Cellphones are chock-full of features like built-in cameras, personalized ring tones and text messaging. They also gave a real boost to Kenny Hall's effort to cheat on his girlfriend.
Mr. Hall, a 20-year-old college student in Denver, decided in March to spend a weekend in nearby Boulder with another woman. He turned to his cellphone for help, sending out a text message to hundreds of other cellphone users in an "alibi and excuse club," a network of 3,400 strangers who help each other skip work, get out of dates or give a loved one the slip.
Assistance came instantly. A club member, on receiving Mr. Hall's message, agreed to call the girlfriend. He pretended to be the soccer coach from the University of Colorado at Boulder and said that Mr. Hall was needed in town for a tryout.
Mr. Hall, if that is his real name, is presumably hoping right around now that no one his girlfriend knows reads the New York Times.
Of course, there is the ancient problem of honor among, well...
Mr. Hall, the student in Denver, said that when he gave away his girlfriend's phone number to a stranger, he worried that the stranger might do more than make an excuse.
"I didn't want him hitting on her or telling her what I was up to," Mr. Hall said. But now he is a believer in the power of the cellphone-assisted alibi. "It worked out good, actually."
Now, you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with cell phones. (I am, at any rate -- the key enabling technology, it seems to me, is the internet bulletin boards that broker the requests for ... assistance; once it's arranged, there's no technical barrier I'm aware of to telling barefaced lies over a land line). But to me, the technology is less interesting than the social aspects. One might imagine, for instance, that there's a certain limit to growth here; if you want to know what your "friends" are lying about, the quickest way to learn is join the club...