"Never fails; you get in the bath & there's a rub at the lamp. Hello?"
You know how phone calls can come at the most inopportune times? Well, imagine instead of just ringing, it physically teleported you mid-action to the location of the caller. You'll be lucky to be fully clothed, and that's ignoring what dull or dire situation the caller wants you to help them solve.
This is the case of the Inconvenient Summons. The summoned character may be a genie with an impressively well stocked lamp/home, a summoned entity with his/her/its own life on their home plane, or even a human courtesy of Teleporters and Transporters or magic.
Potential interrupted activities can be anything, but a few common ones include:
Sleeping — Expect the summoned to be in a nightgown and cap.
A romantic date — The summoned will usually be about to kiss.
At a party — Will be holding a cocktail or hors d'oeuvre, probably halfway to their mouth..
This trope is a leading cause in summoned sidekick snarkery. For some reason the reverse is rarely true — that the summoned character gets pulled out of a sticky situation. This trope can be seen as something of a deconstruction of the idea that the summoned character has no life or existence while un-summoned. Unless the character is literally created from nothing, or taken from/put in an empty timeless void, they've got to be up to something all that time.
For a (slightly) less annoying badly-timed communications, see Kinda Busy Here.
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Anime & Manga
In the first Tenchi Muyo! movie, Kiyone is teleported to Washu's laboratory... while Kiyone's taking a bath. She's thrown a towel to cover herself as a half-hearted apology.
Early on, Negi summons Asuna to apologize to her... but she was in the shower at the time. Making matters worse, he had just been talking to the teacher she had a crush on.
Later, during the Magic World arc, a magical copy of Evangeline is similarly summoned from her scroll... and she appears naked on a couch, nibbling on crisps and playing a video game.
This was the early plot of Psyren: after answering a ringing payphone, and receiving what looks like a phonecard, Ageha keeps getting summoned to a wasteland by his cellphone, as do all the other players.
Whenever Lucy summons Aquarius, she'll complain that she was on a date or otherwise busy.
A variant: when Lucy tries to summon Leo to save them in Edolas, since he was on a date at the time, he sends Virgo, who is utterly useless in the fight for some reason (as Virgo is normally an Action Girl).
This happens for anyone on their second or later mission in the Gantz Manga and Anime adaptation. Though at least they got a sort of warning in the form of a tingle on the back of their neck. When the main character is transported for the second time (the first one being when he died), he's in the middle of changing.
In Yondemasu Yo Azazelsan, demons are often in the middle of something when they get summoned, such as sitting on the toilet or having sex.
Gamabunta seems to view most any summon as inconvenient. When summoned, he has a habit of grousing at his summoner for getting him mixed up in some dangerous situation.
Manda is much the same. Orochimaru has to promise human sacrifices to avoid being killed and get Manda focused on the battle.
Happens early on in Bokurano. One girl is playing video games on her father's antique NES and the teleportation cuts off the controller and brings it with her. Another is taken in the middle of masturbating.
Happens to Professor Stein a few times in Firestorm when Ronnie initiates the change at an inconvenient time.
Played very much for drama in The Sandman: Nuala picks an awfully bad time to use her crystal to summon Morpheus. However, the later discovery that Morpheus was likely a Death Seeker who set up the situation so that he could be "forced" into certain death without explicitly abandoning his responsibilities would avert this trope. Notably, when she contacts him and asks him to come, while he does say that the timing is "exceedingly inconvenient", and "most earnestly beseech(es)" her not to demand his presence (which he could technically refuse, but never would because He Gave His Word) he doesn't actually tell her that obeying her summons could kill him until after he arrives, even though he had time to do so and she would certainly have relented if he had.
This was the basic plot of a The Defenders story arc, where Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and the Incredible Hulk were cursed to assemble whenever one of them discovered a threat to the planet. Their frustration and anger at the situation was increasingly Played for Drama, until they got sick of it and decided to take over the world to ensure its safety.
Happened a lot of the time in the original Adam Strange stories; after an adventure is over, Adam and Alanna would have a romantic moment and the Zeta Beam that brought him to Rann wears off and he is immediately returned to Earth.
Happens to Misty's Poliwhirl in A Pikachu in Love. After returning from a midnight swim she calls it out of it's PokeBall to help track down where Pikachu darted off to. Of course, being midnight, Poliwhirl ends up falling face first on the ground due to being asleep when it happens.
A recent video parody of the State Farm Insurance commercials shows the "Behind the Commercial" unfortunate life of a State Farm agent who can be teleported away at any time.
Thor's habit of beaming up Colonel O'Neill at inopportune moments is taken to its logical extreme in the Stargate SG-1 fic Dr. Jackson's Diary: Jack is beamed up while having sex.
Likewise time agent Daniels tendency to do this to Captain Archer in the Star Trek: Enterprise fanfic Farce Contact. Archer physically assaults Daniels when he's teleported just as he's about to make First Contact with a hot space babe. Later Daniels has Archer teleported from the toilet to his captain's chair, just after he's dropped his pants.
Films — Animation
Disney's Aladdin. Aladdin is kidnapped and thrown into the ocean to drown. He accidentally rubs the lamp and summons the Genie, who was in the middle of taking a bath.
Likewise in the live-action play (at California Adventure), the Genie is summoned mid-shower.
Happens to Jim Ferguson in Biggles: Adventures in Time when he is spontaneously transported through time to 1917. The second time this happens, he has just stepped out of the shower and is wearing a towel and holding an electric shaver.
Kirk: No! No! Of all the — son of a — Couldn't you have waited two seconds? They were just about to tell us the whole thing! Chekov: You want to go back? McCoy:Absolutely not!
A straight-up Fan Disservice example in From Hell when Anne and Albert are taken away by gang men right in the middle of sex. They are packed into a cab in the middle of the street with only bed sheets concealing their modesty.
A running joke with is the number of times the Chrestomanci has been summoned somewhere in his dressing gown. (Fortunately, he habitually wears very impressive dressing gowns.)
Or, in The Sage of Theare, where he says he's just gone to bed with flu.
A slightly more sinister example would be Gabriel telling Christopher off when he lost one of his lives because he had been called away from nearly catching the Wraith.
Discworld: Death (or those filling in for Death) is often summoned by the Wizards at an inconvenient time when they invoke the Rite of Ashk Ente.
Death:I was at a party.
In Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion stories, the Champion is always summoned to perform some heroic feat of combat, regardless of how happy he is where he is. He has no choice but to be teleported to the world where he was requested.
This occurs in Diane Duane's Deep Wizardry (The second Young Wizards book) when, in a moment of despair, Nita calls out to one of her mentors, Carl, and his partner, Tom is teleported out of the shower because he's taking Carl's calls. Note that it wasn't involuntary; it's more that Tom is such a nice guy that he'll literally drop everything to help one of his wizards.
In the George and Azazel stories by Isaac Asimov, Azazel almost always bitches about what he was doing when George summoned him. The only exceptions are if it got him out of an awkward situation or, on one occasion, when it let him gloat for even longer over a sucessful poker hand.
In The Magician's Nephew, Helen, the first queen of Narnia, is brought there from London in the middle of doing laundry. Sort of a subversion, though, because the narration notes that if she had known she was about to be summoned she would have tried to dress up in her best clothes and hat, which would have looked tacky and ruined her natural prettiness.
Prince Caspian even discusses the trope in-universe when the Pevensie kids talk about how they were summoned immediately without have a choice, and then mention how in fairy tales nobody ever thinks about how inconvenient it is for the fairy, genie, etc...
At one point in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Bartimaeus is summoned OUT of trouble, trapped in a silver soup pot, INTO trouble, facing the person who put him there in the first place. "There's nothing worse than escaping death at the hands of your arch-enemy, only to find yourself facing them again. Even a different arch-enemy is preferable."
In The Tamuli an argument with a coalition of obstructionist priests led one of the characters to replace a priest with his god... who had been in the middle of a bath.
In Cold Days, Harry is in dire need of help, so he summons Mother Winter, one of the oldest and strongest Fae. Unfortunately, she had recently lost her walking cane making long journeys are a pain for her. So, she reverses the summon and draws Harry to her... with the intent to eat him as punishment. In that case, the being summoned implied it was also a test.
There is another incident of a dramatic summons when Harry is in dire need of help. In this case, at the climax, he summons Mab, the Winter Queen.
Thor has made a regular habit out of doing this to O'Neill. The first time, Jack was in the middle of giving a speech when he was teleported to a ship full of Replicators. Oddly enough, Thor himself was never in the middle of something when summoned.
One episode made a running gag of this, with one of Earth's ships beaming Daniel Jackson on board from a planet's surface, usually right in the middle of him trying to explain to some villagers that there was no magic, he was not a god, etc.
The episode where Picard and the Captain of metaphor/allegory-speaking aliens are isolated on a hostile planet together. Picard and the alien captain are fighting a large hostile native predator together when the Enterprise is finally able to break through the interference and beam him out, leaving the alien captain to face the beast alone. In the seconds it takes for the captain to get himself beamed back down, the predator has done some serious damage to his new buddy.
In another episode Picard's alleged son is beamed aboard while on a spelunking adventure of his own.
An example occurs when Deanna and her mother are transported to a Ferengi ship without their clothes.
Somewhat reversed in an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place when Jerry, Harper and Max get stuck on top of a ferris wheel. Alex needs Harper's help and transports her to their school. At the end of the episode, after everything has been taken care of, Alex sends Harper back to the top of the ferris wheel where Jerry and Max are still stuck because she was mad about the three of them going somewhere she wasn't allowed to go to get away from her.
When played straight, this trope becomes a sort of Running Gag later in Sheridan's life, particularly at the hands of Galen, who tends to drag Sheridan's conciousness away to some sort of dreamstate in order to give him cryptic warnings about the future. It gets to the point where Sheridan doesn't even miss a beat when it happens anymore.
In the "Mindwarp" substory of Trial of a Timelord, the Doctor is in the middle of helping the slaves of Thoros Beta to overthrow their rulers, and attempt to save Peri from having an alien consciousness inserted into her brain (which would kill her own consciousness), when the Time Lords forcefully teleport him out to their spacestation courtroom for the eponymous trial. Luckily the revolt — and the rescue of Peri — succeed as planned in his absence.
In series 6-7, The Doctor also has a habit of materializing the TARDIS around Amy and Rory when they're at home without prior warning. In one episode, he does this while Rory's father is over and they're busy installing a light bulb.
On Roswell, Kyle has to answer a sudden knock at the door just as he's about to get lucky with Tess. His reaction, including an unvoiced word that starts with F, is priceless.
Liz: Hi. Kyle: Well, you here for a reason, or you just rushed right over 'cause you sensed I might be experiencing some actual joy?
LazyTown has this modified, where the "evil dude" often talks to Bill while Bill is in the shower, but hides in a zone where he can't be seen.
This also happens with other characters.
Supernatural. Inverted in "The End". Castiel wants a meeting with Dean, who rather testily informs him that as a mortal he needs to sleep, say for four hours. Exactly four hours later Cas teleports Dean to his location, just as he was about to be killed by Zachariah.
The spell "Summon Monster" summons a creature from another world and compells it to fight for the caster for the duration, sending it back (unharmed — it is stuck in transmission and "projected" into our world) when the spell ends. With the abundance of dimensional travel, it is possible for a mage to meet the same creature later, and it is unlikely to be happy. More amusingly, since the spell always summons from worlds other than the one it is cast in, and always combat-capable creatures, a mage from another world may well end up summoning the PCs' party.
AD&D spell "Succor" enchants a statuette in the caster's likeness so that when it breaks the caster is immediately summoned. A great, if obviously double-edged commodity.
Canonically (by Planescape rules), the other end of extraplanar summoning spells is visible and called "spell crystal" for distinctive look. Non-eligible beings can simply grab one and later throw it at someone else, but planars (including planar PCs) tend to scatter and run away if they see any, because very few can tell to what sort of creatures the spell is attuned, let alone the circumstances on the other end. One of few advantages Primes (normal mortals) have is being non-summonable except via strong individual link.
In Al-Qadim, genies can be summoned and charmed to service mortals, but must use the target's personal item in addition to the summonee's debt on a Magically-Binding Contract with geniekind — that is, it's limited almost exclusively to sha'ir, and relatively few sha'ir at that.
Adventure S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. The demon lord Graz'zt was at a crucial moment in a battle against a group of monsters in the Abyss when he was summoned to the Prime Material Plane by the archmage Iggwilv. He battled free at the cost of being confined to his home plane for a century.
"Baleful Blink" spell from 3.5 edition Players Handbook II uses this to cause inconvenience. It's much like a normal blink, but makes the target trying to do anything rapidly shift to border Ethereal plane and back, so that half of the time spells (except force-based or cast on oneself, of course) go off at the wrong plane and weapons move right through where the foes stood.
One version of the spell Refuge enchants an item so that the caster is teleported to it when the item is broken. The caster gets no choice in the matter.
Stormbringer supplement The Second Stormbringer Companion, adventure "The Velvet Circle". The PCs meet a strange man named Ovamilyon, who was summoned to the Young Kingdoms plane while writing a love ballad for a woman. He says that this sort of thing has happened to him many times over the years.
Ace Online permits "summoning" in form of M-Gear's "Call of Hero". This allows the M-Gear to summon any member of his/her formation teammates. 7/10 times, this is useful, since either: A) both players agreed in advance on where/when he/she is going to be teleported, and B) the summon gives a dialog box so the to-be summoned player can refuse said call. That last point is also its weakness: someone accomplishing something important is requested to be summoned, but he refuses, and it turns out the summoner also needs critical help. The inconvenience only comes from lack of communication and is otherwise convenient to teleport in firepower or teleport teammates away from danger.
In EverQuest, higher level boss monsters (for a time) had an annoying habit of "summoning" players with high threat to their feet and Single Shotting them. At first this action had no warning or graphic, leading to confusion. In time, developers added a "shout" effect to a boss that performed this summon.
A lot of the alternate skins in League of Legends imply this. Such as Morgana the Fallen Angel being summoned while she's baking, creating the "Sinful Succulence" Skin (her intro image shows the summoning caused her to burn her cookies), and Twisted Fate and Evelynn's Tango skins are apparently them being summoned while out on a date with each other.
Averted in Mabinogi, with summoning requiring the permission of the summoned party, and completely unavailable during certain actions.
Ragnarok Online has a marriage system where one of the few powers couples share is the ability to summon one another to anywhere from anywhere. It's often used by couples to annoy each other.
In Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic is summoned into the world of King Arthur by Merlina while in the middle of a chili-dog feast. He manages to eat one of the chili-dogs that comes with him, but loses the other one with a Big "NO!" as he and Merlina teleport away.
In World of Warcraft, many of the Warlock's summoned demons imply that they have much better things to be doing than attacking on the Warlock's behalf. Warlocks can also summon other players, though the inconvenience is lost as the player in question must accept the summon.
The demonic minions' opinions of their summoning tend to differ, however. Some minions, like the Wrathguard, are soldiers who are trained to follow commands. Others, like the Voidwalker and Voidlord, are stoic and take their summoning in stride (though they are visibly relieved when you send them back). Yet others, like the Fel Imp, seem to actually enjoy the summons, since it's like spending quality time with "their favorite warlock" (Of course, this is likely just flattery, since they've realized that the faster they cooperate, the faster they'll be returned).
When summoned using an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mr. Resetti may complain about being summoned without warning and will even tell you that his lower half, which is underground, only has a towel wrapped around it thanks to this trope.
In one Freefall strip, Florence is about to take a shower when the Mayor calls. Due to Florence's safeguards and the Mayor's position, she's incapable of refusing the summons.
While Roy is fishing with his grandfather in the Lawful Good afterlife, the fish suddenly disappears off his hook. Roy's grandfather explains that it was summoned, and remarks that "someone must be having an underwater adventure".
Haley summons Celia (unintentionally) while she is sleeping. She is angry at first because she thinks that it's her mother to ask why she isn't married yet, but when it turns out to be Haley, that's OK to her.
In a Dragon #343 strip, a celestial dog is summoned just before it could finish the cure for all diseases.
Elan: Are you sure it's OK to summon celestials just to fight goblins? Durkon: It's just a dog. It be no harm, no foul. Fiendish Rat: (summoned by the goblin cleric) Darn it! I can't believe this guy summoned me RIGHT when I was alphabetizing my spice rack!
Though not a magical summons, the Oracle of the Sunken Valley can't take a bath without being interrupted by a visit from adventurers.
Oracle: Jeez, I can peer into the murky depths of the future, yet I always seem to get interrupted during bath time.
In RPG World, Cherry attempts to summon an IfritExpy while he's bathing, and a Shiva Expy while she's detained (the former actually shows up with a towel wrapped around him; the latter has an intern summon take her place.)
In one comic of Schlock Mercenary, Schlock is preparing to take a bath. The comic asks the reader to note the key differences as he prepares a variety of Noodle Implements (some of which make sense if you're familiar with Schlock) as bathing implements. Then it asks the readers to note the key similarities as the PA system sounds an alarm right as Schlock's getting in.
Rhysel of the Elcenia universe is summoned from her home planet of Barashi while A) asleep, and B) when she has a funeral to attend the next morning. This starts the story off.
In Season 4 finale of Noob, Gaea gets on both side of this. Renching level 100 lets her summon other players and she quite obviously interrupted the guy's own battle the first time she did it. Later, she decides to avoid a game-wide battle by staying away from its main location. However, one of her fanboys gets worried about her and decides to summon her to make sure she's alright... in the middle of the battlefield.
In the Looney Tunes short A Lad in His Lamp, Bugs Bunny finds Aladdin's Lamp, and a running gag is that when he rubs the lamp, the genie pops out in the middle of some activity — bathing, dining, kissing a female genie... In a characteristic move of Genre Savvyness, he gives the lamp to the bad guy after one last warning. And sure enough, the next summon was the laststraw....
In a Robot Chicken skit, Beetlejuice's marriage is on the rocks due to him having to appear every time Lydia shouts his name three times.
In a Beetlejuice animated episode, a Neither World crowd is chatting his name for a (supposed) heroic deed that he did, which "cancels out" Lydia's summoning for an actual emergency.
Biggie Smalls (The Notorious BIG) from the "Hell on Earth 2006" episode of South Park. He keeps getting summoned through a Bloody Mary-type ritual, which prevents him from getting into Satan's exclusive party. At the end of the episode, Butters, who makes it to the party after Satan opens it to everybody, pulls out a hand mirror and summons Biggie so he can be there too.
Happens in an episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, when Spider-Man has the Black Cat transported to the Secret Wars while she was helping Blade and Morbius fight vampires.
The girls in Totally Spies! usually end up subject to this when called for a mission.
Happens in The Amazing Spiez too. In one episode, Lee, Megan and Tony are "WHOOP"ed and muse on the fact that Marc isn't with them. Cue Marc coming down a separate slide that connects to theirs and complaining about how unpleasant it is to be "WHOOP"ed through the library's return slot.