The phone rings and a character hears it. Maybe it's the home phone, or maybe it's a phone belonging to someone who is close to them, but either way they feel justified in answering it. Unfortunately, doing so causes them to discover a secret (ranging in seriousness from a surprise party to infidelity).
Alice calls Bob but Clarice answers, which informs Alice (rightly or wrongly) that Bob is in a relationship with Clarice.
- In the The Magic School Bus Fan Fic First Impressions Of Earth Arnold accuses Wanda of cheating on him. She denies it indignantly, until he tells her that he answered her phone to a strange man whose reaction to Arnold's existence was "I didn't know she was married!"
- At the end of The Great Gatsby, Nick answers Gatsby's phone. The ensuing conversation makes him realise that Gatsby was a crook.
- In the beginning of City of Glass, the first part of The New York Trilogy, the mystery novel writer Quinn answers the phone and gets a phone call from somebody looking for the Paul Auster Detective Agency. The next night, it happens again, and he pretends that he is Paul Auster.
- A variation in Fight Club, Tyler picks up a phonecall from Marla after the narrator leaves the receiver hanging and walks away. This leads to Tyler and Marla hooking up.
[[folder:Live Action TV]]
- In Friends, a variation of this is how Rachael discovers Chandler and Monica's relationship.
- Also in Friends, Rachel finds out that Ross had not annulled their Vegas wedding from an answering machine message meant for Ross.
- Also on Friends, Chandler hears a message for Monica confirming her registration of a snooty hall for their wedding (when he hasn't even proposed) and freaks out.
- How Janet in Three's Company finds out Chrissy's friend Darlene is a callgirl.
On Pink Floyd
's rock opera album The Wall
, the phone call at the end of the song "Young Lust" is where the protagonist Pink finds out (or has it confirmed in his mind) that his wife has been cheating on him while he's away touring in the U.S.
Operator: He keeps hanging up. It's a man answering.
- Comedian Maz Jabroni has a joke about this
I've never talked to terrorists, not even accidentally. I've never picked up the phone at night and heard "Hello. Hassan? It goes down tomorrow at midnight!" Who is this?" "Oh, sorry, wrong number."