Fidgeting while talking on the telephone is a very common habit and may manifest as doodling or pacing. In the case of the person speaking off-panel (presumably Cueball), he paces while absent-mindedly moving random objects around the house.
Megan has found several items in incorrect places around her house, including a teapot in the bathroom, a hammer in the fridge, and several stacks of household items. Cueball explains that he fidgets and move things around while on the phone. Taking this behavior to the extreme, in the fourth panel, Megan finds that he has also erected an obelisk in the backyard and carved prayers to "Ba'al, the Soul Eater" on it. This may be a reference to the saying "Idle hands are the devil's playthings."
The title text suggests that the "fidgeting" is just a cover story - the off-panel speaker is actually worshipping (or possessed by) Ba'al, and is casually trying to encourage Megan to do the same.
Ba'al, or Baal, refers to one of many deities and demons which go by this name. Given its title "The Soul Eater", it probably refers to Beelzebub (one of the seven princes of hell). Ba'al, the Soul Eater has been mentioned in 1246: Pale Blue Dot and 1638: Backslashes.
[Megan is pointing off-panel to the left and looking off-panel to the right.]
- Megan: Why is there a teapot in the bathroom?
- Off-panel voice (right): Sorry. When I'm on the phone I always zone out and pick stuff up and carry it around.
[Megan is in front of an open fridge, holding a hammer.]
- Megan: There's a hammer in the fridge.
- Off-panel voice: Another phone call. I was just fidgeting.
[Megan is walking next to four stacks of household objects: the first has a lightbulb on top of a book, the second has a blender on top of three books, the third has five books (two balanced vertically) with a smaller rectangular object on top, and the fourth has two tennis balls on top of three books.]
- Megan: Did you put all our stuff in weird stacks?
- Off-panel voice: Long call. Sorry.
[Megan, outside, looks up at a towering straight-sided object.]
- Megan: ...Why is there a giant obelisk in the backyard?
- Off-panel voice: Phone again. My bad.
- Megan: It's carved with prayers to "Ba'al, the Soul-Eater."
- Off-panel voice: Haha! I'm so absentminded.
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Starting to wonder who Cueball was on the phone WITH. Maybe he's possessed...
18:28, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
'It seems to me that the off-panel character is most likely Cueball. The way he says 'Haha. I'm so absentminded' makes me think that the obelisk is intentional, and hes trying to dismiss it lightly having been found out. --Pudder (talk) 09:43, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
- I agree, the title text "But anyway, maybe we should check out what this Ba'al guy has to say." seems to reinforce that he's trying to get Megan to think more about Ba'al's teachings or some such while passing it off as a joke/casual remark. Djbrasier (talk) 13:04, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
- I disagree, but appear to be outvoted. If doing all that other stuff without realizing it is in character, building the obelisk on purpose would be out of character. Cueball's suggestion to find out more about Ba'al could just be naive curiosity. "I built this? I wonder what it's about." Smperron (talk) 20:01, 11 September 2014 (UTC)
I can relate to this, and for what I've heard, I'm not the only one: it seems it's rather common for people to wander around the house rearranging stuff while on the phone. 18.104.22.168 10:35, 10 September 2014 (UTC) AK
This seems to refer Miller's Law again, like #1417. Maybe Randal is looking for his car keys or something else he has put down somewhere while doing something else...
Tier666 (talk) 12:12, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
It seems to me that Randal just missed an opportunity to throw a jab at driving while on the phone, something like Megan: "Do you make phone calls while driving?" "Cueball": "Sure, but I sometimes arrive in a different car..." Bigfatbernie (talk) 13:31, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
I got the impression that this is saying that Ba'al is subliminally guiding our actions while distracted... something along the lines of "Idle hands are the devil's plaything." 22.214.171.124 14:38, 10 September 2014 (UTC)Ozy
I added the reference to 872: Fairy Tales if you disagree feel free to change it. 126.96.36.199 14:51, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
- Personally I'd say its a pretty tenuous link --Pudder (talk) 15:16, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
I wonder if the fact we don't see the character off the "screen" is highly related to his apparent desire to "check out what this Ba'al guy has to say" - perhaps She's assuming it's Cueball, but it's not... at least not entirely... I think this could only work if this is a series, which Randall seems to have shied away from in recent years... -- Brettpeirce (talk) 15:11, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
Maybe this comic is something to do with subliminal messaging or hypnosis or blackmailing? Any thoughts? —Artyer (talk) 16:22, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
Probably nothing to do with the inspiration for this comic, but from yesterday's news: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-29126161 ...a teapot. Enjoy. 188.8.131.52 18:30, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
Ba'al? As in Bocce? - Col. Jack O'Neill - two "L"'s. =8o) Jarod997 (talk) 12:57, 11 September 2014 (UTC)
The off panel character always sounded more like Beret Guy than Cueball. Beret Guy always seemed much more willing to accept strange and unnatural occurrences than Cueball. The "Ha-Ha, I'm so absent-minded." also sounds more like Beret Guy considering his exceptionally positive demeanor.
Also, I wonder if the hammer in the fridge is a reference to the Arm and Hammer product used to deodorize refrigerators. Anyone have thoughts on this? 184.108.40.206 02:48, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
- No, it's certainly Cueball. In the third panel Megan says "Did you put all *OUR* stuff in weird stacks?", and Megan and Cueball have been a couple since the early days of xkcd; see also xkcd #162, xkcd #420, and xkcd #572, for example.220.127.116.11 15:58, 27 September 2014 (UTC)