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Ripped from the Phone Book
Whenever an investigative character looks up information in a telephone directory and find the one piece of information they've been looking for, they'll rip out the entire page from the phone book. A lot of the time, the directory was one of those found next to a public telephone, which mean that our Sam Spade or Intrepid Reporter has just ruined the chances of anybody else looking up anybody who's name begins with B. Perhaps it helps to show how rushed and straight to the point they are but you'd think people in those professions would have gotten used to carrying around a pen and notepad.

This can be Truth in Television, although it might just be Life Imitates Art. In either case, it can get very frustrating after the Oh-don't-know-how-many-times one has gone to look up something in the phone book at a public pay phone only to discover several pages missing, including the one you needed. (Of course, this is getting rarer as phone books at public telephones, and indeed public telephones themselves, are increasingly hard to come by. Factor in Technology Marches On, where people can simply type the number into their cell phone, or take a photo of the page they need with a camera phone, and it'll likely be a dead horse before long.)


Examples

Film
  • In Back to the Future, Marty searches for Doc in a phonebook in a cafe and rips the entire page out for one number. The cafe owner doesn't seem to mind; maybe he was used to seeing it happen all the time in Bogart flicks.
    • Although he does respond to Marty holding the page and asking him a question by interrupting with a snippy "Are you gonna order something, kid?"
      • "You can vandalize my property as long as you buy stuff!"
  • In The Terminator, Kyle Reese does this with the page containing the listing for "Sarah Connor". Averted by the Terminator himself later in the film, since its flawless memory allows it to instantly memorize the listings.
  • Hilariously taken to the extreme in Knowing when Nicolas Cage's character crowbars an entire door (which of course has information written on it) off of its hinges and takes it with him. Well, he was in a hurry.
  • Similarly in Angels and Demons when Vittoria Vetra rips the page from a priceless document by Galileo (likely the only one left in the entire world) to the shock of Dr Langdon, rather than waste time copying it.
  • Done in The Dream Team by Billy when he and the group are searching for their missing psychiatrist in a hospital. One of the group, Henry, does note that what Billy did is vandalism, but Billy shrugs it off and it's never brought up again.
  • In The Last Boy Scout Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) uses a pay phone (in a police station no less) to get an address so he can track down where Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) is. He rips the page from the phone book as Joe's daughter looks on. She then traces the information he wrote down, and rips that page out of the phone book and follows him, leaving the phone book back at the police station with two missing pages!
  • Frantic. Harrison Ford does this because he's getting increasingly frustrated over his attempt to get hold of an off-duty concierge who might have seen where his missing wife got to.
  • Superman. Lex Luthor is looking through a book in his library to find some information about a meteor landing in Addis Ababa, When he finds it, instead of just showing it to his henchmen he rips it out and hands it to them.

Live-Action TV
  • In one episode of The New Adventures Of Superman, there was a plot point where Lois was looking for information on an individual but it wasn't in the phone book nor yellow pages. It was however in the white pages and she promptly tore a page out of a copy in the phonebooth.
  • Done by one Rock Star in an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; he was tracking down an ex-groupie who had given birth to his son.
  • Intrepid Reporter Carl Kolchak regularly did this in Kolchak: The Night Stalker. In one episode he went to find a number in his office phone book but discovered he had previously ripped out the page. He used the phone book of fellow reporter Ron Updyke - and ripped the page out of it too.
  • In Veronica Mars, Nathan Woods rips out the page of a phone book while looking for Alicia Fennel's address.
  • Glory with the Magic Box ad in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Shadow". And a different use of the trope is shown in Season 7's "Showtime". A Potential steps off a bus and goes to a public phone to look up Buffy's address, only to find the page ripped out. Having identified herself by turning to the torn page, the Bringers move in to kill her.

Western Animation
  • Toaster does this in The Brave Little Toaster.
  • Bender does this in Bender's Big Score when he is searching for Fry in the past. This was a take-off on the aforementioned example from The Terminator. Bender was a robot going into the past to kill Fry, and there were *many* different joking Terminator allusions in that sequence. Only problem is that in the aforementioned example the robot didn't rip it out. Ah, well.
  • The Simpsons: Lisa does this to Dr. Nick's ad in My Sister, My sitter.
  • Mary does this in Mary and Max when looking for the address of an American, wanting to ask a question about the country. She does this because her mom drags her along (causing to rip out the page in the progress) after she's trying to flee the post office, having been caught shoplifting.


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