Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


In this Highly Technological Age, most of us are familiar with the phenomenon of the Butt-Dial, or Butt-Call... not to be confused with the Booty-Call, another matter entirely.

The Butt-Dial (AKA Pocket Dial or Pocket Call) is what happens when a cell phone is accidentally activated in someone’s pocket or purse, resulting in an inadvertent phone call. It’s not something that used to happen in the Landline Era, when phones were not something carried around on one’s person where they would be subject to random bumps and jiggles.

Most cell phones have protections against the Butt-Dial, but - depending on the specifics of one’s gear - those protections are not 100% foolproof. Flip phones are less vulnerable, but that type of design seems to have fallen out of favor in the last few years.

Because of the way cell phones work, the most common recipients of butt-dialed calls are people you have recently called, and people at the top of your speed dial list. Random phone numbers, because of the long sequence of accidental keystrokes required, rarely get hit.

Butt-calls are mostly inconsequential, unless (as happened to me recently) you get a string of them all at once. Since the caller is not aware he is calling - and since his line is engaged - it’s hard to get hold of him to tell him to knock it off. But once in a while, a butt-call can be a conduit for embarrassing information... like getting ready for a press conference and finding out the hard way that the mike in front of your face is live. Remember Ronald Reagan’s microphone gaffe in 1984? “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Other examples are legion.

I am happy to report that this has never happened to me. To my knowledge, anyway.

But what got this whole train of thought started was a butt-dial I received yesterday from my friend Barry. I had just spoken with him a few moments before, and we had concluded our telephone conversation. Moments later, the phone rang again; this time it was immediately obvious that Barry had no idea the phone had been activated. (His phone - an HTC 4G - seems to be especially prone to the inadvertent redial.) After about a minute of listening to muffled words exchanged between him and his wife, she noticed that the phone was displaying my picture, indicating that there was an active call in progress - which she promptly cut off.

I could not resist calling back to tell Barry about his having called me unbeknowingly. “Were you aware that you had butt-dialed me?” In retrospect, of course, he was.

There’s an Elissonian Moral to all this - of course there is!

Let your fingers do the walking...
...but don’t let your tuchus do the talking!


Kevin Kim said...

Cell phones in back pockets aren't a good idea for those of us with anus-tongues.

Elisson said...

Kevin, you're probably the only person I know who would have appreciated the fine red crap I took yesterday after having eaten beets the day before.

Omnibabe said...

There's butt dialing, then there's EPIC butt dialing...

Kevin Kim said...

I and Jitterbug Perfume-era Tom Robbins.


Yabu said...

I've never had a Butt-Dial with a flip phone. I have with pre-flip phone bricks, and 1st and 2nd generation Blackberries. The solution to that was to lock the keypad, and maybe even use a password to activate it. Pain in the ass, no pun intended. I've had many BB's, and I don't like 'em. As you know, iPhones are the Catdaddy. It is damn near impossible to Butt-Dial with an iPhone.

I've been using cell phones since the "bag phone" days, had all flavors, and, I can tell you that the iPhone is more than most people need. If you have an iMac, it's even cooler.

K-nine said...

Not to contradict yabu, but you CAN butt dial with an iPhone... And due to the alphabet search tool on the right of your contact list it could be anyone...
Such as your ex-girlfriend... while you are making out with a completely different girl in the back seat of yet another girl's car.
Not that THAT has EVER happened to me.

Yabu said...


If you can Butt-Dial with an iPhone, I'll slide you the dinner of your choice.

og said...

I have a crackberry. I only wear it in the pocket of my shirt. If I want to dial a call, I have to go to the address book, find the address, select it, and then when it opens push the phone number, and then it asks me "Call 555-867-5309?" to whch I must push "yes".

If I put the phone in my pocket, apparently my nipple immediately dials someone at total random.

I have utterly no idea why it does this, except to harsh my mellow. It works. I have variously nipple dialed everyone in my address book, and it has become an issue. I have had to fill my speed dial with bogus undialable numbers so that I could stop nipple dialing Fiji and hearing "Bula vinaka beachside" come out of my pocket seven or eight times a day.