Keeping Pocket Callers at Bay

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

As you probably know, pocket calls (aka butt calls) are accidental calls that occur after someone puts a phone away without engaging a lockscreen: Something touches that part of the screen corresponding to your contact information and, the next thing you (but not the caller) know, you're picking up your phone and telling the caller to try again, because you can't hear much of anything. If you're really polite, you might even text them to that effect afterwards. The occasional pocket call is the price we pay for the astounding convenience afforded by smart phones.

Other than ditching these devices altogether, there is no way to prevent the problem entirely.

For people who make lots of pocket calls, there is all kinds of advice out there about how to prevent yourself from doing so. There are even apps to help with the problem.

Image by dbambic, via Pixabay, license.
But what if you're like me: Your work requires concentration, but you want to be able to take calls in real time. In my case, I need to be able to take the kids if, say, they get sick or hurt at school. I can't simply mute my phone, and a whitelist is out since I don't always know what the originating number might be. Just using a land line during work is out, too: Those are infested with robocallers.

What's worse is that, since it really isn't that hard to engage a lock screen, butt-callers tend to be people who don't do standing orders well or are absent-minded (read: repeat offenders). And, because many software dialers let recently-called numbers float to the top, such calls also tend to occur in clusters, until your number eventually gets bumped off that list. This is a particularly difficult and annoying situation when a repeat offender is someone you can't simply block.

After the same person ruined my flow this way for three days running, I came up with two ways to deal with this situation. Each takes advantage of the fact that the calls come from the same few contacts.
  • If the caller is someone you rarely converse with, use Google Voice or other software to send calls from that contract straight to voice mail during your working hours.
  • If the caller is someone you don't need to be this drastic with (and you're good at standing orders), set the ring tone for their contact to silent. If you're expecting a call from them, you can reset the ring tone -- or set your phone to vibrate ahead of that time.
Since you're dealing with someone you don't want to block, both methods require that you cultivate a habit of checking for messages each day, but that is a small price to pay to regain control of when you're reaching for your phone.

As the first linked article notes, most people reach for their phones scores of times a day: It's no wonder only one end of this problem has gotten much attention. I hope this post helps someone on the other end of this problem.

-- CAV

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