Joe Lavin

May 4, 2004

Is That a Cell Phone in Your Pocket?


Soon, your cell phone may be getting more action than you. Thanks to a new service called Serendipity, you can now use your cell phone to meet potential dates. It essentially turns your cell phone into a dating service. Serendipity takes advantage of the fact that Bluetooth phones and devices can communicate with each other over ranges of about ten yards. You simply store your dating profile in your phone, and your phone will automatically compare your profile to the profiles of other nearby members with Bluetooth phones.

Say you're on a crowded train on your way to work. You might be minding your own business, but with Serendipity your cell phone will be out playing the field, flirting with all the cute phones nearby. If your phone does find the perfect person for you on the train, both phones will then send a message to their owner.

Of course, once your phone tells you about that special someone, the rest is up to you, though maybe in the next upgrade your phone will also be able to go on a first date and even meet her parents, without having to bother you. This combination of technology and laziness is frankly beautiful. If this gets any more convenient, someday you might actually be able to use your cell phone to order a date who will show up right at your front door. Oh, wait. You can do that now. Never mind.

Serendipity was invented at MIT, which really makes sense on many levels. Luckily, the creators have included advanced features that give you some degree of control over your phone. For example, if you're not feeling quite as adventurous, you can program the phone to contact only friends of friends. This doesn't sound much different than an old-fashioned blind date, but at least you won't have to deal with the nosy friend who set you up asking endless questions about the date. At least, I don't think your phone will ask you annoying questions, but, with artificial intelligence these days, you never know.

While unconventional, Serendipity may well be successful, though personally I would be a bit worried that I might cramp my phone's style. Somehow, I don't feel entirely comfortable acting as my cell phone's wingman. And will your phone soon forget about your profile and just go after the woman with the perfect phone rather than the phone with the perfect woman? You know how shallow those cell phones can be.

I would tell you more about this, but I have been unable to test it out. This is partly because I'm not looking for someone to date but also because my phone just doesn't have the right equipment. Or if it does have the right equipment, sadly I don't know how to use it.

Serendipity seems to be the PG version of something called "toothing," a so-called trend that started recently in Britain. Toothers are people who use their Bluetooth phones to hook up with each other for casual sex while commuting on trains. An article about this was recently featured on Yahoo News, and not surprisingly within hours, possibly minutes, it became the most e-mailed news story on the site that day.

Here's how it works. (Who said my site wasn't a repository of useful information?) While on a train ride home from work, a toother would simply type the message "Toothing anyone?" into the phone. Anyone interested could respond. Then, if all goes according to plan, the two would arrange a liaison in a public bathroom or some other equally romantic locale.

That's the plan anyway. In actuality, chances are sixteen men with shiny phones will end up standing outside the rest room waiting for that one elusive and non-existent woman to show up. Forgive me for being skeptical, but I suspect there are a lot more men sending out toothing requests than women responding to them.

Then again, it's probably not a complete waste of time. Sending out a toothing request is certainly an excellent way to get a seat on a crowded train.

Update 8/16/05: Not surprisingly, "toothing" turned out to be a hoax. Incidentally, this year's implausible trend "greenlighting," in which teenagers wear green polo shirts with collars upturned to indicate that they are open to an anonymous sexual encounter, was also a hoax. The trend where teenage boys wear normal clothes any way they please to indicate that they are open to an anonymous sexual encounter is, however, not a hoax.


©2004 Joe Lavin

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August 22, 2003
Who Needs to Play Tetris on a Cell Phone?
There are some days that I am just bored enough to take part in opinion polls. And so when I received a call to participate in a survey about cell phones, I gladly gave up 15 minutes of my time. Unfortunately, it was quite the humbling experience, because by the end of the call I realized exactly how out of touch I am. ( More.... )