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Short-Distance Phone Call

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Talk about a close call.
Jayne: [over radio] Cap'n, cap'n, can you hear me?
Mal: I'm standing right here.
Jayne: You're coming through good and loud.
Mal: 'Cause I'm standing right here.

A situation (usually) played for comedy in which two people are talking on the phone, yet are within reasonable speaking distance of each other, sometimes even standing right next to each other. Often times, they are fully aware of this, and for reasons unknown, continue talking via phone anyway.

Though this trope in the world of fiction is played to depict the characters as lazy or frivolous, it's increasingly common Truth in Television now that cell phones are near ubiquitous since it's a quick and easy way to find where your friend or family is. A small while back a short distance call might also have been made to locate your lost cell, though nowadays it's less common as iOS and Android both provide ways for you to make your phone ring without an actual phone call (via Apple's and Google's Find My iPhone/Device, respectively).

This can also happen in office settings, especially of the "cubicle farm" variety. You and a co-worker in a nearby office are on a three-way conference call with someone else farther away, resulting in you and the co-worker hearing each other "in stereo".

For the non-comedic, creepy variant, see The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House and I Can See You.


    open/close all folders 

  • A Consumer Cellular ad played with this trope with the McCann Twins.
  • In an advertisement for Dell computers, a mother is in a Skype conversation with her college-age daughter. The mother is carrying her Dell laptop around to show the daughter the house decorated for Christmas. Upon opening the front door, she finds the daughter is standing outside with her own Dell laptop, unexpectedly having arrived at home for Christmas.
  • A 2016 Eggo ad has a mother calling her daughter from across the kitchen table to make sure she doesn't take the waffle that's just popped up out of the toaster. Neither of them get it, nor do the father and son (who are texting each other across the same table), as the younger daughter (the only one not on a phone) walks by and grabs the waffle while everyone else is distracted with their phones.
  • A Portuguese ad for the M40 phone service had several characters having short-distance conversations with each other, simply because the service gives free calls. The one character speaking English is the only one confused as to why everybody's speaking on the phone.
  • A commercial exists where a woman is talking to her daughter on the phone about the daughter's new house, and when she steps outside, still on the phone, is happily surprised to be greeted by a cheery a "Hi, neighbor" - from the daughter, whose new house is right next to the mother's own.
  • A PSA for getting children active has a young boy playing on the computer while his elderly grandmother does the chores. She hears the phone ringing and goes to pick it up. It's her grandson, asking for a soda from his cell phone.
  • A 2021 ad for Facebook VR headsets shows two guys connecting virtually, one British and one American. The punchline is that they actually live next door to each other and don't know this, both complaining about the noise their neighbour is making when they're trying to hang with their VR friend.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the first case of the Ace Attorney manga, the victim received a call from the killer, supposedly to distract him while the killer stabbed him. The killer, Belle Windsor, actually reveals that she called the victim because she wanted to let him know who stabbed him.
  • One scene of Ayakashi Triangle has Suzu and Shirogane seemingly alone in Suzu's room when she gets a text message. We then see Matsuri was hiding in the same room under an Invisibility Cloak. He sent the text to communicate while making Suzu appear unguarded to bait out someone trying to attack her.
  • In an episode of Death Note, Light attempts to call Misa's cell phone. Unbeknownst to him, L, who is just a few feet away, had picked her pocket and stolen it. They hold a short conversation before a plot twist quickly throws the show back into serious mode.
  • In an episode of El Cazador de la Bruja, a woman in the accounting department calls an executive in the company on her cell phone while standing outside his office. This was done to prove that the excuses he was using to brush her off were bullshit (at the time of the call, he claimed he was busy in a meeting — in his otherwise unoccupied office) so that she could corner him and get an explanation for irregularities in his department's accounts.
  • In If I Could Reach You, Kaoru calls her husband Reiichi, under the assumption that he's away on a business trip. It is soon revealed that he's in the same area, and is with her best friend Risako.

    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy: Ying first appears by making a phone call to Tok Aba's Cocoa Shop, but it's BoBoiBoy who answers the phone and takes her order. She orders one special hot chocolate - and to have it here. BoBoiBoy turns around to see Ying on his left. When he asks why she didn't simply order at the stall, she replies that she is shy.

    Comic Books 
  • In a Gaston Lagaffe strip, Fantasio takes what he thinks is a call from the managers of the company in the next building. In fact the phone is out of order, and he doesn't realize they're actually talking to him through a gaping hole in the wall.
  • In Gotham Academy Pom calls Colton to tell him to get over to where the rest of the Pizza Club is gathered only for him to respond from right behind her.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: Early in the "threeboot" version, two of the adults discuss the young rebels over teleconference—and are then revealed to be sitting back to back. It's meant to symbolize how isolated from each other the human society has become.

    Comic Strips 
  • This is a recurring gag in Zits, with the the teenagers often texting someone in the same room. A variation involved Jeremy IMing his mother from his room to find out what is for dinner.
  • One FoxTrot strip has Paige and Nicole texting next to each-other. Paige explains to Peter that it's because they can type faster than they can talk.
    • Another strip showed Peter repeatedly calling his mother in the kitchen, asking about what they're having for dinner, among other questions. In the last panel it's revealed that he's in the living room, calling through his cellphone while playing a video game with Jason.
  • In one Retail strip a customer has the idea to call the store and complain to the manager about the long lines to get said manager to come out and check. She didn't anticipate that she was already in line at the manager's checkstand.
    Marla: Ma'am, can you see the person at the front of the line?
    Customer: What does that have to do with...
    Marla, glaring at the customer: He'd like me to get off the phone, now..

    Films — Animation 
  • Sing: Eddie is going to see his grandmother when Buster calls him on his cell phone. At first it's presented as a Split-Screen Phone Call, but then Buster compliments Eddie on his shirt, and at that moment the split screen disappears, revealing that Buster is already at the grandmother's front gate.
  • WALL•E: Two of the denizens of the Axiom are videoconferencing in their hoverchairs... Right next to each other. It serves to emphasize how everyone on the ship is dependent on their gadgets to the point of being unaware of what's going on around them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Local Hero. Mac talks over the phone to one of his co-workers - who is on the other side of a glass partition. This was used to subtly emphasize that Mac was a loner with no real human contact.
  • In Airplane II: The Sequel, Buck Murdock is shown on a viewscreen, talking to one of his subordinates. Then a door slides open, revealing that the viewscreen was a window in the door and Murdock was standing on the other side.
    • A similar joke happened in the first movie in the dispatch office where two of the staffers there converse about Ted Striker being a threat to himself and everything else in the air— "Yes, birds too."
  • In Carefree (1938), Connors pretends to be a newspaper reporter calling from Honolulu in order to distract Stephen so Tony can talk to Amanda. Stephen takes the call at the front desk of the country club, while Connors is in the phone booth in the same lobby.
  • Clueless did this, to show how bloody spoiled the main characters are that they talk on cell instead of walking down the hallway (of course, it was made before cell phones became ubiquitous). They only hang up when they collide.
  • In Drake & Josh Go Hollywood, after the boys realize they had put their sister on the wrong plane, they attempt to call her. It's just now that they discover that they had forgotten to give her her cell phone, as as soon as Drake finishes dialing the number, the phone begins ringing in Josh's pocket, who is standing right next to Drake, and proceeds to answer the phone. Drake yells at Josh over the phone and then rudely hangs up.
  • A scene in Kangaroo Jack features the protagonists heading to the telephone at the back of a bar so they can call the number for a pilot they need to hire. Turns out the pilot is the drunk that had just passed out nearby, and to drive the point home, while one protagonist stands idle at the phone, the other one answers the drunk's phone and they begin to discuss their predicament.
  • My Favorite Wife: Trying to put off telling his new wife Bianca the bad news that his Legally Dead first wife Ellen has turned up, Nick calls her from a phone booth in the lobby and pretends to be at an airport on his way to an emergency business appointment. Unfortunately, he bumps into Bianca as he leaves the phone booth.
  • In On The Avenue (1937), a Broadway show lampooning the lead has her and her father telephoning each other from opposite ends of an enormous table.
  • In Shadow Mask, Tien-ming tries calling his friend, Jacky, though the phone, while Jacky is simultaneously hiding in a set of curtains right behind him.
    Tien-ming (on phone): "I’ve been waiting for you for hours, where are you?"
    Jacky (also on phone): "I can tell you right now, but then it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I do so..."
    Tien-ming (still on phone): "Then come out!"
    (Cue Jacky stepping out from a set of curtains behind Tien-ming with a phone in his hand)
  • In Spaceballs, this trope is used and extended. President Scroob is videoconferencing with a female officer, and she suggests that he beam over. They beam him over with a transporter failure, beam him back to repair the error, then he says he's had enough and he'll just walk. He then walks into the next room where they are waiting for him.
    "I'm having trouble with the radar, sir."
  • Tenet: When Sator's goons arrive to rough up the Protagonist for speaking to his wife Kat, he slips his phone number into her pocket. After seeing the Protagonist take down all the goons, she dials the number the next day after seeing off her son at school, only to hear the phone ring; she turns to see the Protagonist walking up behind her.
  • In Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, Burt Gummer and the tour-guide have an angry conversation while Burt is driving. When Burt arrives and parks, he is perhaps ten feet from the tour-guide, yet they continue talking on the phone. At least until Burt hangs up and delivers to the guide's face that classic line "Is your head up your ass for the warmth?".
  • In WarGames, Dr. McKittrick and General Beringer are talking to each other on the phone. McKittrick puts down the phone and walks over to talk to Beringer directly — they were both in the War Room, about 20 yards apart.
  • Parodied in Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. Two guys page each other, and then have a phone conversation even though they're standing next to each other.
  • Used in a non-comic context in North By Northwest where Eve and Leonard discuss plans in two adjoining phone booths.
  • Help!: Mad Scientist Foot and his flunky Algernon are rigging up an exploding curling stone; Algernon describes his progress on a headset to Foot, who is standing right beside him.
  • Richie Rich: While eating dinner, Richie's mother calls Richie (sitting on the other side of the long dining table) over the phone if he wants to dine with the parents. It makes sense to maintain indoor voice.
  • In Keep 'em Flying, Abbott and Costello get into a heated argument over phones only a short distance apart and fail to realize the people they're yelling at are each other.
  • Death Proof. Lee phones her friend after she steps inside the service station to get a copy of Adelle magazine featuring Lee. "Miss me?"
  • Home Alone: Kevin's mother calls the police and is repeatedly shunted back and forth between two officers, who are revealed to be at adjoining desks.
  • Office Space: Milton is whining to Peter over the phone. We're then shown that he's in the next cubicle.
  • In a minor gag from Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter's EDITH glasses reveal that Ned and Betty are texting "Miss you" and "Miss you more" to each other. Ned and Betty are sitting beside each other at the time.
  • Big Driver opens with Tess making a lengthy phone call to her best friend Patsy as she gets ready to go give a speech. Only at the end of the conversation as Tess is outside and unlocking her car do we learn that Patsy lives next door, as she comes up and hands Tess a chapstick (Tess having complained earlier in the conversation that she couldn't find one).
  • The psycho teens in Preservation only communicate with each other via text, even when they are sitting right next to one another.
  • Wrong is Right. An arms dealer uses a public phone in a hotel lobby to call the hotel's reception desk just a few meters away, where the man he's planning to meet is called to the phone to receive instructions for their rendezvous.
  • The Bourne Supremacy: In Berlin, Jason Bourne follows CIA director Pamela Landy to her hotel. Then, while standing in the hotel lobby, he uses his phone to call for Landy, sneaking it into his pocket before walking to the desk and asking to see Landy. When the clerk calls her room, he tells Bourne her phone's busy, but Bourne leaves, as all he needed was Landy's room number.
  • In The Hunter (1980), Bounty Hunter Papa Thorson gets a threatening phone call. After he hangs up, the caller is shown behind him using a public phone.

  • Discworld: A Clock Punk variant; following the rise of the semaphore network, Vimes laments the sight of people signalling each other from across a room. In The Fifth Elephant Colon demonstrates the new technology by sending a message to the main Watch tower, which is eventually noticed by two officers on the other side of the street, who amble over to see what he wants.
    Colon: See? In the old days I'd have had to blow my whistle!
  • In the Relativity story "Lost and Found", Michael is talking to Aaron Brooks, the police captain. Aaron mentions that he has to leave because a serious crime has been committed, and that they've put out a call to the superhero, Black Torrent. At that moment, Michael's phone starts ringing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In season three of Angel, ridiculously adorable lovebirds Fred and Gunn often talk to each other on cellphones, only hanging up when they're in the same room. The idea being that they were too enamored to wait five minutes, of course.
  • Arrow
    • In the first couple of seasons Detective Lance and his daughter Laurel have a mobile Bat Phone which they can use to contact the Arrow, but this sometimes causes problems when one of them calls when Oliver Queen is standing right next to them, and he has to vanish around the corner before answering the call.
    • In "Brotherhood", Thea is hanging up every time her father, supervillain Malcolm Merlyn, tries to contact her, leading to this trope when he decides to visit in person, because on that occasion she had actually decided to answer the phone.
  • Arrested Development has a variation in season three when George Sr. is on house arrest. To participate in family meetings, he relies on Larry Middleman, a surrogate who communicates with him over a radio headset and speaks for him. In one episode, they hold a meeting in the penthouse and Michael asks why they're using Larry there since George is just in the next room.
  • The Boys (2019). In "What I Know", Alastair Adana, the leader of the Church of the Collective is sitting in his study at home chatting on the phone to Congresswoman Victoria Neuman who is walking down the street. Suddenly his head explodes, and the up-till-now unrevealed Supe psychic assassin is shown to be standing just outside the fence of Alastair's house. It's Neuman.
  • In one episode of Corner Gas Oscar steals the new wireless phone from Corner Gas and uses it as a cell phone. When he gets home, Emma asks "What is that?" Oscar calls Emma on the phone to explain, despite her being one foot away from him.
  • A variation in Dead Like Me, when George's boss insists that they use email to communicate even though they're sitting at opposite desks so close to each other they probably couldn't both push their chairs back at the same time. And insists it be used for everything. She quits after about two minutes of this.
  • Doctor Who. In "Resolution", an archaeologist is speaking to Yaz on his mobile phone only to have the TARDIS materialise right in front of him, and Yaz to get out. Turns out the TARDIS homed in on his mobile's signal.
  • In the pilot of Firefly, Jayne is testing the Comm Link between himself and Mal, who tells him that his voice is audible because he's standing next to him.
  • Frasier:
    • In one episode, Frasier and his father were trying to get hold of Niles, because Niles had left his phone at Frasier's place. Martin tried calling Niles from the kitchen, and Frasier picked up the phone, then they had a conversation without even realizing who they were talking to.
    • In another episode. Niles walks in while engaging in a No, You Hang Up First with his girlfriend. Frasier gets sick of this, picks up the landline and calls Niles' cell to interrupt. Cue several seconds of the brothers snarking at each other over the phone while in the same room before Frasier sees sense and hangs up.
  • Played with in an episode of Mathnet: Kate Monday greets her partner George Frankly in person, but he doesn't respond; she uses her desk phone to call him, and he answers. She greets him again, he looks from the phone to her, she says "It's better not to ask," and they both hang up and continue the conversation normally.
  • Zack from Saved by the Bell has used this a couple times in the series:
    • He once called Mr. Carossi about a car that he wants to purchase - and they both happened to be in the same room. Initially, the two don't realize that they're talking to each other — which led to a variant of Right in Front of Me.
    • On a more serious note, he once tried to talk with his own father, who is a high level executive that makes a lot of money but is subsequently absent a lot from Zack's life. His dad is clearly distracted and answers a call from his cell phone, which turns out to be Zack in the same room using his own cell phone to call him.
      "Dad, is this the only way I can talk to you?"
  • In Glee there is a minor example, it was a group call, but started with Tina and Mercedes... and they are walking side by side in a corridor.
  • The final episode of Will & Grace pulls this one. One scene has Karen talking with Jack over the phone while both are taking a bath. It's soon revealed they're in the same tub.
  • One episode of Two and a Half Men has Charlie call Rose while the former is a passenger in a car. After a brief conversation, Charlie asks if he can come by to pick her up. We hear a car horn and Rose pulls up alongside him.
  • A variation with walkie-talkies on Night Court: After newly diabetic Roz takes too much insulin, she goes off and gets lost. Bull finds some walkie-talkies to help with a search. At one point, Harry receives a call from Bull, but it's too quiet. He asks Bull to speak up and we see that they're in the same crowded room.
&&* After being eliminated from The Biggest Loser, one contestant surprised his wife this way.
  • In one episode of Only Fools and Horses Rodney, applying for a job he's seen advertised in the paper, unknowingly calls Del's mobile (because Del advertised for someone to do Rodney's job when Rodney wanted out). Del, in the kitchen, puts on a silly voice and strings him along for a bit.
  • Home Improvement: Tim and Jill are on the same line talking to Al, but after Al hangs up they continue talking over the phones. They continue oblivious until Randy enters the scene and gives a WTF? look that Tim notices.
  • In on episode of Kenan & Kel Kenan gets out of listening to Kel's rambling monologue by calling Kel on his cell phone.
  • Benson is at home in one episode when he gets a call from the Governor. Benson gives him permission to come over for a visit. What he doesn't know is that the Governor is actually calling from his limo in the driveway. The Governor shows up at his door within a minute and Benson asks him "What did you do? Beam over?
  • Played with on Monk:
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room", Stottlemeyer and Disher have shown up at Sharona's house to arrest her for abducting the chimpanzee Darwin from an animal shelter. This exchange happens as Randy searches the house:
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Sharona, we know that you took him. Now either you tell us where he is or I'm going to have to take you in. That is the law.
      [Randy walks out of the living room]
      Lt. Randall Disher: [speaking into walkie-talkie] Living room secure. Heading to the kitchen.
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Randy, you don't have to use the walkie-talkie. I'm ten feet away!
      Lt. Randall Disher: [picks up walkie-talkie as if to speak into it] Roger that.
      [puts down the walkie-talkie and continues searching]
    • In "Mr. Monk, Private Eye", Monk and Natalie have set up in a new office downtown, as part of Natalie's idea to have Monk go into the private sector. But a long time goes by without any clients showing up. Monk quickly gets bored and restless waiting for someone to come into the office. Natalie is seen sleeping with her head down on her desk when her desk phone suddenly rings, jolting her awake:
      Natalie Teeger: Adrian Monk Investigations. What is the nature of your problem?
      Adrian Monk: I'm being kept in a room against my will.
      Natalie Teeger: You were kidnapped? Uh, do you know who did it?
      Adrian Monk: Yes. It's my personal assistant. Her name is Natalie... Teeger.
      [as he's talking, the camera pans around Natalie to reveal Monk sitting at his desk talking on his own phone]
    • In "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert", Stottlemeyer is searching the concert grounds looking for his truant son Jared...then catches Randy playing sick. He immediately pulls out his cell phone and dials a number. In the foreground, Randy's cell phone rings:
      Lt. Randall Disher: [in low voice] Hello?
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Hey, Randy! How're you doing, buddy? I-I was worried about you.
      [the whole time they are talking, Stottlemeyer slowly creeps up on Randy from behind]
      Lt. Randall Disher: Captain?
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Yep?
      Lt. Randall Disher: [coughs] What time is it? [beat]
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Oh, I'm sorry! Did I wake you up? [beat] Hey, what's that music I hear?
      Lt. Randall Disher: Oh, [coughs] it's my stereo. It's broken! I can't turn it down!
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: It's loud!
      Lt. Randall Disher: Listen, Captain, thanks for calling!
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Sure....
      Lt. Randall Disher: I'm going to get up now. I think I should make myself some soup.
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Oh, soup? That’s good. Yeah, fluids are good. Drink plenty of fluids.
      Lt. Randall Disher: Fluids. Okay, I will. Thanks for calling, Captain!
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Take care.
      [Randy hangs up and turns to a woman next to him]
      Lt. Randall Disher: [laughs] My boss! [someone puts a hand on his shoulder; Randy spins around and finds Stottlemeyer glaring at him] Whoa. Captain.
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Lieutenant.
      Lt. Randall Disher: Did you, uh, did you call in sick, too?
      Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: [smiles, mildly amused] No, Randy. I'm looking for Jared.
      Lt. Randall Disher: Well, here's what happened with me: I was on my way to a doctor, and uh... I got nothing. Let's go find Jared. [takes one last sip of his beer before setting it down and walking away with Stottlemeyer]
  • A variation is used on an episode of Royal Pains. Evan and Divya are both using laptops on the patio and Evan sends her an email. When she points out he could just get up and talk to her, he says he needs her response for official records.
  • Supernatural. The ability of angels and demons to engage in Offscreen Teleportation leads to this:
    • In "My Bloody Valentine", Dean gets on the phone to call in the angel Castiel.
      Dean: Yeah, [I'm in] room 31C, basement level, St. James Medical Centre— [sees Castiel right in front of him]
      Castiel: I'm there now.
      Dean: Yeah, I get that.
      Castiel: I'm gonna hang up... now.
    • In "Goodbye Stranger", a demon calls Crowley to inform him that all his fellow demons have been killed, the prisoner they were guarding has been freed, and the MacGuffin they were seeking wasn't where it was supposed to be. Crowley appears behind him holding a mobile phone, finishes the conversation and promptly kills him.
  • Desperate Housewives has one when Lynette follows Tom to where she believes he is having an affair. This leads to an amusing moment when a car alarm is accidentally set off while the two are on the phone, and Tom notes that he can hear it both where he is and from the phone.
  • NCIS:
    Gibbs: Call me when you find something, Abbs. [answers phone] Yeah, Gibbs.
    Abby: Found something!
  • NCIS: Los Angeles: After an incident in which Deeks is targeted and shot by an enemy, Sam decides Deeks needs to improve his personal security. To prove his point, he decides to stakeout Deeks, but arrives late to work after Deeks didn't show. Since Deeks has not yet arrived at OPS, Kensi calls him...only for his phone to ring inside Sam's bag. Deeks saunters into the room and takes the phone from Sam's hand.
    Deeks: That'd be for me. Marty Deeks.
    Kensi: Hey, it's Kensi!
    Deeks: Hey!
    Kensi: How did your phone get in Sam's bag?
    Deeks: I must have slipped it in there while he was waiting in line for coffee. Medium triple, low fat, hold the phone.
  • In one episode of Soap Burt received a call on his office phone, only to realize that it was from his stepson and business partner Danny, who was sitting at the next desk. After Danny hung up, Burt called him back just so he could slam down the receiver.
  • In the pilot episode of The Mentalist, an exasperated Lisbon calls Jane to tell him that he may be right about a case and can come back and continue to investigate with the team. Immediately after she hangs up, Jane walks into the room.
  • Done in Elementary by Watson, whom Holmes is avoiding after she started to question him about Irene Adler. He's at the precinct and gets the call. He pretends that his reception is bad, causing Watson to tell him (walking up behind him) that her reception is just fine.
  • Sherlock is fond of these, just to show off and make an impression.
    • He calls the cabbie in the unaired pilot from about three feet away.
    • In "The Blind Banker", Sherlock calls Eddie Van Coon's mistress as he's walking up to her desk.
    • In "The Six Thatchers ", Welsborough Jr. calls his father pretending to be in Tibet while hiding in the car outside the house for a surprise prank, which goes tragically awry.
  • In the Coupling episode "Her Best Friend's Bottom", Steve (in his girlfriend's house) phones his girlfriend's mobile and the call diverts to the landline only a few feet away. Then Sally, who's visiting, comes out of the shower to answer the phone, wearing only a towel. Then she drops the towel. And wonders why the man on the other end of the phone is speechless. Then she drops the phone and bends over to pick it up. And wonders why she can still hear Steve after accidentally cutting him off.
    Sally: You're standing right behind me, aren't you?
    Steve: I'm more than usually certain of that.
  • Cheers had numerous examples of this, mostly between the bar's main phone line and the pay phone in the hallway. One example is when Sam has Woody call and so he can take off work on the pretense of an emergency. Rebecca notices his deception when Woody stays on the line and she goes to make a phone call.
  • A variation from ER had a badly mangled patient (he'd fallen in front of an el train) brought into the emergency room. With all hands on deck, they call a new doctor who had recently had an argument with Benton. Shortly afterward, the patient's beeper goes off. When they check the beeper, they realize that the patient is the new doctor in question.
  • Fawlty Towers: In "The Builders", Polly attempts to cover for Basil hiring the builder O'Reilly by pretending to call from Stubbs's firm. She does this from the hotel drawing room, pinching her nose to disguise her voice. Sybil is not fooled, goes to find her, and speaks to Basil through the phone.
    Polly: (holding her nose) So you see we couldn't possibly manage it for at least three weeks, but if you want it done straight away, I suggest you try someone like... what's his name...
    Sybil: (entering the room) O'Reilly?
    Basil: (through the phone) Bravo Polly, well done, girl. But where are you speaking from?
    Sybil: (taking the phone) She's in here with me, Basil.
  • Similarly, an episode of Nash Bridges had the detectives working two major cases, one of which was a prostitution ring with a dozen prostitutes in custody. Evan decides to call his date and tell her he's going to be late. Meanwhile, Harvey takes care of the prostitutes' belongings when one of their beepers goes off. He checks it to discover it's from Evan, revealing that his date is one of the prostitutes.
  • Combined with Road Trip Across the Street in a sketch on You're Skitting Me. A schoolgirl calls her mother and begs to be picked up from school. When her mother finally relents, its revealed that their house is literally across the street from the school.
  • On one episode of The Office (US), the Dunder-Mifflin staff is evacuated from the building due to a fire. Outside, Michael realizes that his cell phone is still in his office. Dwight goes back for it, despite protests. Michael decides to make it easier for Dwight to find his phone and calls it using someone else's phone. It goes off in his pocket.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Latent Image" Ensign Jetal is planning to celebrate her birthday. She walks into the messhall with Neelix, only to find the lights out.
    Jetal: Neelix, the power's down. [activates commbadge] Jetal to Torres.
    Torres: [from the darkness] Errrr... go ahead, Ensign. Or should I say... [lights come on to reveal a crowded messhall]
    Everyone: SURPRISE!
  • In one episode of The Addams Family, Fester is sitting at a desk with two phones. He picks up one and manages to call the other phone... which he then answers, and proceeds to hold two conversations at once. Well, one conversion, with himself, but he was convinced he was talking to two other people.
  • One episode of The Big Bang Theory had Howard and Raj run into a problem with Raj's toy helicopter. At Bernadette's urging, Howard reluctantly calls tech support, muttering about possibly getting some foreigner with an accent. Just after he places the call, Raj's cell phone goes off. Subverted when it turns out to be Raj's father calling.
  • The Affair: After he becomes estranged from his family Cole gets a phone call from his brother Scott, but doesn't answer it. Scott then says hi from behind him, having used it to test him.
  • In one episode of Full House, DJ and Kimmy have one of these in DJ's room. Danny isn't thrilled with the affect it has on his phone bill.
  • In Seinfeld, Jerry doesn't like it when Kramer calls him right when he's coming next door.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil (2015): Played for terrifying effect. After Anatoly Ranskahov crashes Wilson Fisk's dinner date with Vanessa to inform Fisk that he accepts Fisk's offer of support, James Wesley loads him into a car and the car drives to an empty lot by the eastern end of the Queensboro Bridge. After a few minutes in which Wesley gives some ominous words to Anatoly, his phone receives a call from Fisk.
      James Wesley: Sir? [beat] Yes, passenger's side. [hangs up]
      Anatoly Ranskahov: Was that him?
      Anatoly Ranskahov: Oh that's good.
      [The door on Anatoly's side abruptly opens and an enraged Fisk rips Anatoly from the car, pounds him senseless, then decapitates him with the door]
    • Jessica Jones (2015): In "AKA 99 Friends", Jessica is following Audrey Eastman's husband Carlo. Peeking through the doors of their apartment, Jessica can see Carlo and a sheet for disposing of a body on the floor. Then Jessica gets a phone call from Audrey, asking if she's followed him. Jessica hangs up, ignoring Audrey's remarks, and then hears Audrey's voice on the other side of the door, causing her to realize that she's been lured into a trap.
      Audrey Eastman: [still on the phone] Jessica? Are you there? Jessica? Can you hear me? Where—where is Carlo? [Jessica forces the doors open]
      Jessica Jones: He's three feet to your right, asshole!
    • Luke Cage (2016): Diamondback does one to Mariah in "Soliloquy of Chaos".
      Mariah Dillard:: [on speaker] What do you want?
      Willis "Diamondback" Stryker: That's no way to speak to a business partner.
      Mariah Dillard: After what you did to my club, do you really think I'm gonna shuck and jive with you?
      Willis "Diamondback" Stryker: You might want to check your attitude. If you're not any use to me, then you're not any use to anyone. Shades would tell you, if he was still alive.
      Mariah Dillard: What the hell are you talking about?
      Willis "Diamondback" Stryker: I had to let him go. So now, I'm giving you the chance to tell me where you stand. I've taken Shades and Damon Boone off the table so you can grow. I'd hate for us to part, too.
      Mariah Dillard: I wasn't particularly fond of Shades. And the death of Damon Boone, although unnecessary, was appreciated. [stands up] But you need to know this: I'm out of the political game. I'm focusing on Harlem's Paradise; using it for, uh, a power base for community relations.
      Willis "Diamondback" Stryker: [enters the room from behind Mariah, pocketing his own phone] That's a smart move. But you've made some dumb ones, also. You should never talk about murder on an open line.
  • Better Call Saul: In season 5 episode 7, Jimmy gets a phone call from Mike as he's about to blend a smoothie.
    Jimmy: Saul Goodman, Speedy Justice for You.
    Mike: I need a word.
    Jimmy: Oh. A word. Yeah, um... Yeah, I have a word for you. Uh, "tunnel". (cranks the food processor) Which is where I am right now. (places phone on top of processor; loudly) Sorry, I can't hear you! Maybe try again later?
    (there's a knock at the door)
    Jimmy: Coming! (walks over to the door while making loud static noises; imitates Mike) "Whatever it is, it's not for me, and it shouldn't be for you." (makes last bit of "static"; and hangs up before approaching the door] Hey! Forget your key- (opens the door to Mike) Oh.
  • The InBESTigators: In "The Case of the Sleepover Secret", Pixie texts the details about her parents getting a divorce to Ava, despite them sitting at the same table. This thoroughly confuses Kyle, but Ava claims it is because she was too upset to actually discuss it.
  • Resident Alien: Heartwarmingly used by married couple Ben and Kate to rekindle their rocky romance. Back when they were dating, they would talk on the phone for hours on end about mundane topics. After reminiscing about those days, Ben calls Kate from the living room when she goes into the kitchen. They end up staying in their specific rooms and chatting for three hours in the way that they used to.
  • CSI: NY: Mac uses this technique to invoke an I Can See You moment with the perp from the Season 5 premiere. The two are having one of many cell phone conversations, and the guy thinks he's getting away by taking a train to Canada. But... Mac is sneaking up behind him at the station blending in with all the other "passengers and crew" who are actually undercover officers. Immediately before uttering his last sentence, Mac puts his phone away and speaks directly into the guy's ear. Busted!

  • Dutch cabarettista Javier Guzman invokes this trope when describing the typical behaviour of a city guard. One city guard unsuccessfully tries to communicate with his co-worker through portophone. When the co-worker doesn't respond, the first guard shakes him by the shoulder to get his attention. Turns out he had to press the little button for the portophone to work.
  • Justified in RENT. Collins called from a payphone to ask Roger and Mark to throw him the keys so he could come up and talk to them.
  • In Mary Mary, Bob (in the living room) calls Mary (in the bedroom). She comes out to talk to him carrying the phone, then starts to go back into the bedroom to talk via phone.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto IV makes use of this trope when the player has to find and kill a blackmailer given only a fairly specific area (about fifty yards by fifty yards) and a cell phone number. Realistically, there is an intentional delay between Niko or the blackmailer saying something and the sound of their voice coming from your cell phone.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Using Saria's Song (which allowed you to talk to her for a reminder of your next objective) while in the same area as her gets Link a semi-peeved comment from her that you could just talk face-to-face.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty did this a lot when characters next to each other engaged in lengthy dialogue: they start talking to each other in person, and then after a minute or so switch over to the codec, which was turned from a regular radio with the receiver happening to be implanted in the user's head to "nanocommunication" that's a step away from telepathy. In-universe it's used several times specifically to prevent other people from listening in on the conversation, e.g. so that Raiden doesn't blow his cover while talking to one of the hostages in the Shell 1 core or so Olga can deliver a ton of exposition without giving away that she's The Mole among the enemy; in reality, these codec calls to someone standing five feet away were likely to avoid the hassle of having to animate proper cutscenes, since the codec screen is just two talking heads and a bit in the middle that shows the frequency, which works for contacting people when you want to but doesn't make for interesting cutscenes even before they start to reach several minutes in length.
  • In NEO: The World Ends with You, Kaie Ono exclusively uses the RNS text messaging system to communicate with others, even when they're face-to-face.
  • Persona 5:
    • There's a variant, in that there's a short-distance text conversation. When the Phantom Thieves realize that the true identity of Alibaba, the hacker they are trying to recruit, is Hikkikomori Futaba Sakura, they go to the Sakura home and knock on Futaba's door. Futaba refuses to answer unless addressed as Alibaba, and only communicates via texts.
    • During Sojiro's Confidant, Sojiro gets a visit from a hostile man he doesn't want to deal with, and claims he's expecting a call. You can surreptitiously dial Sojiro's number to make it seem as though he's just gotten the call and convince the man to go away.
  • In Pokémon Gold and Silver and their remakes, you can use your phone to call other trainers. Do this while in the same area as them and depending on the game, the game itself will just tell you to go talk to them in person (original Gold & Silver) or they will question why you're calling them from so close (Crystal and the remakes).
  • Undertale:
    • You can call certain characters while you're right in front of them. Doing so will usually have them comment on it, and show their overworld sprites animating as they talk.
    • During the Dénouement of the good ending, Toriel, having only recently discovered the wonders of text messaging, texts a joke to Sans. He's standing less than ten feet away at the time.
  • You can invoke this in SPY Fox by calling Monkey Penny on the communicator while inside the portable base. Then she gets annoyed at you and tells you to get back to work.

    Web Animation 
  • Minilife TV: In "Dummy Demolition", Chris calls Ian to tell him to come over so he can tell him about his idea. It's then revealed that Chris and Ian live in the same building exactly one room apart.
  • In an episode of The Strangerhood, where Sam and Wade are talking to each other on the phone, but then Sam points out they live in the same house, at which it's revealed that they were just standing on opposite sides of a wall.
  • In the Teen Girl Squad Valentine's Day Episode, Cheerleader sends text messages to the class president, who happens to be standing right next to her. The Wireless Wizard scolds the two of them for "texting from a few feet away", then sends the USB Dongle Goblin to kill them.
  • Team Fabulous 2: One particularly notable scene involves this gag, when a BLU Soldier uses a boot to call his Engineer teammate on a banana.

  • MegaTokyo:
    • Largo, instead of talking, builds a computer from spare parts just to have an instant message conversation with Piro.
    • Largo has a more conventional one with Erika a few strips later.
  • The Sluggy Freelance "Quatrix" parody, where people are constantly contacting each other one the phone until it's revealed they're actually standing next to each other.
  • This Wapsi Square strip involves Brandi giggling about having sent Bud an e-mail while they were sitting next to each other.
  • In Everyday Heroes, Mr. Mighty is trying to call one of his teammates. While he's trying to figure out his new smartphone (not being tech-savvy), his teenage daughter sends a text to the Super Speed teammate, with the result that by the time Mr. Mighty places the call, his teammate is already there.

    Web Original 
  • Talies of The Motley Two, in a fit of silliness, begins chatting with Kaogin from two feet away while both are riding an elevator. Kaogin responds by poking him in the ribs intensely.
  • Used to catch out tech support in this Not Always Working story. The tech guy insisted he was getting a valid pingback from the customer's cable decoder and everything was working fine... and then the customer put the cable office's receptionist on the phone, showing that both he and the decoder were sitting in the lobby.
  • The Expert receives a phone call from his manager who turns out to be sitting right across from his desk.

    Western Animation 
  • Cartoon Network Shorties: In "Sound Hound", during his attempt at silencing the city, Huckleberry Hound comes across a man and a woman talking to each other over the phone, and seemingly between the vertical cut, he taps the two on the shoulder. The camera then zooms out to show that they were talking right next to each other, and when they spot each other, the two tiptoe away.
  • In the third-to-last episode of the fourth season of Code Lyoko, Aelita gets a phone call from Jérémie, only to find out a few seconds later that he's right behind her.
  • Variation in Dexter's Laboratory: Dexter calls his arch-rival Mandark to get his help in destroying a bunch of meteors headed towards the Earth. Mandark immediately announces he will solve the crisis himself to get all the glory and leaves... but doesn't hang up, leaving Dexter to stupidly keep saying "Mandark? Hello?" while Mandark takes off in his robot, gets the robot wrecked, stumbles over to Dexter's lab and stands behind him... while he's still on the phone.
    Dexter: [to the phone] Hello? I'm talking to you!
    Mandark: Alright, Dexter. We must work together in the interest of science!
    Dexter: [to the phone] Great! Come on over!
    [Dexter turns around to find Mandark standing in front of him]
    Dexter: That was fast.
  • In the Dilbert show, Dilbert called Customer Service, and once he got past the computerized options, he discovered that it was the guy in the next cubicle over, who was performing this job for dozens of companies owned by the self-aware computer Compucomp.
  • Doug has an episode in which Doug and Skeeter come up with an idea to prank call Judy into quitting the performance at the latter two's school while posing as J.B. Hunkamocka. Of course, they did it in Doug's house, where Judy is still around, which causes Judy to catch on to the two's prank call.
  • The Futurama pilot had Leela call two police officers who were standing a few feet behind her for back-up using her fancy ultra-futuristic wrist communicator. "We'll be there in fifteen minutes!"
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes does this twice - both in episodes spoofing cellphone dependency.
    • At the end of Season 1's "Cellphone-itis", we have Jimmy, Beezy, and Heloise chatting to each other on their phones from a gazebo, a pool, and a meadow respectively. It then pans out to reveal all three locations are actually part of the same park, and the three friends are within viewing distance of each other.
    • Season 2's "Generation Text" opens with Jimmy and Beezy texting and sending funny pictures to each other. When we pan out, they're standing right next to each other.
  • Johnny Bravo: In "Fugitive Johnny", Johnny calls the police officer who is after him in order to make her an offer. She promptly tells her men to trace the call; they discover he's somewhere in the police depot. The camera pans out, and it turns out Johnny is in the same room as them. Sitting at the same table.
  • On Kim Possible, a fourth season episode finds Dr. Drakken running a successful legitimate start-up company as a front with his business manager, Hank Perkins. Shego walks in on Hank and Drakken to try and get Doc refocused on the secret plan, but they're wearing headsets for a conference call. After a minute Shego realizes that Hank and Drakken are the only ones on said call. Next scene? Shego is wearing it too. While sitting in the same room.
  • In an episode of Pinky and the Brain, a parody of Bill Gates has his board of directors sit down around a conference table, while holding a webcam teleconference. This was around the time that the first version of NetMeeting was brand new.
  • Inverted in Richie Rich, while Richie and his dad are showing a guest around the mansion. Guest wants to say hi to Mom, and Richie picks up a phone. Then he asks for the long-distance operator.
  • A strange example in Rollbots when Spin calls Zilla and Bug in a Split Screen, then the Split Screen vanishes, revealing that the two appeared right behind him.
  • A gag in one episode of Sheep in the Big City when talking about "technology in the Big City" has this exchange:
    Guy 1: [shouting into cell phone] Jerry? Jerry, can you hear me!?
    [pan out to reveal that he's standing back-to-back with another guy with a cell phone]
    Jerry: [shouting into phone] Barely! There's some guy next to me screaming his head off!
  • An early episode of SpongeBob SquarePants does this in a Split Screen call between SpongeBob and Patrick.
  • Uncle and Tohru from Jackie Chan Adventures have one of these in the episode "Scouts Honor". However, Uncle originally believes he's speaking with Jackie, who really is a long way from his shop.
  • The Powerpuff Girls has Blossom and Buttercup do this in an Imagine Spot showing the girls as ditzy teenagers.
  • Adventure Time has an episode where Finn and Jake call Marceline for help. A split screen is used for the call, until Marceline is revealed to be hiding in a pile of clothes a few feet away and then sneaks up on them.
  • Appears on the South Park episode "Snuke" during a scene spoofing the Split Screen effects on 24. When the split disappears, Cartman and the agents he's been calling are standing next to each other.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In the short, "Rocket Squad", Daffy Duck as a police officer gets a call from Da Chief to come see him. The Chief is calling from across Daffy's desk.
    • Also happens in 1938's "Daffy Duck in Hollywood." Studio chief I.M. Stupendous and director Von Hamburger are talking to each other via phone, and Von Hamburger is on the other side of the chief's desk.
    • The Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Oily Hare" shows a rich Texan (with 30 gallon hat) making a phone call from his limousine to the driver, that is so long, he is connected via a switchboard operator who is sitting at a switchboard frantically redirecting his call (and others) from the middle of the limo.
    • Tortoise Beats Hare has Cecil Turtle calling his brother Chester to alert him and his other brothers that Bugs has taken off for their big race. Cecil leans over the line dividing the two callers and says "Give him the works!"
    • An earlier cartoon, "Thugs With Dirty Mugs," has the same split-screen gag. Agent 6-&-7/8 is whispering to the chief of police where he is, then the chief leans over the split and tells the agent to speak louder.
  • In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Sword of the Atom", Aquaman calls the (Ryan Choi) Atom, telling him that he'll be arriving via the phone line in a moment. Choi exasperatedly tells him that he's the one with that power, not Aquaman, and even if Aquaman did have that power it wouldn't work over a cell phone. Meanwhile, Aquaman tiptoes in from the next room and surprises Choi.
  • In the short "Day for Knight" from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Brave Tales of Real Rabbits", Buster is a knight for hire, hired by Hamton to rescue Babs from a dragon. The two are seen talking to each other by phone, then the camera zooms out, revealing that they are actually standing next to each other.
  • In the Super Mario World episode, "Party Line", Mario builds a telephone system from vines and coconuts so that the cave people can call for help in case of an emergency or accident. A split shot shows Oogtar on one half of the screen using a pay phone, and Yoshi on the other half of the screen, using another pay phone. A full screen shot then reveals that they are standing right next to each other.
    Oogtar: Bowa tunga! Yoshi hear Oogtar?
    Yoshi: Yoshi hear Oogtar too good! Who need telephone?
  • Josie and the Pussycats: The Big Bad of "All Wong In Hong Kong" is in a phone booth making a call to Melody in attempting to receive a talisman she has on her. Melody receives the call in the booth next to him.
  • Papa Smurf to Hefty and Handy in The Smurfs episode "The First Telesmurf" through the telesmurf.
    Papa Smurf: Handy, Hefty, where are you?
    Handy and Hefty: We're here, Papa Smurf.
    Papa Smurf: Where is "here?"
    Handy and Hefty: Behind you.
    Papa Smurf: [looks behind and sees them] Oh, there you are.
  • Arthur: In the season 1 episode "Poor Muffy", Muffy is forced to spend a weekend at Francine's house. One scene has her on her cell phone with Francine's dad, who is on the house line in the same room.
  • Ninjago uses this as a gag in Season 7, to play into Krux's motivation of technology being so integrated in people's lives.
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer Goes To College", Homer leaves Dean Peterson's office, and moments later, Peterson gets a call from Homer, saying "Hello, Dean, you're a stupidhead.". Peterson peers out his window and sees Homer making the call from a phone booth and asks "Homer, is that you?". When Homer sees him, he screams and flees.

    Real Life 
  • Russian journalist Vsevolod Ovchinnikov, while reminiscing about the changes in the Japanese society during the forty years he covered it, once invoked this trope, describing a horde of Japanese schoolgirls just leaving classes, in which the front rows would call the back ones to gossip and discuss their afterschool plans. This was in 2001, when mobile phones hadn't yet penetrated Russian society as deeply as they had Japanese, and while today no-one would bat an eyelash at a similar picture, back then this was still seen as a bit frivolous and extravagant.
  • According to this TheDailyWTF story, a man applied for a job and the HR secretary needed to verify his employment by calling his old boss. However, he was self-employed, so he had been his own boss. She called his cell phone and asked him to verify his employment, over the phone, while he stood in front of her.


Video Example(s):


Ying's Phone Call

Ying calls Tok Aba's Cocoa Shop to place an order, but she turns out to be right at the stall. She claims her shyness to be her reason why.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ShortDistancePhoneCall

Media sources: