Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: Recently, I misdialed my phone while attempting to call my husband. As soon as I heard the voice-mail message, I realized my mistake and hung up. Several hours later, the person I accidentally called, called me and said someone from this number had called him. I told the caller I had called his number by accident and that's why I didn't leave a message. I have noticed friends and family doing this all the time; they will see they missed a call on their phone and then call that number back, not even knowing who the caller is. This seems odd to me. I don't understand why you would return a "missed call" from someone you do not know and who did not leave you a message. What is the appropriate response to a missed call with no message left on your voice mail? Is it appropriate to call them back? Conversely, should I have left a voice-mail message to the misdialed number, saying I called the wrong number and apologize? This has happened to me a couple of times, and I would like to know the polite way to handle it.Miss Dialer in Saratoga, Calif.
DEAR MISS DIALER: I am aware of, and also confused by, this phenomenon. The only explanation I have for the tendency to return a misdialed call (even many hours later) is sheer unadulterated curiosity. We think to ourselves: "What if the missed call is actually from the Publishers Clearing House -- or Justin Timberlake?"
What if opportunity is not knocking but . . . calling? Other (younger) members of my household report that (in their world) it is now considered obnoxious to leave a message! They say when they receive a "missed call," they consider it like a tap on the shoulder and they always respond, even if they don't recognize the number. They return the call and say, "Hi, I'm returning a call placed from this number." I'll happily let readers weigh in on the reasons behind missedcallitis.