Your telephone rings.

You look at your caller ID to see the origin of the call. The number starts "6-1-2."

Could that be your brother in Nashville? No, that's "6-1-5." Or is 6-1-2 in Tulsa?

You answer, anyway. Darn, it's a telemarketer - from Minneapolis.

Maybe it's time for area codes be overhauled and converted into a system such as exists with Zip Codes, where the first numbers tell you what area from which the communication originates.

Look at Pennsylvania, for example. It has 11 area codes. Three begin with the number "2," and two each begin with the numbers "4," "7" and "8." The other area codes start with "5" and "6."

The 11 area codes include a new one presently being added, "272," as an overlay to "570."

There are three area codes overlayered in the Pittsburgh area.

More overlays throughout the country are coming.

The area codes are so random that there's no way most people can figure out even what part of the country they're from by seeing them. For example, 212 is New York City, 213 is across the country in Los Angeles, and 214 is Dallas.

Then there's 272, the new overlay for Lansford, Tamaqua, and Jim Thorpe, and 262, which is Racine, Wisconsin.

People in the 570 area code who get new telephone numbers could be assigned the new 272 area code. However, if you're buying a new cell phone, you might get a 484 area code - even though you live in the "570,' "272," or "610" exchange.

If the area codes had an identifying number to place them in a specific geographical area, it would end some of the confusion for telephone orders.

Now would be a great time for an overhaul of the area codes because of so many overlays occurring.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]