Anyone can easily become a victim or perpetrator of a pocket-dial. For those who haven't heard the term before, a pocket-dial (also commonly called a butt-dial) is a cell phone call that is accidentally placed in someone's pocket or purse. The dead giveaway you've received one: Your mobile phone rings. You say, "Hello…hello…are you there?" and no one responds.
Instead, you hear either the rhythmic movements of someone walking down the street (as the phone jiggles in their pocket, perhaps brushing up against a key ring) or you hear a background conversation that wasn't meant for your ears. These calls, which are more common than you think, occur when either the physical keys or the touch-pads of mobile phones are depressed unintentionally.
We most often read about the pocket-dials placed to 911, draining life-saving resources. A recent article in the Canadian Post reports that more than 37 per cent of calls made to York Regional Police in Ontario, Canada last year were either pocket-dials or the result of curious toddlers using mobile phones. When these calls are placed, instead of responding to true emergencies, dispatchers have to hang on until the call cuts off to determine whether or not there is a real emergency on the line.
Pocket-dials can be distressing for other reasons, too. I recently blogged about the victim of a pocket-dial, a woman who overheard one close friend speaking very harshly about her to another. The three women were part of a circle of friends who had known each other for more than 40 years, sharing the joys and tragedies of their lives over decades. Friendships like this are irreplaceable, but could their friendship survive the trauma of a pocket-dial? The stunned victim, who understandably felt hurt and betrayed, was placed in the untenable position of deciding whether to say something to her friends, pretend she never heard the conversation, or simply walk away from friendships she once treasured.
Most pocket-dials aren't as dramatic. They are merely a nuisance—wasting real time and air time minutes—on both ends of the phone. There are some ways, however, to avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment of placing an unintentional call:
- Learn how to lock your phone when you aren't using it.
- Purchase a protective case for your mobile phone that prevents accidental key presses.
- Take care in placing your phone somewhere where it can't be pocket-dialed (perhaps, not in the middle of a purse or not in a pocket tightly pressed to your body.)
- Check out various apps designed to prevent pocket-dials like Call Confirm (for iPhones).
- If you're simply incorrigible, use an old-fashioned flip phone that protects the keys from dialing.
Finally, the most drastic solution to avoid the potential embarrassment of a pocket-dial: Don't say things about others that you wouldn't want them to say about you——or wouldn't want them to hear.