For years I wondered why I was constantly fishing my cell phone from my pocket and finding the last call made from it was to the same family friend—one whose last name starts with B. Finally, my wife explained to me that I was “butt-dialing,” also known as pocket dialing.
All those accidental calls, caused by pressure on the phone’s keys as I sat down or fished for change in my pocket, were going to Ms. B because her name was at the top of my cell phone’s directory.
If Ms. B had complained, I might have learned how to use the phone’s locking device. (I still don’t understand how that works.) But she didn’t complain, so I ignored the problem until I made myself look like a full-blown idiot by pocket dialing a woman who was sitting two feet away from me. She answered her phone, and it took me a good 20 seconds to figure out why I could hear her voice both from across the table and from my pants pocket.
Even if you use the keypad lock on your cell phone, objects in your pocket can disengage the lock and cause your phone to dial your last-dialed number or the first number in your directory—or, worse yet, dial an emergency number.
Even if an accidental dialing doesn’t ring an emergency switchboard directly, the person who receives the call, hears muffled sounds, and recognizes the number as that of a family member might conclude that something dire is taking place and dial 911.
That scenario played out last January in Winnetka, Ill., when a school employee inadvertently dialed his wife as he was listening to music in his car. The wife told police she thought he had been kidnapped.
A 30-member SWAT team wearing helmets with face shields crashed into the school, interrupting a closed-door school board meeting where directors were discussing who to hire as the next superintendent.
Cell-phone cases: more than a fashion statement
Keeping your cell phone in a carrying case and clipping it to a belt or other item of outer apparel might be the best means of preventing the frequent annoyance caused by accidental dialing.
Carrying your phone outside your pocket or purse can prevent accidental dialing. Keeping a mobile phone in a protective case also keeps it clean and may prolong its life.
Sites offering cell phone carrying cases abound on the Web.Cellphoneshop.net, for example, offers leather cases, pouches, and holsters for Apple’s iPhone, BlackBerry, HTC, Nokia, and other brands.
Some cell phone users—perhaps especially those who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s—might balk at the idea of carrying a cell phone or anything else hooked to their belts, recalling the über-geeks of their youth who would strut to engineering class with slide rules swinging in their holsters.
But then, no slide rule was ever capable of inadvertently summoning a SWAT team.