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Cutting the Electronic Leash

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"If you need anything, anything, 24/7, you just call my cell."

What do you do if your Mean Boss decides that you're on call 24/7 whether you like it or not? Well, if this happens after you've discovered What's Really Important (hint: it's never "getting ahead" or "making money"), just dispose of your cell phone, preferably by throwing it into the nearest body of water. Never mind that it would be a little easier (and far less expensive) to just turn your phone off, or that you might want to ring your friends or loved ones at some point in the future, or that you might need to call for help if you ever happen to find yourself in a horror movie.

Nope, screw all that, you're Making a Statement! Toss it in a river, off a cliff, over a rainbow! Drop it on the floor and grind it underfoot like your job does to you! Find out what a blender will do to it! Dunk it in lighter fluid and burn it at the stake! For bonus points, give a wittily appropriate Bond One-Liner to the person on the other end before you do it.

This may mean you're quitting that oppressive job for good, but you could also just be temporarily shirking your occupational responsibilities in favor of the aforementioned Really Important stuff. As Technology Marches On and people keep more and more of their lives on their (even more expensive) phones, this is becoming a much more drastic statement of anti-materialism.

Related to Ring-Ring-CRUNCH! and Shoot the Television. Compare Removing the Earpiece, It's All Junk. Not to be confused with Refusal of the Call; in fact, this tends to indicate the opposite. Nor does it involve an actual leash meant to deliver electric shocks. Naturally lends itself to an Impeded Communication, and can create a Suspicious Missed Messages scenario.


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  • A Corona beer commercial had a person relaxing on the beach skipping rocks. The pager on the table starts making noise, and so they casually skip the pager into the ocean. Another Corona commercial has a pan across a beach to a man sitting back on a chair with a Corona Light and settles on his cell phone while the slogan "Miles away from ordinary" note  is dubbed over the screen. His cell phone? It has no service, letting us believe he walked all the way down the beach to a place with no service instead of, y'know, finding a quiet spot and just turning it off.
    • There was a Corona ad here in Mexico a few years ago that had a similar theme, but it was a lot more subtle. It was a shot of a guy in a poolchair (only the arm is visible), and next to him, on a little table, there's a cellphone and an ice-cold Corona. The phone is ringing and the guy just ignores it, taking the beer bottle instead. Placid beach waves and the phone ringing are the only soundtrack.
      • There is yet another one where the phone gets casually dropped in the water.
    • In a similar vein, there was a truck commercial(Chevy maybe?)with several friends in said truck driving in a remote area, and periodically checking their phone until they’ve reached a place with no service, which is where they set up camp. Let’s hope you don’t have an emergency, guys.
  • Subverted in a Motorola ad. A forty-something man starts getting rid of all his material wealth: he tears off his necklace, drops his watch, and throws his diamond ring in the street. But when it comes to his Motorola phone... of course, he keeps it!

    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass: During Lelouch's Heroic BSoD in response to Nunnally being viceroy of Area 11, he snaps his cell phone in half and throws it out the window of a moving monorail.
  • In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Tifa points out that although Cloud doesn't answer his phone, he never Cuts the Electronic Leash either. Later on, though, he loses the phone in a fight.
  • Higehiro: After running away, Sayu didn't want to be contacted by anybody back home so she hurled her cellphone into the ocean. Yoshida buys her a new one so they can contact each other.
  • In Real Bout High School, Kyoichi Kunugi crushes his cell phone in his hand after being informed by his employers that if he doesn't cooperate with them his family will be killed. Of course, that was an act of rage rather than an attempt to free himself, and he did go ahead with his boss' plans, if grudgingly.
  • Welcome to the NHK: Satou's upperclassman drops her cellphone into the sea as they travel towards mass suicide on an island.

    Comic Books 
  • Supergirl (Wednesday Comics): Aquaman is trying to talk with Supergirl, but their conversation gets interrupted by a caller who wants Aquaman deal with literally every problem under the sea at once: the whining of the shoals of oil spill off the coast of Spain...a tsunami somewhere else...after hanging up the call, Aquaman angrily tosses his phone over his shoulder and into the ocean.

    Fan Works 
  • In a pre-Electronic Age fantasy world example, the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfette's Evil Phone" has Smurfette's Magic Mirror compact, which she used to communicate with Gargamel in the cartoon show episodes "The Smurfette" and "Smurfette Unmade", be destroyed by Papa Smurf's magic to cut off any further communications between her and the evil wizard. The Smurfs, who also have handheld magic mirrors that were being used as portable phones that were magicked into being hypnotic devices to put them under Gargamel's trance, end up jettisoning their phones en masse to have them be reworked by Handy so that they would be used strictly among the Smurfs for personal communications.

    Films — Animation 
  • Charlotte does this at the end of The Rugrats Movie, but she doesn't abandon her job. It's just that her reunification with her lost daughter takes precedence. It's also worth considering Charlotte is the mean boss CEO so not only can she probably afford another phone (or get a new one as a business expense). She was either being bothered by a share holder or her annoying personal aide Jonathan.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Broken Arrow Deakin (played by john Travolta) uses an electric shaver to simulate static noise in order to break off the communication via radio.
  • In The Devil Wears Prada, after realizing that she's becoming like her ruthlessly ambitious boss, Andrea walks out on her job. Her boss calls her to ask what she's doing, and she tosses her ringing phone into a fountain.
  • Nancy in Enchanted, after hanging a lampshade on how a cell phone still gets reception in a magical fairytale kingdom.
  • In Force of Nature: The Dry 2, Ian tells the group that the corporate retreat is a social media free zone and forces them to hand over their phones before they set off on the hike. Alice secretly keeps a second phone with her, but it turns out Cell Phones Are Useless as there is no signal in the mountainous terrain.
  • In For Your Eyes Only, James Bond leaves his communicator watch on a perch with a parrot, who then drops it into the ocean. Not that Bond was quitting; it's just that having a Two-Person Pool Party was a damn sight more interesting than talking to the Prime Minister.
  • In Gemini Man, Dani throws her smartphone into the water, as she believes it can be used to track her. They are fugitives in a movie partially focused on technology after all.
  • At the end of Hook, Robin Williams rediscovers the phone his wife had thrown out the window earlier in the movie. He then tosses it back out the window himself.
  • In Identity Theft The Michelle Brown Story, identity thief Connie Volkos flushes her cell phone down a toilet when the detective handling her victim's case calls and offers to help her if she turns herself in. (Since she's committing ID theft mostly to lead a better life than the desperate one she's led so far.)
  • In the Russian movie The Irony of Fate 2, Irakliy (a manager in a cell phone company) is nagged by phone calls throughout the entire film, even as he's dealing with his fiancee possibly leaving him for another man. In the end, he gives it to a random kid as a New Year gift.
  • A pre-cellphone era example occurs in The Man In The Santa Claus Suit, when an overworked political speechwriter finally destroys his pager.
  • Cypher throws his cell into the trash in The Matrix. This, combined with his talk to Smith early on, is basically a signal that he's no longer working for the Resistance and has sold out to the Machines. That, and he leaves it on when he chucks it; the Agents use this to trace their location. Mind you, throwing away your cell phone pretty much SOP for Neo and Co, if the line is being traced and they need a clean cell. In Cypher's case, he called the Agents and left the phone outside the building that Neo and co. were going to use as their exit, allowing the Agents to set their trap.
  • The father of the main character in Prehysteria 2 violently throws his ringing phone against the wall, breaking it.
  • In The Terminal, Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones throw their pagers onto an airport runway.
  • At the end of Trouble with the Curve, Mickey throws her cell phone away in a dumpster to emphasize that she's tired of working 6 days a week at her law firm when they're not going to properly reward her.
  • In Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, one girl among the college students, thinking they're in a slasher movie situation, pulls out her cellphone to call the police. Which Chad (the leader) grabs and throws into the lake, not allowing anyone to be Genre Savvy. He delusionally sees himself as the hero in a slasher film, and he refuses to let anyone break a cliche.
  • Played for Laughs in Ultraman X The Movie: Here Comes! Our Ultraman! during a party, when XIO is celebrating one of their missions. Ultraman X decides to randomly call Asuna via the cellphone-like X-Devizier Daichi left on a table and inform her the calorie content of the cookie she's about to eat. Asuna promptly flips the Devizier over.
    Ultraman X: What's going on? I can't see! Someone please flip me over...
  • Occurs humorously in Wild Hogs. The three main characters are going on a mid-life crisis road trip, one brags about how his phone has a GPS so they won't get lost, and his friend takes it away and throws it in a fountain. In retaliation, the first takes his phone away and tosses it. Not to be outdone by the other's expressions of freedom, the third (perpetually unlucky) friend tosses his - right onto the windshield of a semi truck. A semi truck with a very large and unhappy driver.

  • The Famous Five: Five fall into Adventure begins with Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin taking a proper holiday in Spain, refusing to tell anybody the address for a few days. This comes at a time when there is a lot of interest from the press in Uncle Quentin's work, and while they are away, some of his papers are stolen, and nobody can contact them. A policeman mutters that it's a pity when people leave things in an ordinary safe, and then go off without leaving an address. A similar situation happens in Five have Plenty of Fun, when Fanny and Quentin go away for two days, then send a telegram (with no address) to say that they will not return for a week.
  • In the Left Behind book Armageddon, Rayford Steele has his cell-phone put into the well of the speed brake of the plane he's riding in, so that when Mac McCullum activates the brake in mid-flight, he could jettison the phone into the ocean. He has this done to prevent the cell-phone from being tracked by the Global Community after receiving a phone call from his daughter Chloe after she's been captured by the GC.
  • Ray Bradbury's short story "The Murderer" is quite possibly the Ur-Example: a man gets fed up with his Advert-Overloaded Future filled with wristwatch phones, portable radios, and talking appliances. He starts by crushing his wristwatch phone and happily sharing a bowl of ice cream with his car radio.
  • In Space Cadet (Heinlein), written in 1948(!), Matt gets a nagging call from his parents; his new classmate Tex says he buried his phone in his luggage so he wouldn't have to answer it.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation Relaunch novel Losing the Peace, Picard is in a runabout that's being stripped of parts to help a refugee camp, getting a dressing down over subspace from Admiral Akbar, who cannot believe that Picard seriously thought this fell under the pervue of his current orders. Before he can give new orders, however, the rest of the crew decide that the subspace relays would be better served elsewhere and pull them, then claim - with no real attempt to be convincing - that they didn't realise Picard was in a call.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: Jack and C.C. do this in "Episode 210".
  • In Alias, Sydney Bristow, at the edge of breakdown, reacts to a call from her boss at SD-6 by tossing her cell phone. Vaughn notes, "You just threw your cell phone into the Pacific." They both have a good chuckle.
    • Eerily echoed in Season 5, when Sydney is caught in a Lotus-Eater Machine and she throws the same phone away, twice in a row.
  • In Dollhouse, Victor's imprint throws away DeWitt's phone for her, as she tells him how often she's complained about how slippery it is.
  • A pre-cell phone version of this trope occurs in Family Matters, when Lt. Murtaugh gives Carl a pager and keeps using it to beep him over the most frivolous of things (such as needing help with a boil). Eventually, when he does it while watching Laura perform Romeo and Juliet, Carl takes the pager and stamps on it.
  • Used at the end of one of the episodes of the (short-lived) revival of Fantasy Island from 1997. The man who has realized that neither getting ahead in business nor reliving his own childhood is not as important as spending time with his son throws his cellphone into the ocean. Of course, this being Fantasy Island, Mr. Rourke retrieves it from his fish tank (providing a sensible alternative to the usual version of this trope.)
  • A tow truck driver does this in an episode of Forensic Files: He gets a call from his wife while on a job, which turns into a marital spat, so he tosses his phone. Of course, he's unaware that the men who hired him killed a woman not too long prior, leading to quite the awkward encounter when the cops show up at his door asking what his cell phone was doing near tire tracks leading away from a murder scene. At least it led police to the real killers.
  • Has happened a few times on Home and Away. Romeo threw his into the Pacific, while Roo put her SIM card in a cup of coffee.
  • On I Love Lucy, Lucy keeps getting interrupted by the phone when she's trying to tell Ricky she's pregnant (excuse me, "'spectin'"), so she finally throws away the receiver, saying, "Darn that thing!"
  • In an episode of Lovejoy, an elderly naval veteran (Russell Hunter) deals with an annoying antiques dealer who has been pursuing him and his friends trying to buy his medals by asking to speak to her buyer, borrowing her cellphone, shouting "Goodbye!" and throwing it into the sea.
  • Averted in NCIS; Gibbs often damages his cell phone, but this is portrayed as a character flaw, a part of his somewhat curmudgeonly ways. On one occasion, he breaks his phone, hands it to one of his subordinates to fix, and they replace it with one of the several identical phones they keep in a drawer. By contrast, McGee is depicted as sometimes being overreliant on technological solutions.
    • Usually Played for Laughs, though. During one episode where the team is exposed to a bioweapon, all of their gear is confiscated and disposed of. Gibbs starts giving orders to McGee, who complains about not having his PDA. When told to "use Ducky's", McGee fruitlessly searches for over a minute, before Gibbs exasperatedly yells, "McGee! It's a pad and a pencil!"
  • In the UK version of The Office (UK), Tim takes off his microphone (to pick up his speech, as per the Mockumentary setting) in order to presumably admit his feelings to Dawn.
  • Deconstructed in The Office (US); Michael and Dwight take Jim's phone off him on a road trip and gleefully throw it out the window. Cue Jim telling them that the only photos of his brother's new baby were on there, and they sheepishly stop the car and walk down the side of the road looking for it.
  • Happened in Queer as Folk (UK): Vince had a date and kept nattering on the phone to various people who were bugging him and Cameron grabbed the phone and tossed it into the canal. This is a slightly different angle because it wasn't Vince's work that the phone represented so much as his willingness to let other people use him (so Cameron grabbing the phone was his way of saying "be selfish for once in your life").
  • In Scrubs, when JD thought that Dr. Cox didn't care about him any more, he threw away his pager. By the end of the show, Dr. Cox finds it and returns it to him lobs it and makes him fetch it, berating him all the while. JD is elated at this turn of events.
  • Done on UK sketch show Smack the Pony: A character throws her phone into a lake. She immediately regrets it and goes into the water to look for it.
  • In the Star Trek series this doubles as an Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: a crewmember decides to do what must be done and puts aside his or her communicator (it's even more of an electronic leash than a cellphone, since the communicators are also tracking devices.)
  • The Thin Blue Line: Played for laughs in "Kids Today", when the eccentric mountain guide Brigadier Blaster-Sump is interrupted by his mobile phone.
    Blaster-Sump: (Furiously, as phone rings) Oh! Hell's tits. (Yells into it) Yes, what do you want, can't you see I'm busy?! (Switches it off, and tosses it aside) Damn technology. A present from Mrs Blaster-Sump, God rot her soul.
  • Ultraviolet (1998). The expensive cell-phone of one character is seen thrown into a trash bin, as a sign that he's become a vampire (the voice of a vampire can't travel over a phone line).

  • A song by Cake is completely devoted to this.
    • "No phone, no phone. I just want to be alone today..."
  • Done in the music video to "Walk" by the Foo Fighters.

    Video Game 
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater does this in the ending, where EVA throws Snake's ringing radio (on which he's been getting calls about his mission entire game) into the fire, and Snake, rather than protesting like he normally would, proceeds to....well, the two have a very interesting night together.

    Web Animation 

  • In one Arthur, King of Time and Space contemporary arc strip, Merlin — who is an aging hippie and artist, but is reluctantly involved with Big Business as he shepherds Arthur into his role as CEO of Excalicorp — asks Nimue to "sync" his PDA, and she drops it in water. When Arthur tells her she misunderstood, Merlin says she absolutely didn't.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In "The Devil Wears Nada" after Homer frees himself from Carl after being his assistant, he throws away two separate cell phones in a trash can (Homer called a different number in order to blackmail Carl).

    Real Life 
  • Several religious and secular movements and even some health specialists (including those not specializing in mental health) have advocated periods of isolation from communication networks, with reasons including realignment with some higher power, stress relief or reducing dependency (psychological or otherwise). Of course, the concession is often made that such sessions should be scheduled to avoid clashing with the rest of one's affairs and those that might need to make contact should be informed that one will be unreachable.
    • So-called "digital detox holidays" are becoming a thing; check your phone, tablet and laptop at the desk and disconnect for a break. Particularly in the modern always-online always-available business world.
    • Perhaps this is also why the ban on cellphones aboard aircraft in flight has stood for so long despite the actual safety hazard proving to be negligible.
  • The Amish are practically the Ur-Example of this. According to one source, they adopted telephones just as much as many other Americans, but for various reasons (linking to the outside world, promoting idle gossip, generally weakening community values/institutions etc.), having a phone in Amish homes was banned in the 1910s. This being the Amish, they've replicated this with pretty much every other technology tying them to the outside world.
    • Ironically, with the advent of cell phones, some Amish communities have reintroduced phone usage (that bit about phones? It forbids "wires to the outside world"). They use car battery rigs to recharge them.
    • Another alternative in some Amish communities is to have a phone installed in an outbuilding so that it is available when really necessary but not allowed to intrude on the home.
  • Russian gangsters in the 2010s developed the practice of moving away from smartphones and using old, primitive mobile phones with no internet connection to avoid getting tracked. Reportedly, that would also include switching off the phone and removing the battery and SIM card while they didn't need to use the phone.