Using technology to get a date is soooo five minutes ago. But tapping your cellphone, computer or PDA device to help you wiggle out of a less than desirable one-on-one? Now that's hot! These days, there are services that can excuse you from -- or better yet, prevent -- virtually any sticky situation. And more are on the way: In Australia, Virgin Mobile subscribers can block certain numbers so that the digits can't be "drunk dialed" in the wee hours. (You end up reaching your best friend instead.) Here's where to turn when you need to make a clean getaway.
YOU'RE JUST NOT THAT INTO THEM. You want to say goodnight right after dinner, or better yet, before the main course. It's Rescue Ring to the, well, rescue. For a quarter a pop, plus airtime, Virgin Mobile USA (www.virginmobileusa.com) customers can program their phone to call them at a specific time. When you answer, a voice prompt will instruct you on what to say, such as: "No Gram, your hand is too shaky. You better let me shave Grandpa's back." Cingular Wireless (www.rucingular.com) offers the similar Escape-A-Date for $4.99 per month as part of their Voice Connect package.
The note on a napkin buh-bye is oh, so passe. Dump 'em digitally instead.
(Nate Lankford For The Washington Post)
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WEB WUSSOUT. That annoying guy at your local coffee house won't stop telling you how great he is -- and hounding you for your e-mail. Slip Romeo the address you got at papernapkin.net. When he drops you a line, he'll receive a Dear John letter in reply, with text like, "Subject line: Nice to hear from you. Body: Ha ha, just kidding. Actually, this is a rejection letter. The person who gave you this e-mail address does not want to have anything to do with you." Creator Josh Santangelo estimates that 1,000 of the free letters have been sent out since the site went up in August. Ouch!
NOISE, WHAT NOISE? You've got a blind date in an hour, but you'd rather chew your arm off then keep it. Soundster, from wireless data provider Kargo, provides background noise -- everything from jungle sounds to honking horns -- for cellphone conversations. Suddenly that last minute trip to the Congo sounds pretty plausible. (www.soundster.com. $4.95 to download the application, $2.99 per sound. Only works with Series 60 phones.)
COVERT COVER UP. Your super-hot coworker finally asked you out. And you've accepted -- before you remembered that you already have a date Saturday night. Sounds like a job for The Alibi and Excuse Club, part of Sms.ac (www.sms.ac), the largest mobile phone community on the web. The group -- now 4,000 strong -- exists simply to help its fellow fibbers get out of a jam. Just send a text message (to the whole crew or a select few) describing your predicament, and someone will provide you with an alibi. "One woman broke up with her fiancé by having a member pretend to be her lesbian lover," says Greg Wilfahrt, co-founder of Sms.ac. "It never fails to amaze us how innovative people can be."
Want to know how to do something? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.