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Jim Walker: The art and science of butt dialing

Don't take me seriously

Posted: March 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.

My outdated cellphone does this annoying thing in which, after a short period of inactivity, it locks up, and I have to press a release button, quickly followed by pressing “OK,” before I can make a call, send a text or check anything. As I said, it is annoying, but it has also, I figure, prevented me from ever making a butt dial — even though I quite often sit on the phone while it is in my back pocket.

On the other hand, I have been the recipient of numerous butt dials — some legitimate accidents and others, I believe, artfully calculated for effect.

Now I will explain what I mean by that in a moment, but first a little science:

The butt dial, aka pocket dial, aka purse dial, aka doofus dial, is what happens when a cellphone is accidentally activated and makes a call when the phone’s owner is unaware of it. Usually, all that can be heard by those answering such calls is random noise and static, with mumbling, traffic or tinny music in the background.

However, at other times, conversation comes through quite well, with those speaking oblivious to the fact they are being overheard. This can be boring for the eavesdropper when the conversation is mundane, good fun when the conversation is revealingly personal — and deadly for the speaker when he is overheard by his wife or girlfriend while he is in flagrant cheat-a-cheat.

And this latter happens all the time.

Cheaters, you must realize cellphones are agents of karma — and they can also be used to track your movements.

Now, the recipient of a butt dial can only hang up to end it. Shouting “Hello! Hello! Hey, you’re butt dialing me, you moron!” never works. Worse yet is getting a 20-minute message left on your end that eats up your allowed usage and sounds like a conversation held under the Cone of Silence in the Chief’s office at Control.

Of course, they have apps and locks and all kinds of trickeration designed to prevent your phone from butt dialing, but the simple fact is, careless people butt dial, and those same people don’t value your time enough to bother to use the locks or apps.

Now cellphones can also butt text, I hear, and God help you if your phone butt texts with auto-complete. In fact, some phones have been known to go rogue and send out multiple calls and texts and even download data, all on their own.

But are these really accidents, or examples of the rise of the machines?

OK, so much for the science of butt dialing.

Now, briefly, for the aforementioned art.

I am convinced that not all butt dials are accidental. I mean, a butt dial is the safest way to get a response from someone you want to make call you first. They respond and you say “Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to call you — but since you called me, how are you?” and so on. It gives you the upper hand in a relationship when you don’t deserve it.

And then there is the “kidding yourself” butt dial. You see, it is well known the person called by a butt dial is usually the last person the caller had a conversation with.

So, is it really logical you were butt dialed by that girl you hadn’t spoken to in a month? I mean, she called no one else during that time? Oh, come on. What she probably did was punch your number up, then chicken out on calling you. That left your number as the most recent one and so, natch, her next butt dial went to you. But still she can claim innocence.

And then there is the deliberate butt dial. This is used when you want the call recipient to “accidentally” overhear a conversation. This can be used for such things as getting someone to break up with you, getting your boss to believe you actually like him, playacting an alibi or to clue that guy in Cubicle 2 into the fact he has horrible halitosis. And all without actual interaction or confrontation.

I’m telling you, butt dialing is an art.

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