The Pentagon didn't know it, but it had, until recently, a unique bond with Stuart, Va. Specifically, my little rural community near the North Carolina border and the Pentagon shared a telephone line and a telephone prefix, 694.

For many years, the people in Stuart got calls meant for the Pentagon. We'd politely say, "Sorry wrong number," and tell callers that the area code for The Pentagon was 202, not 703. But we felt rather pleased with our personal link to that important federal building.

One time the person at the other end of my line -- a man in Australia -- told me he was trying to get the U.S. Army Artificial Intelligence Center. He said he wanted "artificial intelligence, because there seemed to be a shortage of natural intelligence." We laughed.

But this is the month that I stopped laughing. The phone was ringing so much, I couldn't get a thing done. And to top it off, callers argued with me when I told them that the area code for the Pentagon was 202. One man calling from California claimed that the Pentagon had changed its area code to 703. I said that couldn't be but then later thought about the number of calls I'd been receiving for the Pentagon.

I called a friend, and she told me she had been getting a lot of odd calls too. One day, she said, she had come home to nine recorded messages. One was from the Korean Embassy, another from a general and others from people with heavy accents. She said the answering machine tape was so special that she had decided to save it.

I investigated further. The Patrick County Administration Building and the county building inspector's office reported that they also had been receiving more than their normal share of Pentagon calls.

The mystery was cleared up a few days later when I received a call from F. G. Seaburger of Texas Instruments in Austin. He was trying to reach the Artificial Intelligence Center too. I told him of the problem I was having with Pentagon calls, and he was kind enough to call me back with the story.

The Pentagon had indeed changed its area code from 202 to 703, he said. It also had changed its 694 prefix to 614. The Pentagon had abruptly cut its link to Stuart, but many telephone users obviously didn't know about the changes.

In an effort to direct telephone traffic, I wrote an article in our local paper, The Bull Mountain Bugle, about the new area code and prefix for Pentagon calls. And judging from the calls I've received from my neighbors, I wasn't the only one in Stuart playing operator.

I assume that the Pentagon is now aware of the relationship it has had with the folks in Stuart. And I hope it realizes that they also serve who only answer phones. -- Jackie Love