIONS. They have to hide $150 JAM from Charlton Heston, which is my literal worst nightmare, hiding JAM from CHARLTON HESTON.

At the time, some critics thought a movie about mass hysteria amid the greenhouse effect was ludicrous. Gene Siskel gave the film one-and-a-half stars and said: “Wait ‘til you see the giant snow shovel scoop the police use to round up rowdies. You may never stop laughing.”

Ha. Ha! Ha ha!

Oh, back to the stunning conclusion. The Soylent corporation controls the food supply, which is concentrated in little red, yellow and green chewy squares, like really depressing Jack Link’s. Soylent Green is allegedly plant-based, but guess what?

It’s PEOPLE. They’re eating PEOPLE.

Am I overreacting, connecting an innocent new area code to this cannibalistic tale? Absolutely. Do I even have a Tampa phone number? No. Am I unstable? So it seems. Are you also unstable? Most likely.

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Then again, nothing has been stable for almost two years now, and I’m just looking for one day where things don’t edge closer to apocalyptic fiction, a moment where shelves aren’t barren of CAT FOOD and COFFEE CREAMER and where CHARLTON HESTON isn’t going to show up screaming, “IT’S PEOPLE.”

Thank you. We will now return to your regularly scheduled sense of reason. Perhaps.

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