Created By: chicagomel on December 29, 2012 Last Edited By: Kartoonkid95 on January 15, 2016
Troped

Pocket Dial

Accidentally dialing a cell phone when sitting down.

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Trope
Alternate titles: Pocket Dial, Accidental Cell Phone Dial

Many people these days carry their cell phones with them everywhere. When they aren't using them, they often shove them into a back pocket of their pants, other garment or possibly a backpack. The trouble with this is that accidental pressure on the phone, like sitting down, can inadvertently dial the thing without the user even realizing it.

There are three likely outcomes to a character receiving a butt dial: one is that the dialee will simply hang up (as is usually the case in real life), in comedic works the dialee will have a "conversation" with the caller's butt, or they will hear something they weren't supposed to which is often highly embarrassing when the user on the other end hears something the phone owner didn't want heard. Another result can be a long voicemail full of nothing.

People with names beginning with A are more likely to have it happen, as they're at the top of their friends' or family's call list.

Can be Mistaken for Prank Call if the person on the other end doesn't realize what happened.

Please have links for real life stuff.

Examples

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Comics
  • In Zits, Jeremy's dad once found that not only was he doing this, but also the phone would call different people he knew depending on how he sat.
    Walt: My butt knows more about my phone than I do.

Live-Action TV
  • How I Met Your Mother
    • Ted keeps pocket-dialling his friend Marshall when he's drunk at Saint Patrick's Day party. Marshall's phone actually records scraps of Ted's evening, and those scraps speak badly about Ted as a person. For example, he was making out with a married woman or drank champagne, exploiting somebody else's bill. Marshall feels very uneasy and anxious about Ted's character and thinks Ted has not been himself lately.
    • Played With in the episode with Marshal's dad funeral. Everybody of the Eriksen family shares their last moments with him and everybody has something very heart-warming to tell, except for Marshall. His father's last words to him were that he should watch a surprisingly good Crocodile Dundee III. However, he later finds a voice message from his father on his cell. He listens to it, but it's just a pocket dial, which makes Marshall even more depressed. However, as he listens to it, it's revealed that he actually found out that he was making a pocket phone call and said a couple of nice words, though of course he didn't know they would his last to Marshall. For the funeral speech, Marshall decides to go with the Dundeee story to make people smile and laugh tearfully, and he keeps his story about the pocket dial to himself and his closest friends.
  • Leslie does this on Parks and Recreation while making out with Ben. Ron Swanson later plays back the recording for an embarrassed Leslie.
  • Inverted in an episode of Babylon 5 while Sheridan is talking to a terrorist with his link active in his back pocket so the crew can listen in accidentally shuts it off when he sits down, and alerts the terrorist that he's been broadcasting their conversation.
  • Good Luck Charlie
    • An entire episode revolved around various family members "butt-dialling" (their words) each other and accidentally revealing secrets to them.
    • In another episode Teddy and Bob get stuck in a tube at a children's restaurant. Bob purposely tries to butt-dial the house, which is second only to a pizza restaurant on the speed dial, and eventually he does. Because Gabe and Amy are engaged in an intense video game match, Charlie is left to answer the phone, and being two years old at the time, she doesn't take the situation seriously and hangs up.
  • Psych. Shawn's father learned that Shawn is considering confessing his feelings to to Juliet when Shawn butt dialed his father in a Red Robin bathroom.
  • Subverted on Arrow where Oliver's friends receive a call from him and assume that he butt-dialed them because they hear him having a conversation with his mother and another person. Then Sara recognized the other voice as belonging to Slade Wilson and realizes that it is actually a call for help and Oliver and his family are in grave danger.
  • An episode of Castle has him go on a date with a woman trying to get information from her, who starts to get a little frisky with him, and accidentally calls Beckett on his phone. She hears things that make her think Castle is in trouble and rushes over to his place, where she finds him with his date in her underwear on top of him.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the book The Nitpicker's Guide for Next Generation Trekkers'' (1991) the author makes note of Commander Riker's habit of sitting on the touchscreen control panels, which means that either Riker is randomly pushing buttons with his butt or they have a special "Riker's ass" sensor which lets them know not to activate anything. However, as of 2014 (let alone in the 24th century) almost all touchscreens have capacitive sensors, meaning that you have to touch with a finger or a specially engineered pen or glove; just pressure isn't enough.
  • The Good Wife episode "The Missing" revolves around Alicia mistakenly believing her daughter is missing due to a series of ambiguous phone messages, which turn out to have been pocket dials.

Music
  • Detailed in Beware by Big Sean:
    Third row is when you call, I hit cancel/ Really? I hit answer, fuck I hate when that happens/Phone in my pocket for the whole night/And you heard bitches screamin' til my phone dies

Radio
  • One episode of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! had a report wherein a thief was caught after butt-dialing the police department while talking about his latest escapade.
  • In one episode of "Guy Noir: Private Eye" on A Prairie Home Companion, Guy gets a huge phone bill because he's been unknowingly "butt-dialing" somebody in Norway for months.

Western Animation
  • In the Family Guy episode where Mort burned down his pharmacy for the insurance money with Peter and Quagmire's help, Joe caught them because Peter butt-dialed him while talking about their plans.
    • In another episode, appropriately titled "Hot-Pocket Dial" Quagmire accidentally pocket dials Peter and leaves a message on Peter's voicemail while talking with his parent about the fact that he's in love with Peter's wife Lois.
  • In the Sonic Boom episode, "Guilt Tripped", when Sonic and Tails finally get home from the Gogoba Village, they find four messages on their answering machine, all of which are from Dr. Eggman, who is planning to blow up the dam. However, one of those messages was revealed to have accidentally been butt-dialed.
  • In 6teen, season 3 "Oops, I Dialed It Again", Caitlin gives her friends new cell phones to test out and it leads to several misunderstandings. When Nikki starts admiring and complimenting the customers at her work so she can earn more money to buy Jonesy new skates, she accidentally pocket dials Jonesy during her work and he thinks Nikki is cheating on him. Later in the episode, when Jonesy is trying to build himself up, he accidentally pocket dials Caitlin and she thinks that he's hitting on her.

Real Life
  • In a story profiled on a "real life dumb 911 calls" show, one guy did this to 911-while on a crime spree in a stolen car. The police tracked him down by tracing the call.
Community Feedback Replies: 62
  • December 30, 2012
    Antigone3
    Happens in Real Life all the time -- I once had a 30 minute voice mail that was the result of a "purse call". But how often does it happen in fiction?
  • December 30, 2012
    chicagomel
    Yeah, that's what I'm wondering. Is This Tropeable? If it doesn't happen much, I'll trash it./
  • December 30, 2012
    StarSword
    ^Just stick a note in the description to have a source for any real life examples. For example:

    Radio:
    • One episode of Wait Wait Dont Tell Me had a report wherein a thief was caught after butt-dialing the police department while talking about his latest escapade.
  • February 24, 2013
    XFllo
    Live Action TV
    • How I Met Your Mother:
      • Ted keeps pocket-dialling his friend Marshall when he's drunk at Saint Patrick's Day party. Marshall's phone actually records scraps of Ted's evening, and those scraps speak badly about Ted as a person. For example, he was making out with a married woman or drank champagne, exploiting somebody else's bill. Marshall feels very uneasy and anxious about Ted's character and thinks Ted has not been himself lately.
      • Played With in the episode with Marshal's dad funeral. Everybody of the Eriksen family shares their last moments with him and everybody has something very heart-warming to tell, except for Marshall. His father's last words to him were that he should watch a surprisingly good Crocodile Dundee III. However, he later finds a voice message from his father on his cell. He listens to it, but it's just a pocket dial, which makes Marshall even more depressed. However, as he listens to it, it's revealed that he actually found out that he was making a pocket phone call and said a couple of nice words, though of course he didn't know they would his last to Marshall. For the funeral speech, Marshall decides to go with the Dundeee story to make people smile and laugh tearfully, and he keeps his story about the pocket dial to himself and his closest friends.
  • February 24, 2013
    StarSword
    EDIT: frag it, I already posted that one.
  • February 24, 2013
    TonyG
    This would go under Newest Ones In The Book.
    • Regular Show: In the aptly named episode "Butt Dial", Mordecai accidentally calls Margaret while goofing around with Rigby, and now has to try to erase the message before Margaret hears it.
  • February 24, 2013
    Tallens
    • Inverted in an episode of Babylon Five while Sheridan is talking to a terrorist with his link active in his back pocket so the crew can listen in accidentally shuts it off when he sits down, and alerts the terrorist that he's been broadcasting their conversation.
  • February 25, 2013
    XFllo
    BTW I strongly prefer the name Pocket Dial. I hear this one quite frequently. Accidental Cell Phone Dial is too bland and I somehow keep associating Butt Dial with Butt Monkey and the butt of jokes.
  • February 26, 2013
    DracMonster
  • February 26, 2013
    chicagomel
    Ooh examples. i was close to dumping this,but I will keep it going.
  • February 26, 2013
    gallium
    • Leslie does this on Parks And Recreation while making out with Ben. Ron Swanson later plays back the recording for an embarrassed Leslie.
  • February 26, 2013
    CharacterInWhite
    The Distaff Counterpart is the Purse Dial (ditto on the 30 min voicemail of nothing).

    Worth noting that it probably happens to characters whose names start with A more often, since they're at the top of everyone's contact list.

    Sucks to be Aaron.

    Also OMG "FLANK CALLING" IS PERFECT
  • March 4, 2013
    XFllo
    bump
  • March 4, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Just make it Pocket Dial.

    Flank Calling is clever, but a little obtuse. Butt Dial and Pocket Dial are both very common terms for this, let's stick with real names.
  • March 4, 2013
    AmyGdala
    I wouldn't call this a trope. It's something that happens in real life and also (much less often) happens in fiction. What is the storyline significance?

    The accidental-embarrassing-overhearing part is tropeworthy, but that is a trope whether it's a buttdial or whether it's something else.
  • March 4, 2013
    DracMonster
    If this happens its always going to be significant, at least in the sense of bringing some random comedy -- in a story, it's never something put in without intent of being part of the narrative. Five Five Five, Texting and For Inconvenience Press One are all tropes, this doesnt seem any less valid.
  • March 4, 2013
    chicagomel
    OK, so I should go ahead and try to bring it to launch? I just wanna be sure.
  • March 5, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ I feel this is a useful trope and will be a good addition to a Phone Tropes Index. As was mentioned, it's very new in fiction and collecting examples might be a slow and painful process, because mobiles are still used a lot for Can You Hear Me Now and similar drama. However, I wouldn't discard it.
  • March 5, 2013
    TomWalpertac2
    Babylon Five: Captain Sinclair hides his Link in his trousers while trying to negotiate with a bomber. When he sits down, it activates and beeps.
  • March 5, 2013
    AmyGdala
    ^^^^Okay, you've convinced me this is tropey :-)
  • March 5, 2013
    Larkmarn
  • March 5, 2013
    zarpaulus
    • In the Family Guy episode where Mort burned down his pharmacy for the insurance money with Peter and Quagmire's help Joe caught them because Peter butt-dialed him while talking about their plans.
  • March 5, 2013
    ACarlssin
    An entire episode of Good Luck Charlie revolved around various family members "butt-dialling" (their words) each other and accidentally revealing secrets to them.
  • March 6, 2013
    Larkmarn
    • Psych: Shawn's father learned that Shawn is considering confessing his feelings to to Juliet when Shawn butt dialed his father in a Red Robin bathroom.
  • March 6, 2013
    XFllo
    Note to OP/sponsor: Please do Rolling Updates. There are now quite a fex examples in the discussion and it's easier & more organized to keep adding them as they appear.
  • March 7, 2013
    chicagomel
    Got the updates added.
  • March 14, 2013
    XFllo
    I would remove the distaff counterpart thing from the description. Tropes Are Flexible and purse dial and pocket dial in fiction will have the same function and story telling purpose. No need to split it.
  • March 14, 2013
    Tallens
    The Babylon 5 example is not correct. The one I suggested earlier refers to the same instance and is correct.
  • May 3, 2013
    chicagomel
    Sorry...fixed.
  • November 7, 2013
    XFllo
    Bump.
  • November 7, 2013
    chicagomel
    In one episode of "Guy Noir: Private Eye" on A Prairie Home Companion, Guy gets a huge phone bill because he's been unknowingly "butt-dialing" somebody in Norway for months.
  • March 13, 2014
    chicagomel
    • An episode of Castle has him go on a date with a woman trying to get information from her, who starts to get a little frisky with him, and accidentally calls Beckett on his phone. She hears things that make her think Castle is in trouble and rushes over to his place, where she finds him with his date in her underwear on top of him.
  • March 13, 2014
    henke37
    Should the name have "Dial" or "Dialing"?
  • March 13, 2014
    chicagomel
    • Subverted on Arrow where Oliver's friends receive a call from him and assume that he butt-dialed them because they hear him having a conversation with his mother and another person. Then Sara recognized the other voice as belonging to Slade Wilson and realizes that it is actually a call for help and Oliver and his family are in grave danger.
  • March 13, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    If this trope is about someone making a call by accident, how is that Real Life example supposed to count?
  • March 13, 2014
    Lakija
    What about Butt Dialing? I think that's widely known as this. Heh heh. there was a commercial or two about this. Let this simmer a bit and collect some more examples. Just keep it on the front page for a while if you can.
  • March 13, 2014
    StarSword
    Agree with Butt Dialing. We can use Pocket Dial as a redirect.
  • March 13, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    Thirding Butt Dialing.
  • March 13, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    Pocket Dialing is better. I picture Butt Dialing someone sitting on their phone to dial someone. just because it's funnier doesn't mean it's better.
  • March 14, 2014
    chicagomel
    Good point on the RL one, though I will replace it with one that I found that does fit.
  • March 25, 2014
    chicagomel
    Fixed the Real Life part and added the updates. Note that I wasn't editing comments there, it's just the easiest way to copy-paste for me on ipad. I

    Is the Babylon 5 one right now?
  • March 25, 2014
    xanderiskander
    Pocket Dialing is a better title, although they're equally common ways to say it in my experience. Butt Dialing should be the redirect.
  • March 25, 2014
    Lakija
    I refer to people accidentally calling Butt Dialing either way it goes. Especially when it's purse dialing. :) But whatever works best.
  • March 26, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Not sure if this would count, or where to put it...
    • In the book The Nitpicker's Guide for Next Generation Trekkers (1991) the author makes note of Commander Riker's habit of sitting on the touchscreen control panels, which means that either Riker is randomly pushing buttons with his butt or they have a specail "Riker's ass" sensor which lets them know not to activate anything. However, as of 2014 (let alone in the 24th century) almost all touchscreens have capacitive sensors, meaning that you have to touch with a finger or a specially engineered pen or glove; just pressure isn't enough.
  • January 17, 2015
    FlyingDuckManGenesis
    Live-Action TV
    • In another episode of Good Luck Charlie, Teddy and Bob get stuck in a tube at a children's restaurant. Bob purposely tries to butt-dial the house, which is second only to a pizza restaurant on the speed dial, and eventually he does. Because Gabe and Amy are engaged in an intense video game match, Charlie is left to answer the phone, and being two years old at the time, she doesn't take the situation seriously and hangs up.
    Western Animation
    • In the Sonic Boom episode, "Guilt Tripped", when Sonic and Tails finally get home from the Gogoba Village, they find four messages on their answering machine, all of which are from Dr. Eggman, who is planning to blow up the dam. However, one of those messages was revealed to have accidentally been butt-dialed.
  • January 17, 2015
    sigh824
    Music
    • Detailed in Beware by Big Sean:
      Third row is when you call, I hit cancel/ Really? I hit answer, fuck I hate when that happens/Phone in my pocket for the whole night/And you heard bitches screamin' til my phone dies
  • January 17, 2015
    gallium
    Voting for Butt Dialing
  • November 24, 2015
    notShemp
    • In Sixteen, season 3 "Oops, I Dialed It Again", Caitlin gives her friends new cell phones to test out and it leads to several misunderstandings. When Nikki starts admiring and complimenting the customers at her work so she can earn more money to buy Jonesy new skates, she accidentally pocket dials Jonesy during her work and he thinks Nikki is cheating on him. Later in the episode, when Jonesy is trying to build himself up, he accidentally pocket dials Caitlin and she thinks that he's hitting on her.
  • November 24, 2015
    randomsurfer
    In another Family Guy Quagmire accidentally pocket dials Peter and leaves a message on Peter's voicemail while talking with his parent about the fact that he's in love with Peter's wife Lois.
  • November 24, 2015
    dalek955
    • In Zits, Jeremy's dad once found that not only was he doing this, but also the phone would call different people he knew depending on how he sat.
      Walt: My butt knows more about my phone than I do.
  • November 24, 2015
    Folamh3
    • An episode of The Good Wife revolves around Alicia mistakenly believing her daughter is missing due to a series of ambiguous phone messages, which turn out to have been pocket dials.
  • November 25, 2015
    chicagomel
    Cool more examples to add.
  • January 2, 2016
    chicagomel
    Examples added.
  • January 3, 2016
    Folamh3
    Edit: added the title of the Good Wife episode in question.
  • January 4, 2016
    robbulldog
    • Brooklyn Nine Nine: When Terry tells the squad not to call him over the Christmas holiday, he refers to last year, in which Scully called him FIFTY times.
      Scully: "No, I only called you once. My butt called you the other 49 times."
  • January 4, 2016
    bitemytail
  • January 4, 2016
    chicagomel
    Will add those later and probably dig up a quote, maybe a pic, and launch 'er.
  • January 4, 2016
    randomsurfer
    The Good Luck Charlie examples should be put together.
  • January 5, 2016
    shimaspawn
    The description on this one is really dry and seems far more focused on the real life results of a butt dial than the fictional ones.
  • January 6, 2016
    Folamh3
    ^ I think the description is fine, although it should probably link to some more related tropes.

    Another alternate title is Butt Dial.
  • January 6, 2016
    bitemytail
    Related Trope: Butt Dialing Mordor - This is the metaphorical equivalent (accidentally contacting a malevolent force).
  • January 15, 2016
    chicagomel
    OK, what are some tropes besides that one that I can link to? And any tips for the description? BTW thanks whoever fixed Good Luck Charlie.
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