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Kinda Busy Here
"Isaac! I-"
"NOT NOW!"
Isaac Clarke, Dead Space 2

Cell phones are wonderful conveniences that make it easier for human beings to stay connected to each other. That said, it's inevitable that every so often they will ring at the most inconvenient times. Like when you're driving, or about to have sex, or in a board meeting. Or, occasionally, when you're in a dangerous, stressful situation like a gunfight or a car chase.

Rather than becoming a break in the action, the hero will inevitably answer the phone, if only to tell the person on the end that "now's not a real good time to chat." Other times, they hold full-fledged conversations, all the while blazing away with their weapons. Often the phone call will be a minor or mundane thing that contrasts with the deadly action, especially if there's a Secret Identity to maintain.

A subtrope of Casual Danger Dialog. Contrast Mid-Battle Tea Break, where the opponents are perfectly happy to let the distracted party take a break from the fight. Compare Excuse Me While I Multi Task where the one taking the call uses it to showcase how better they at close combat than their opponent


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Jamie Lee Curtis did a cell phone commercial where she goes through multiple action sequences, all the while amiably chatting on her cell phone.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, Kaname happens to call Sousuke's cell phone while he is in Sicily serving as a getaway driver for Mao and Kurz. For some reason he answers, resulting in several minutes of conversation while he is driving a car being pursued and shot at by a baker's dozen cars full of Mafia Mooks.
  • In Black Cat, Train Hartnet gets a call from his partner, Sven, while attempting to hide from Torneo's Mooks in a bathroom inside Torneo's mansion. He cuts the call short when someone urgently needs to use said bathroom.
  • Code Geass:
    • Lelouch receives a call from Shirley while hiding from Brittanian soldiers. Being a little more sensible than most people on this page, he immediately turns his phone off (angering Shirley for hanging up on her), but the damage was done, and the soldiers find him.
    • In another instance, Euphemia calls Suzaku (on his radio) while he's in the middle of a huge battle. Initially, he tries to tell her he's busy and this isn't a good time, but they end up having a long talk about their feelings while Suzaku continues to royally own the attacking Knightmares.
  • Subverted in Denpa Teki na Kanojo Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds Kuraki answers with those very words to Defective Detective Ame while struggling to maim or kill a girl who unwittingly destroyed her life This only shows how way over the hill the situation is.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Index calls Mikoto for help reversing a brain hacking while Mikoto is fighting dozens of Mooks armed with assault rifles.

    Comic Books 
  • In PS238, any time anyone calls Batman The Revenant, for advice, he will be in the middle of fighting some form of super villain and carry on the fight while talking. Occasionally he will let slip some form of comment as to what he's doing.
  • In the original Vertigo Human Target mini-series, Dee-Noyz holds a cell phone conversation while he and his crew shoot up a house.
    Dee Noyz: Huh? The noise? I told you, brah, I already gots a show. That's the motherfucking soundtrack!
  • The Fury, the Spider-Man Captain Ersatz in 1963 has one of these while fighting a giant psychic dinosaur, despite the action taking place Exactly When It Says On The Tin. How? He hops into a phone booth when he absolutely has to make a call mid-fight.
  • In an issue of Power Girl, the title character desperately tries to call Zatanna for help after dinosaurs begin appearing around in New York City. Unfortunately, Zatanna is unable to answer her phone, as a villain has taped her mouth shut and is absorbing her powers.
  • At an issue of Barb Wire, Barb is in the mother of all Chase Scenes fleeing for every criminal force in her City at her motorcycle, when his cell phone beeps. After exclaiming that they must be kidding her, she decides to answer with the most sensible line:
    What the hell!, It could be good news!
  • Paperinik New Adventures:
    • Subverted in Pk2, the sequel, where the cellphone going off distracts the droid who was about to shot Paperinik, saving his life.
    • It was also deconstructed in the reboot,where the distraction of the cellphone stop Pikappa from attacking a monster and almost get him killed.

    Film 
  • Used with the castle's communications system rather than a cellphone in The Rocky Horror Picture Show:
    Riffraff: Master, Rocky has escaped
    Frank: Coming!
  • In Obsessed, Beyoncé Knowles has a phone conversation during her fight with Ali Larter.
  • Under Siege: Casey Ryback is shooting it out with the hijackers when he gets a call from the Reasonable Authority Figure, and his female sidekick answers.
    Admiral Bates: I'm trying to get ahold of Ryback.
    Jordan Tate: He's in a gunfight. I'll have to take a message.
  • In Heartbreak Ridge, Gunny Highway's squad of Marines place a call to their base back home while holed up in an old church in order to call in an airstrike, because all other methods of communication have been broken somehow. They are taking fire (from tanks) all the while. This was based on an actual incident during the Grenada invasion.
  • Casino Royale (1967) does it in a makeshift foxhole with military telephones.
    British General: I'm sorry, dear, but I won't be home in time for dinner... well, apparently a war has broken out.
  • This happens to Mister Hertz multiple times in Shoot 'em Up, most notably just as he's going to execute Mister Smith.
  • Happens in the 2008 film of Journey to the Center of the Earth, if the trailer is accurate. That's some impressive phone coverage they've got there.
  • Inverted and happens every 10 minutes in Crank: Chev Chelios calls his doctor while committing insane acts of violence and vandalism, at one point calling him while driving his car through a mall.
  • In Die Hard 2, Holly McClane, worried about why her plane hasn't landed (due to the airport being forcibly shut down by Colonel Stuart) calls her husband's beeper on the airphone.... while McClane is sneaking up to the church Stuart is using as a base. His beeper goes off, and he hurries to silence it, but too late to prevent him from being attacked by Baker, the henchman on sentry duty. After a fight, McClane defeats Baker by stabbing an icicle into his eye.
    • In A Good Day To Die Hard, John McClane is in a car chase after a truck that's chasing his son, Jack. That's when his daughter calls.
  • In Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, Jables receives a call in the middle of a car chase with the police, from the car's owner, who's watching the chase on the news.
  • In Shaun of the Dead, while they're trying to sneak into the pub while pretending to be mindless zombies to get past a real zombie horde, Ed receives a call on his cellphone and answers it.
  • In Twister, Dr. Reeves (Bill Harding's new fiancee) keeps answering her cellphone in the middle of tornado chases. At one point, after seeing a rather amazing feat of tornado-ness, she blurts, "I gotta go, we got cows!"
  • Inverted in Transformers (2007). It's justified, though, as well as a Crowning Moment of Funny. Captain Lennox tries to make a call to The Pentagon while his (dwindling) men fight off Scorponok.
    Lennox: This is an emergency Pentagon call! The Pentagon, do you understand—?
    [the window behind him explodes]
    Lennox: I DON'T HAVE A CREDIT CARD!
    Operator: [bored] Sir, the attitude is not going to speed things up any bit at all. I'm going to ask you to speak very clearly into the mouthpiece...
  • Inverted in 3 Ninjas Kick Back when Tum Tum has to make a mandatory phone call with his parents during a fight with ninja mooks. He had to talk to them at the same time everyday. One of the mooks carried a phone which Tum Tum and his brothers used to talk while fighting and had to make excuses with the fighting noise.
  • One of the funnier moments in Black Hawk Down:
    Lt. Col. McKnight: How are things going? Things okay there, Struecker?
    Sgt. Struecker: (While racing his Humvee down a city street while bullets ricochet all around) I don't wanna talk about it right now, Colonel. I'm busy!
  • Paparazzo (1995). Nick Berry's character gets a call from a colleague as he's being roughed up by a heavy who wants some intimate photos he took of his bosses daughter.
    "I can't talk now. I've got a rather large man standing on my chest."
  • World War Z. The protagonist leaves a satellite phone with his wife, saying he'll call once a day to let her know he's still alive. Unfortunately his first call doesn't make it through, so she tries ringing back just as he's trying to sneak past some zombies. After surviving that he makes another phone call and this time gets through, only to hang up in mid-conversation because he's just seen a nuclear explosion go off.
  • In Iron Man, the eponymous superhero is flitting over Afghanistan, blowing up terrorist bases, when he's picked up by US Air Force radar. After confirming that it isn't a US unit, Col. Rhodes, having begun to realize whose movie he's in, calls up Tony Stark to ask if one of Stark's prototypes is loose in his airspace. It is... and Tony's flying it.
  • Apollo Thirteen: Jack Swigert gets the call that he's going to the moon during what's obviously shower sex.

    Literature 
  • The Radix: During a dangerous car chase, Brynstone gets a call from wife who wants to tell him their daughter said her first word.
  • Happens in The Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly. Notably, the person being called is a twelve-year-old boy and the event is a High Speed Battle in which an convoy chases a 747 down an Egyptian highway.
  • Labyrinths of Echo has telepathic talks that cannot even be "turned off" and fail only due to magic blockade few can perform well, unconsciousness or superhuman level of concentration on something else. Customary ethics and possibly bylaws in the World of Rod prohibits subordinates from distracting superiors by initiation of thought-chats, with obvious exclusion of ordered reports and dire emergency. Also, the Chief of Minor Secret Investigative Force has an old bad habit of telling callers he "waits in ambush" while playing cards, and once noted that in a real ambush it's not much of a problem, but few understand it. This occasionally bitten him in the butt, though.
  • In Return of the Archwizards a character had magical sending responded only with "fleeting impression of terror" and was afraid to send another due to possibility it would distract the other party from a hard fight.
  • Margaret Ball's short story "Career Day" features a swordswoman from a fantasy world who has enrolled her daughter in a school from our world. When a member of the PTA calls right in the middle of a swordfight, she's so distracted she accidentally winds up agreeing to show her daughter's class around her workplace...
  • In Michael Crichton's novel, Jurassic Park, game warden Robert Muldoon has to cut a radio call short because he is "very popular at the moment." At the time, he was cornered in a large concrete pipe by a group of hungry velociraptors.
  • In Good Omens, the demon Crowley is facing down two superior demons from the infernal heirarchy, effectively the IS department who want to take him in for questioning about divided loyalties. Right in the middle of the stand-off, his phone rings. It is the Angel Aziraphile, who wants to talk about the very irregularity for which Hastur and Ligur want to arrest him...

    Live Action TV 
  • This has happened on LOST at least a couple of times.
  • 24 as well.
  • It happens to Dr. K in an episode of Power Rangers RPM.
    "I'm a little busy saving the human race right now, Benny."
  • Dexter:
    • It wasn't during a fight scene, but Dexter has been called once or twice while engaged in his night job.
    • And a car chase, as well.
  • At the beginning of the second episode of Leverage, Nate calls the team and some of them are not exactly disposed to talking. Eliot was in a face-off with a guy who had a gun (he used his cellphone as a distraction to take him out), and Parker was hanging from a ceiling after stealing a painting (she tried to shush her phone).
  • In the Japanese drama Tokyo Dogs, Sô's mother always call him at the most inappropriate moments, while apprehending a suspect or rescuing an hostage. Usually to ask him what kind of food he wants to eat or if he prefers a yellow or purple pajama.
  • Despite being set in the pre-cellphone era, Hill Street Blues had a similar running gag; Detective Belker's Jewish Mother always seemed to call him while he was trying to book in a suspect.
  • Happened all the time in Father Ted. Ted would ring Father Larry Duff for advice, always at the most inconvenient moment, leading to Father Larry meeting such fates as driving over a cliff, being trampled by a herd of stampeding donkeys, or (the very least of his problems) missing out on the jackpot prize in a TV game show by having his concentration broken.
  • In the Smallville episode "Warrior", Clark Kent is rounding up some crooks when Lois Lane calls him. Hilariously, one of the criminals tries to run away, but Clark fishes a can out of the trash and chucks it at his head, knocking him out.
  • Kamen Rider Double: In a flashback, Soukichi Narumi talks to his daughter while in the middle of his first battle as Kamen Rider Skull. While the bad guys are attempting to kersplat him with industrial equipment, Akiko calls and Soukichi casually talks about how fighting for justice (as a detective) seems heavy enough to crush a man sometimes, but he'll be okay. Thanks to a Monster of the Week curse that does not have No Ontological Inertia placed on him later in the film, he can never see Akiko again, so this scene becomes Harsher in Hindsight as it's likely their last-ever conversation.
  • Get Smart is probably the Trope Maker. Maxwell Smart had a Shoe Phone, and just about every week it would ring at an inconvenient time and he would answer it. Since this was long before cell phones were invented, this was pure science fiction. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to pay attention to this warning of what the future was to bring . . .
  • Person of Interest ("Root Cause") opens with Finch at the library pouring tea, then ringing up Reese to wish him a pleasant "Good Morning". Cut to Reese being slammed about the room by a bald-headed thug twice as big as he is.
    Finch: Bit of a bad connection. Were you able to convince Mr Billoc to abandon his plans to kill his ex-wife?
    Reese: I'm working on it.
  • Major Crimes: In the episode "Poster Boy" an insane murderer in interrupted by a phone call from his grandmother while he is dismembering the body of his latest victim.
  • Several times in Day Break, including the one when the hero's phone rang when he was hiding on the backseat of an arms dealer's car.
  • CSI NY : Mac's goes off during an opera trip with Peyton once. And another time during sex. But he's a detective, so not much he can do about it.

    Music 
  • Subverted in the Lady Gaga song "Telephone", as she is telling the person calling her that she can't answer the phone because she is busy:
    And now you won't stop calling me, I'm kinda busy

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Troubleshooters in Paranoia are issued with PDCs (mobile phones, Alpha Complex style) mainly for this reason. Phone calls from Friend Computer during a firefight aren't exactly uncommon, especially if everyone is being too efficient for the GM's tastes.

    Video Games 
  • During a mission in inFAMOUS, Zeke calls up Cole about ways Cole could make some money off of his powers. At the time, Cole is trying to defend some medical supplies from the Reapers, who among other things, are using a truck-mounted mini-gun on him. Cole, naturally, tries to tell Zeke off, but Zeke just ignores him.
  • Snake does this in Metal Gear when he gets codec calls at bad times. Notably bad, given the absurd amount of time that he often spends chatting with Mission Control instead of doing his job. Lampooned in this VG Cats strip.
  • One of Crimson Viper's victory poses in Street Fighter IV is her daughter calling her on her cellphone after the fight is over.
  • Dead Rising: This can happen to the player when somebody calls your cellphone while you're fighting zombies. You can elect to hang up, but that person calls you back about five seconds later ...and then you are scolded, because hanging up on someone is rude. Sadly, you cannot tell the person exactly where he can place his manners.
  • In Pokémon Gold and Silver, Crystal, and the remakes, trainers would call you via Pokégear all the time. What's that? You're busy saving the Radio Tower from Team Rocket? Eh. They'll call you anyway.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV, the player character can be called by NPC's on his cell phone any time he's not in the middle of a race or mission. Many players found this to be an annoying feature. During some missions though, there are scripted sequences in which the main character gets a phone call during missions, such as being invited to go to a strip club during a high speed police chase, and being called to go cruising for chicks while kidnapping the daughter of a mob boss.
  • Max is busy in Max Payne 2, in the mission where both him and his lover invade the Mook hideout from opposite sides.
  • Real-time Tactics game World in Conflict pulls this when you try to select infantry units that are under fire.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core, after Genesis summons Bahamut SIN, Zack gets a call on his cell phone from Aerith. He explains that he can't talk as he has to deal with a guest, while Bahamut roars in the background. After he hangs up, he turns back to Bahamut:
  • Flo from the Diner Dash game series juggles so many duties in every game, it's amazing that she's as laid back as she is.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • During the final battle of the Tuchanka arc in Wrex/Wreav comms Shepard in the middle of dodging a Reaper's attacks while on foot, and evading an infinite number of Brutes to heckle him/her on how long it's taking. Shepard is less than amused.
      Wrex: "Shepard, get that second hammer going!"
      Shepard: "There's a Reaper in my way, Wrex!"
      Wrex: "I know, you get all the fun..."
    • There's also the firefight in the Citadel DLC where the team receives an urgent call... from the pizza delivery volus, demanding payment.
      James: "Tell them they burnt the pepperoni!"
  • Dead Space 2: Twice Isaac gets calls when he's up to his ass in Necromorphs.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, Jackie is often kicking ass with the shadowkhan or some other mooks when Uncle calls, often with the Phlebotinum or the info needed to defeat the Monster of the Week. His phone calls usually take forever with his constant "one more thing" reminders, while Jackie's trying to listen and fight off the attackers at once. Conservation of Ninjutsu seems to be the only thing that keeps him alive through them.
  • Kim Possible:
    • The main character has occasionally called her mother while her mother was in the middle of performing brain surgery. Dr. Possible happily talked on the speaker phone to her daughter, all the while continuing with the operation. There's also a few Kimmunicator calls that have come in during action sequences. In the first Grand Finale, Kim is under attack by giant robots, calls Wade, and he's got another one destroying his room. Earlier in the film, Kim takes a call from her friend Monique for some high school gossip while flying down a street in central Tokyo on a grapple line attached to Shego's fighter jet.
    • Building a Heads-Up Display Kimmunicator into the suit her dad made to replace her ruined mission outfit: good idea. Having it suddenly take up her whole field of view while Kim was in the middle of fighting Shego: not so much.
  • Hoodwinked. Red calls Granny when she is in Japeth's shack, unaware that Granny is in a ski race and dealing with the fact that the bandit's ski team henchmen have eliminated Granny's teammates.
  • The Simpsons
    • When Homer is offered a new job in "You Only Move Twice" by Scorpio, this trope is played through the entire episode. Homer asks Scorpio for advice on numerous issues, which Scorpio happily gives, all while executing his plan to Take Over the World. Most notably, at the end, Scorpio gives Homer advice on whether to keep his current job or not, while fighting off a UN invasion force.
    Scorpio: I understand, Homer. You gotta put your family first, and I respect that. But, Homer, on your way out, if you wanna kill somebody, it would help a lot.
  • In the Justice League episode "Wild Cards," Batman takes a call from The Flash while he's in the middle of a fight. The Flash had a good reason for calling, since he needed instructions on how to disarm a bomb.
  • In the last episode of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon's first season, Donatello is busy building a new device at Baxter Stockman's lab while the rest of the family goes off to attack the Technodrome. While they're fighting off Foot Soldiers, Don gives them a call, checking in;
    Raphael: (Getting throttled by a Foot Soldier) A little...busy here!
    Donatello: Oh, okay. I'll try again later.
    Raphael: Do that!
  • Inverted on The Spectacular Spider-Man: Aunt May insists Peter call home if he's going to be out past his 10 o'clock curfew. He set his cell phone alarm to remind him when to call, and in early episodes this tended to happen right in the middle of a fight.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has Batman in this situation several times, including a few times when AQUAMAN was bored on a family vacation and hoped that Batman would need him to join the current battle.
  • Young Justice has a variant, slightly different in that it's between heroes on the same mission (who are using telepathy instead of a phone):
    Miss Martian: Superboy, are you online or just pouting?
    (Superboy is holding a giant mutated wolf by the jaws to keep it from biting him)
    Superboy: Busy. Call back later.
  • Archer:
    • This happens to Archer during a break in. Fortunately, one of the guards has the same obnoxious ringtone, so no one notices.
    • Happens in a later episode when all of ISIS starts interrupts Dr. Krieger's surgery on Ray in the episode "Legs".
  • In the obscure 1970s cartoon Mighty Man and Yukk, this happens to Mighty Man while he's fighting a pair of icicle creatures. (Of course, since it was the 1970s, it wasn't a cell phone, but a corded phone attached to the inside of Yukk's doghouse, which he wears as a face-concealing hat)
  • In The Bremen Avenue Experience episode "Jessica's Story", the incessant ringing of Jessica's mobile phone disrupts the titular Fake Band's rehearsal—until the band starts incorporating it into the song they're playing.
  • Once per Episode in The Secret Show:
    Professor Professor: Victor, are you still alive?
    Victor Volt (usually in danger): Yes, I'm still alive!

    Real Life 
  • During the battle which earned Audie Murphy his Medal of Honor, he was contacted by officers in the rear and asked how close the Germans were. Murphy responded, "Hold on and I'll let you talk to one," put the radio down, and kept on fighting.
  • The cell phone of Jeff Nolan, a soldier deployed in Afghanistan, dialed his parents' home on Oregon on its own accord in the middle of a gunfight. The funniest (or most horrifying) part of the story being that the call ended right after someone shouted "Incoming RPG!" Nolan survived.

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