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Don't Get Caught With Your Pants Down:
The Cell-Phone Self-Dial Syndrome

By Diane Dennis © 2004


Your cell phone might have already turned on you, and if it has, what it is divulging about you to your business associates, family and friends can be shocking (not to mention embarrassing)!!
I have to admit that at first I was a skeptic also. How could my cell phone possibly turn on me and reveal the most intimate details of my life?

I truly believed that my cell phone was my good friend, there whenever I needed a voice to speak with and/or listen to. Any time I was on a jobsite, I could use my cell phone to find out why my material delivery was late, or hear my employee's 512th excuse as to why he couldn't get to the jobsite on time, again, etc.

If I were stuck somewhere, I could always turn to my cell phone for help. When not in use, it would wait contentedly (or so I thought) in it's holster until I was ready to use it again. Little did I know what mischievous little plans my cell phone was hatching.
Wondering what I'm talking about?

Well folks, it's simple..... Cell phones have learned how to self-dial, and they are very much taking advantage of that new-found knowledge. It started out slow, but over the past couple months it appears that the problem is spreading significantly.

What is self-dial, you ask? First of all, be aware that this phenomenon occurs only when you are not looking, so don't even waste your time trying to see it happen, because you won't.

These cell phones are deceptively silent, sitting there in the holster on your hip. What usually happens is this: The cell phone dials a number when you are not looking (usually the most recent number dialed, virtually guaranteeing that you will know the person called, thereby further enhancing any embarrassment you might experience) and when the receiving party answers the ring, he/she is greeted with 'sounds'.

What 'sounds' you ask?

Why, sounds of whatever you are doing at that particular moment. If you are walking around on the jobsite, the party on the other end of your cell phone will hear your footsteps, tools jingling if you have a tool belt on, etc.

If you are speaking with someone, the party on the other end of your cell phone might hear portions of your conversation and if you are at a seminar, the party on the other end of your cell phone might hear bits of what the speaker is saying, as well as any noises throughout the meeting room, etc.

Now here's the most disturbing part of this phenomenon - These cell phones have absolutely NO MODESTY!! Cell phones are not discerning in choosing when to self-dial. It can happen at ANY TIME, and it has.

I have been present at meetings that I did not attend, walked jobsites without ever setting a foot on the property, listened to the radio in someone's truck without being in or even near the vehicle, and yes I have even been present during the 'unthinkable'..... trips to the 'toitie'! I'll spare you from describing the sounds that are occurring at those particular moments! ;)

This should make you really stop and think. What private moments might *your* cell phone be divulging, from where it sits in that holster on your hip, appearing so innocently inanimate?

It is very important that you do not forget that anything goes with these cell phones, they will tell the world (or at least one person anyway) anything and EVERYTHING about you, and you will never know unless someone tells you, which of course could be extremely embarrassing depending upon what it was they heard you doing!
So, if you've received one or more of these phone calls, you already know to be aware of your own cell phone, but for those of you who have been the unknowing participant in one or more of these (shall we say 'voyeuristic'?) phone calls, and have not yet had the 'pleasure' of receiving one yourself, please be aware of this rapidly increasing affliction among cell phones which is now known as the 'Self-Dial Syndrome' affliction!

Don't get caught with YOUR pants down! :)

(ps: For those of you who have yet to be 'initiated' by your cell phone, it is the redial button, send button and/or "one-touch dialing" on the unlocked keypad that is causing all of this commotion!)

Follow-up: I originally wrote this article in March 2001. On February 1 2004 there was an article in our local newspaper (Daily Press, Victorville CA) about cell phones and misdialed 911 calls. These types of calls didn't occur to me when I originally wrote this article and I felt it important enough to "republish" the article and include the following information...

The California Highway Patrol dispatch center in Barstow gets about six-hundred 911 calls from cell phones per day. Believe it or not, about 50 percent of those calls are misdials and/or false alarms!

Listed as the most common reason: People forget to lock their keypads and the phone will accidentally dial.

One of the biggest problems with this is that the dispatchers have to keep listening to see if there is an emergency or not. This keeps the 911 phone lines tied up which can keep a real emergency call from getting through.

It's a bad enough situation that Assembly Bill 911 has been created which, if passed, will make it an infraction to make a 911 call without an emergency. Fines would be $50, $100 and $200.

The bill was recently passed by the State Assembly Safety Committee and it should be coming to the Assembly floor for a vote soon.

Most cell phones have the ability to "lock" the keypad, which keeps the cell phone from dialing due to an accidentally pressed button. I cannot tell you enough how important it is to lock your keypad if your phone has that feature available.

It's bad enough to tie up 911 and get fined because your cell phone self-dialed 911, imagine how much worse it'll be if it happens "while your pants are down"!!

Diane Dennis is the Webmistress of, a website designed to help contractors through the myriad of pitfalls that they can fall into. She's a graduate of "The School Of Hard Knocks" and she's always willing to share her experiences, even when no one wants to listen... ;) Please note that this article is not to be taken as legal advice. For questions of a legal nature please contact an attorney. This article can be reprinted provided it is done so in its entirety including this bio. If you do use this article, please let Diane know by sending an email to her at