Learning via Eavesdropping

Sometimes I forget that my cubicle neighbors at work can hear my phone conversations.  I think that if it’s important (like with my doctor’s office), my lowered voice is sufficient to keep the conversation basically private.  But when I’m not trying to hide it, they can – and do – hear every word.

Today, my daughter, home for summer break, called me.  Only, when I answered, she didn’t say anything.  I did the whole “Hello?  Hello?  Jane?  Can you hear me?” bit before hanging up.

When I had arrived at work this morning, the light indicating voice mail messages was blinking.  I was surprised to discover that there were 3 messages waiting.  Most workplace communication occurs either a) via email or b) during regular business hours so I am unaccustomed to unexpected voice mails.  The expected ones tend to be automated messages from the school that I already know about because they also went to my cell phone.  Plus, school isn’t in session.

I was surprised when the computer voice recited my daughter’s phone number as the originator of the first message and further surprised when it gave a time that was obviously after I would have left work.  And then I heard the message.  No talking directly into the phone.  Just background noise.  Background noise that I recognized.  It was the school board meeting from the night before.  She had obviously “dialed” me while leaning against the wall waiting for recognition for an achievement.

I quickly dispatched the other two messages as well after confirming that they were more of the same.  So when she called again this morning and did not say anything, I assumed she was doing it again.  I immediately called her back.

“Hi, Mommy,” she said.

“Hey, sweetheart.  Can you do me a favor?”

“What’s that?”

“When we get off the phone, please immediately call someone else.  Anyone.”


“Because then when you butt dial, it’ll be someone else instead of me.”

“But I didn’t butt dial you!  I was calling you because you called me this morning.”

“Well, you didn’t say anything so I assumed it was another butt dial.  I had three on my voice mail when I got here this morning.  You kept butt dialing me at the school board meeting.”

While we then discussed the reason for the call and her assertion that this was why she needed a better phone (read that as ‘an iPhone’), I heard my nearest neighbor laughing.  The laughter was not dissipating and I strongly suspected it was due to my conversation.

I then heard him move to the cubicle next to him and whisper (loud enough for me to hear because he is *not* a quiet man) to the next guy about the term “butt dial” which was apparently completely new to him.  He was incredibly tickled by the term and I found myself chuckling at his amusement.

I then quietly related the situation to my daughter since I suspected I wasn’t giving her my full attention.  She laughed but then reiterated her claim that the butt dialing was her phone’s fault.

“Phones don’t call people, honey; people call people!”  This assertion cracked me up, in part because the guy behind me is such an ardent gun enthusiast that he probably has the original phrase about guns on a bumper sticker or two.  Jane didn’t get it though so I had to explain it.

So the woman who is usually the most clueless person in the room was able to enlighten two different people.  I feel so worldly and knowledgeable.


4 thoughts on “Learning via Eavesdropping

  1. Isn’t it fun when you discover you know something (albeit trivial and socially-dependent) that someone else does not? It doesn’t happen to me much, but usually it ends up being something rather sensitive or related to the personal habits of others…I always know the “gross” terms, for some reason!! I attribute it to having many siblings and then working with the public (and managing many, much younger, people) for a couple of decades. Alas, I know far too many ugly racial epithets and terms for poor social behaviors amongst those in the dating scene than I ever cared to know. But, it is useful information, nevertheless. Your play on the “phones don’t call people” was particularly good!

  2. Butt dialing? Gives a new meaning to one, “Talking out of there ….” LOL. I know what you mean about privacy in the work place. Sometimes I would love to take call’s outside, but don’t have that option. If I know someone is listening I will wait until the person I am talking with hangs up and will keep the phone to my ear and start talking about something crazy.

    • I think more proper folks refer to it as “pocket dialing”. I learned later that my coworker was laughing as much at the fact that I was using the word “butt” in conversation as he was at the new term.

      I take my cell phone outside if I want to guarantee privacy. But as soon as I do that, the street sweeper shows up and I can’t hear a thing! lol

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