An Entirely Different, Unrelated Kind Of Bad Call.

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Memo to Techno-Pussies: YOU ARE DUMB.

Look, I'm no Luddite. I love all the things that capital-T Technology has given us, from the Game Boy Advance to the elaborate web of cameras, digital editing machines, satellite transmission, and digital video recorders that allow me to watch Andy Dick brutally abusing his stupid, annoying, pretty twentysomething assistant contenstants whenever the hell I want. Technology is great.

But like fire, the atom bomb, and the Segway, sometimes, technology can be used for evil. And not the good, clean, fun kind of evil, either. Sometimes, technology can be used to facilitate the most retarded kinds of social behavior, turning our everyday lives into a bad episode of Seinfeld or Sex In The City*.

For example, the cell phone.

Don't panic. You Are Dumb Dot Net has not been replaced by an episode of An Evening At The Improv circa 1997. Stay with me here. I promise you won't be hearing any trite ranting about driving with a cellphone, ringtones of the A-Team theme, how they're getting smaller and smaller, or any of that crap. I may be half-assing it after a long, tiring weekend, but I have more self-respect than that.

No, my ire today is reserved for a brand new service being offered by both Virgin Mobile** and Cingular: The programmable excuse call. Here's how it works. First, you must be a complete fuckwit. Second, you must own a Virgin Mobile or Cingular cellphone. Third, you must be willing to pay a small fee for being a complete fuckwit, and fourth, you must have gotten yourself into a situation that you may need to get yourself out of, i.e., you're going on a date.

So you put a date and time into your phone, and at that pre-arranged date and time, the cell-phone company calls your phone, provides you with a script and a ready-made excuse designed by, I kid you the fuck not, PROFESSIONAL LINGUISTS, so that you can leave your date in the dust if he or she begins discussing, say, what their character, a level nine dark-elf warrior mage, did when confronted with a cunning series of deadly traps last week. Or their fondness for Lyndon LaRouche.

It's enough to make Darwin weep, really. Is it not enough that we do not, at any given moment, need to worry about being eaten by a lion? Must we eliminate every last risk of consequences from our lives? Already, ten thousand people a month are using this service to escape the hours of drudgery and boredom that is their rightful due for agreeing to swing by Champps for a couple of drinks with Steve from the marketing department in the first place. With every passing month, we grow weaker and softer, and when the aliens come to harvest us for our juicy organs, I'll tell you this much. They're not going to give a fuck if your cell phone is ringing.

All of the above assumes, of course, that the service works, which, given the example provided, is a pretty big assumption. This service is much more likely to turn your life into a wacky sitcom moment than actually give you an out. In the example provided, the phone rings, the voice on the end instructs you to say "Not again! Why does this always happen to you? . . . All right, I'll be right there." You are then instructed to tell your obligation that your roommate is locked out and you have to go help him or her.

Seems simple enough at first, but this means, if you're planning to use this service, you must in no way shape or form mention your living arrangements during small talk, lest you reveal that you live alone, or under a bridge, or any situation that may not be then contradicted by your emergency escape call.

And since they provide you with any one of a number of completely random excuses, the contents of which you will not know in advance, you thus have to avoid saying anything at all about anything at all that might end up being contradicted in case you need your escape call. This will make you appear, to your date, to be a shifty, mysterious drifter with a lengthy criminal record, and force them to use their OWN cell-phone escape call to get away from you before you carve them up and store them in your fridge.

Eventually, all dates will become five-minute staring contests ending in simultaneous polyphonic ringtones, nobody will ever have sex again, and the human race will die out. Thanks, Cingular!

* Or, more simply, ANY episode of Seinfeld or Sex In The City.

** In the interests of full disclosure, I must reveal here that Virgin Mobile USA is in fact the company whose cell phone I carry around in a futile attempt to find a working signal somewhere in the Twin Cities metro. It's less an emergency communications device and more of an existential quest with a rechargeable battery. Whenever I look at it, it's searching for something it cannot find.