Author: "You missed my book launch." Me: "Yeah, I know, sorry, I died, wasn't resuscitated until afterwards."
This columnist has never been good at excuses. So I was interested to hear from a reader named Gayatri that sensible people review their calendars regularly and prepare escape plans.
Her top tips for slipping away: Do not pretend to get a phone call -- it's much harder to carry off than you think. Also, do not try to escape from an unwanted date by pretending you are "just going to the toilet". Your date may watch the toilet door, and rest rooms rarely have windows big enough to climb out of.
Instead, text a pre-arranged key word to a friend who will ring you with a fake emergency such as: "Come home quickly, your brother cut his head off and you have to hold it while surgeons sew it back on."
There are even apps (such as "Bad Date Rescue") that you discreetly click to receive a pre-recorded "you are needed" message.
An alternative escape strategy is to say something that makes your date nervous enough to want to end the evening. 1) "I'm not contagious any more, hopefully." 2) "The voices in my head told me you are the Chosen One." 3) "My 30 cats are going to love you." 4) "So. What shall we call our kids?"
Escape plans were on my mind after readers sent me a huge flood of recent news items (two) involving people making ill-planned attempts at disappearing.
The first was about a suspected car thief on the run from police in Saskatchewan on September 27. He tried to escape by climbing a tall tree. Trees are never good escape routes, as the likelihood of finding alternative exit routes up there are pretty low. He stayed there for several hours, news services reported, but came down when a neighbour offered him a taco.
The second report was from China Daily in the first week of October. A man tried to escape his hotel bill by slipping out of his guestroom window. The hotel was a skyscraper, so he ended up dangling from telephone wires over the centre of the road, 19 stories in the air, bringing that part of the Chinese city of Guizhou to a standstill. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it is possible that a significant part of the world's population watched his "discreet" escape.
These are worthy additions to this columnist's "most ill-considered escapes" file, although they don't replace the current top story in that cabinet, which is a 1990s report about a thief in Japan who tried to escape from pursuers by sprinting into the main hall of a police training school. "Nice of him to give the trainees some hands-on practice," the chief instructor said.
Gayatri also had a failed escape story of her own. "I abandoned a nerdy group of friends to go to a party which turned out to be even duller. Worst of all, the first group ended up launching a really cool start-up."
Then she had to go. Her phone rang. Or was it an app?
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and suggestions via his Facebook page)