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"I can't talk right now honey. I'm right in the middle of something."
Mister Hertz, Shoot 'Em Up

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 Multitask where the one taking the call uses it to showcase how better they at close combat than their opponent

Examples of Kinda Busy Here include:


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.
  • In 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.


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!


Film

  • 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.

 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 (the airport has been forcibly shut down by terrorists) calls her husband, who receives the call as he's attempting to sneak up on one of said terrorists.
  • 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!


Literature

  • 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 considered this applied to telepathic talks that cannot even be turned off and can be blocked by relatively few good mages. At least customary ethics (and maybe 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" when playing cards, and once noted that in a real ambush it's not much of a problem, but few understand it.
  • 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.


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."

  • Not fighting, 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.
  • 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.


Tabletop Games

  • The main reason Troubleshooters are issued with PDCs (mobile phones, Alpha Complex style) in Paranoia. 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

  • Snake does this in Metal Gear Solid 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.
  • During the final battle of the Tuchanka arc in Mass Effect 3, 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..."


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 Ninjitsu seems to be the only thing that keeps him alive through them.
  • Kim Possible 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. Granny got a call while snowboarding down the big mountain and going to kick some ass.
  • In The Simpsons, when Homer is offered a new job 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 you know, If you could kill a few people on your way out, I'd really appreciate it.

  • In the Justice League episode "Wildcards," Batman takes a call from The Flash while he's in the middle of a fight. Of course, 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.


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," 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.
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