When a character waits for someone or thinks about something really important to them, they will normally pace around the room while doing so. Maybe they will walk back and forth in a straight line, or maybe they will walk in a circle. That's normal.
But some characters tend to really like doing it. They walk along the same path so much that they actually wear down the floor, and if left to pace long enough, you might find them in a literal trench made by their own feet. Hopefully the plot might call them before they end up in China.
This is normally a comedy trope to show that the character has been thinking about their problem so much and concentrating so hard that they haven't noticed they have dug themselves into a hole.
- Used in this Chokotoff commercial. An explorer is offered the daughter of a jungle tribe chieftain as his wife. Since he doesn't want to marry her, but knows that openly refusing will mean certain death, he asks for one chokotoff the time to think about it, which he is granted. By the time he finally finishes his chokotoff, the tribe members who were dancing around him have dug such a deep trench that he can simply step over them and leave the village.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Whenever Scrooge McDuck is in a rough situation, he goes to the Worry Room. He had often paced so much in that room that he's in at least a few feet inside the floor. In one extreme case, only his hat was visible above the floor.
- Léonard le Génie: A common gag is for Leonard to walk in circles while working away at a problem, usually waist-deep by the time inspiration hits.
- In the Laurel and Hardy film Block Heads, Stan takes his commanding officer's orders to remain in the trench for as long as possible far too literally — he stays there long after the war is over, dutifully performing his patrol every day. When he finally learns that the war ended 20 years earlier, his patrol route now has a knee-deep rut.
- In The Aeronaut's Windlass, first book of the The Cinder Spires series, the brothers of the Temple of the Way have worn grooves into the stone floor with their accustomed paths.
- In Theodore Thomas' short story "The Test", the protagonist of the story is dragged into what is apparently a mental hospital with his heels sliding along within two grooves that were worn into the floor, indicating that he wasn't the first to be admitted in such a manner.
- Classic Disney Shorts:
- "Alpine Climbers" has Donald Duck chasing a baby goat around a rock, only for the goat to step right out and watch Donald go in circles. After the cartoon goes to somewhere else, it cuts back to Donald still going in circles, only by then, he's created a circular trench around the rock.
- At the beginning of "The Ugly Duckling", the father duck is pacing in a trench while waiting for his mate's eggs to hatch.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: In the episode "For the Ed, By the Ed", where Eddy tries to sabotage Plank in the race for the "King of the Cul de Sac", Eddy tells Ed to find ways to "put some dirt" on Plank. In the next scene Eddy walks into a rut, implying that it took a while for Ed to put some dirt, both literally with dirt, and figuratively with a photograph.
- Looney Tunes:
Hitchcock: If you keep pacing like that, you'll wear a groove in the floor.
- In the Merrie Melodies short I Love to Singa, as Owl Jolson was being born, the Panicky Expectant Father was outside pacing around that formed into a rut.
- The Alfred Hitchcock spoof "The Last Hungry Cat" has Sylvester pacing nervously, thinking the law will be on him for eating Tweety.
Sylvester: Why don't you shut up and mind your own busin... [falls through the floorboards as a result of said pacing]
- An episode of Danger Mouse shows DM pacing a waist-deep rut in the floor.
- The Fairly OddParents,
- In one episode, Timmy's daily routine became so ingrained that he was literally stuck in a rut— a rut that he himself engraved through the school's linoleum floor because he does the exact same routine every day.
- Another episode where Timmy wishes for a radio station has Timmy running in circles as an angry mob approaches him in his treehouse. At the end, the trench is almost as tall as Timmy.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode "It's About Time", Twilight Sparkle, while trying to find time to make next month's schedule, paces around a statue and eventually digs a groove on the ground though her pacing.
- Justice League Unlimited uses a deliberate variation in the Grand Finale, with Flash running circles around one of Darkseid's digging machines to dig a trench around it, providing Green Lantern some leverage to grab and toss it with his ring.
- Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko paces around his lawn while being nervous about his crush on the mailman. The trench he makes is as deep as Rocko.
- Goof Troop: In "Gunfight at the Okie-Doke Corral", Goofy's Identical Ancestor Mopalong Goofy can be seen pacing a trench around his desk in worry when he has just been promoted to sheriff, only to learn that the infamous outlaw Pete is coming to town.