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Because now, instead of having to set up an escape route with a friend, it can be automated (Salon.com; subscription or ad-viewing required):

With both Cingular’s Escape-A-Date and Virgin Mobile’s Rescue Ring service, a customer can arrange to be called at a set time, using the cell keypad.

When the cell rings, one of Cingular’s eight “emergency” messages says: “Hey, this is your Escape-A-Date call. If you’re looking for an excuse, I got it. Just repeat after me, and you’ll be on your way! ‘Not again! Why does that always happen to you? … All right, I’ll be right there.’ Now tell ‘em that your roommate got locked out, and you have to go let them in. Good luck!”

And bingo, the bad date is history.

My favorite part of the service is that the excuses are dreamed up by “five people with doctorates in linguistics.” Who says there are no alternative-career opportunities for PhDs?

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