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TANGENT Bad date? Use your cell phone to escape

By Michael Barnett

Knight Ridder Tribune

Have you ever been stuck on a really boring date? A new feature from Cingular Wireless might not help you solve the problem, but it suggests a funny way of trying.

The company's "Escape-A-Date" feature allows you to prearrange a phone call that will ring during that potentially disastrous dinner-and-a-movie and provides you with a humorous reason to dump your not-so-significant other.

The feature is one of several being offered by Cingular's Voice Connect, which charges customers an additional $4.95 a month to use the Escape-A-Date service as well as set wakeup calls and receive jokes of the day and trivia. Cingular introduced the new "fun services" to attract younger customers, said Patti Keller, a product manager for the company.

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"Escape-A-Date" offers eight randomly generated messages that serve more as entertainment than foolproof excuses to dump a dud. One message instructs you to "put a shocked look on your face" and "tell 'em your friend is having some trouble with super glue, and needs some help." Another excuse revolves around having a pet iguana, and one simply urges you to say your friend was "looking in his fridge and found some pudding that's shaped like Elvis."

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