Say hello to the wacky world of pocket dialing

Judi said goodbye and dropped the cell phone into her purse, unaware of the high-tech mischief about to take place. As she picked up her gym bag and walked out of the Lakewood Community Building with me, she explained who had called and what had happened.
When I arrived home later that day and checked my phone messages, I discovered an eerie call filled with strange background noises and distant voices. I was about to hang up when I heard Judi’s voice telling the story I had heard earlier. After she finished talking, random background noise and rustling sounds continued for several minutes.
I was puzzled until I realized what had happened. When Judi dropped her phone into her purse, it accidently dialed my number, and since no one was home, the call was recorded.
Pocket dialing (also known as butt dialing) of accidental calls is caused when an object in a person’s pocket or bag bumps the buttons on the phone. This often occurs on open phones where the keys are exposed. The dialed number is usually one that has been recently called or a number near the beginning or end of the phone’s contact list. I find it amusing these calls are referred to as pocket dialing, considering that touch tone buttons were introduced in 1963, and the majority of cell phone users most likely have never seen or used a dial phone.
It would not be considered unusual that Judi’s phone accidentally dialed a number when it fell into her purse. However, the odds that it dialed the person she was talking to does seems remote. Pocket dialing can be more than annoying and embarrassing; in one incident, it resulted in putting the caller behind bars.
In November 2013, Larry Barnett from Arkansas was describing an elaborate plan to murder a former employee when he accidently butt-dialed his intended victim, revealing the plot.
The person who received the call had previously worked for Barnett and quickly figured out he was the intended victim. He listened as Barnett plotted the murder and gave a third party directions to his home. The victim told police he overheard Barnett say, “I don’t care if you have to burn his house to the ground with him in it. I don’t care what you have to do, make it look like an accident.”
The police went to the complainant’s home and discovered it had been burglarized and the gas stove had been tampered with. At that point, Barnett was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Perhaps, if Larry Barnett had used one of the available apps to safeguard his phone from butt dialing, it could have saved his.

(Janet Rich, who wrote this article, is an author and freelance writer. Her book, “Charles’ Tell-Tale Diary of 1899,” was the subject of a story in the April edition of Senior Scene.)