By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
The phone rings. You answer. But while you know the person is there, they don't know that they have called you.
You've just been "pocket-dialed," or "butt-dialed," and are the unintended recipient of an accidental call emanating from someone's pocket or purse.
"Pocket-dialing is a great mystery," says Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research.
Standard cellphones, with their physical keypads, were more susceptible, but touchscreen iPhones and Android handsets make random calls too.
No fix for this modern calamity is yet firmly in place: Chicago area 911 operators say that many wireless calls they get are mistaken pocket-dialers, according to CBS. But on the other hand, some pocket-dialed 911 calls have been positive. Just last week, two thieves were apprehended after robbing a Target store in Madison, Wis. While driving away and bragging about plans to hock the stash, they pocket-dialed 911 by mistake and were apprehended.
If you find that your phone has been making lots of pocket dials, go to settings and add password protection. That way, no non-emergency call will be made unless you type in a password first. On Apple's iPhone, you can lock your screen by simply pressing the Sleep/Wake button at the top of your phone.
It seems that everyone has a pocket-dialing story to tell. We recently stopped by the Universal CityWalk entertainment facility in Los Angeles to ask folks about "butt dials" and how they deal with them. We also opened up the question to USA TODAY readers and got lots of fun responses.
One reader cautions about a new frontier: Pocket-texting!
"Pocket-dialing is so mechanical-keyboard ago," says Ray Butler from Elizabethtown, Ky. "I get and send texts by mistake much worse than pocket-dialing was. Just yesterday at 4 a.m. I was headed to the airport to pick up my daughter. Instead of texting her to get up (r u up yet), I texted a co-worker."
More pocket-dialing tales:
"My ex-husband and I have remained friends since we split 11 years ago. We talk occasionally, mostly about our adult children. Although I took him off my speed dial, he apparently has not taken me off his and he carries his phone on his belt. I have heard him order in restaurants, in random conversations...and most often, on the job. He is a contractor and the majority of the calls over the years have been from the job site. I can hear saws and drills and lumber being moved around. Sometimes I hear his voice but mostly just the sounds of wood being cut. He must take it off his belt when he gets home because I have never heard him with any women, thankfully. All our friends think it's great that we have remained friends, though I suppose if we weren't, I wouldn't still be on the speed dial."
-Caroline Williams, Boulder, Colo.
"My phone has a keyboard lock. The lock, however, apparently allows 911 calls through because that's who my phone called. The 911 operator finally reached me on the call back and said my phone had been off the hook for several minutes before they were able to reach me. Police showed up to confirm the "no emergency."
-Tom Kodey, Port Orange, Fla.
Hears strange things
"It happens at least once a day. I get annoyed. I hear the weirdest things, people's butts basically."
-Tammy Denuccio, Los Angeles
Calling mom from cargo pants
"Surprisingly, my iPhone has dialed my mother in Hawaii while I was in class. The screen was off and locked, had been in my left leg cargo pocket for over 30 minutes, and hadn't been touched during that time. I suppose it might have been possible to somehow double tap the main button (which is set to initiate voice commands) and Steve Jobs decided that I should be calling my mother, but for all the phone numbers or names for the phone to "hear" it seems strange that it would detect "call" and then something close to my mom's name, and "mobile."
-Sam Micheletti, Tucson, Arizona