A couple of weeks ago, on a particularly slothful Sunday, I accidentally watched the entirety of Chelsea Handler’s new Netflix series, Chelsea Does. Unlike most of my binge-watching experiences, though, I didn’t finish the nearly 300-minute-long session feeling like a blind, Jello-headed fool; each episode was surprisingly educational. Case in point: “Chelsea Does Silicon Valley,” a segment in which Handler infiltrates the tech hub by creating her very own app called Gotta Go.
As described on its website, Gotta Go is a “free excuse-to-leave generator.” Users simply create a fake text message, input a sender’s name and photo (real or imaginary), and set a pre-determined time to receive said message. The app even gives you the option to arrange a phone call if texting isn’t your style.
As a regular user of dating apps (Hinge, Bumble, and Coffee Meets Bagel are my weapons of choice), Gotta Go seemed like a total game-changer, and likely more reliable than texting “pineapple” (my get-me-out-of-here emergency word) to one of my pals. I downloaded Gotta Go and resolved to test it out on my next date.
In a bizarre turn of events, that date fell on Valentine’s Day. This was not on my Feb. 14 agenda. In fact, I was happily eating sushi and watching The Princess Diaries 2 with my friend Jade* when I received a Hinge notification from Greg*. Despite my delayed responses (I was busy watching Anne Hathaway rule Genovia, obviously), Greg remained incredibly chatty and friendly throughout the evening. At about 9 p.m., he wrote, “Would you be weirded out by the idea of grabbing a drink tonight even if it’s vday?” I panicked. What sort of lunatic asks someone out on a first date on Valentine’s Day? But after a few minutes of deliberation, Jade and I decided it wasn’t so crazy after all. Heck, it was downright brave. And from the tiny thumbnail photos on his profile, Greg seemed cute. So I said yes and we met for a drink an hour and a half later.
On my way to the bar, I opened the Gotta Go app and began programing my “excuse to leave.” First, I determined that the message needed to come from a real life friend in the event that Greg started asking questions. I typed in Jade’s name, and uploaded a photo of her for good measure. For the excuse, I knew I needed a request that would definitely require my assistance, but not be urgent enough that I’d have to leave immediately—because what if I was actually enjoying myself? I wrote, “So so sorry but Meg took the spare key and I can’t get into my apt. Can I come grab the other key from you?”
"I would totally believe this," I thought. Whose roommate hasn’t inadvertently taken the spare key? I decided that once I received the message, I would text back “Ahh can you give me 20 min?”, allowing me enough time to finish my drink and “meet up with Jade” in a leisurely fashion.
Gotta Go also gives its users the opportunity for a follow-up lie text message that gets sent exactly one minute after the initial SOS.
Wanting this one to be equally realistic, I added a response from Jade: “Kk sounds good! Thank you!” I conducted a test run just to be safe:
It looked flawless, and I knew I’d be able to comfortably show Greg the exchange, further legitimizing my excuse. I activated the first text to be sent exactly one hour later, and headed confidently into the bar. Once seated on a stool, I tucked my phone under my leg so that I would feel the vibration when “Jade’s emergency” came through.
Yet things did not go according to plan. You see, I actually sort of liked Greg. He was smart and charming and cute. So cute that I forgot my mission entirely and moved my phone into my coat pocket, completely missing the first Gotta Go alert at 11:30. It wasn’t until Greg ordered a second drink that I remembered my little experiment, and whipped out my phone like a modern-day Cinderella, fearful that her fancy carriage (in my case, a carefully-crafted excuse) had been reduced to a useless pumpkin, a.k.a. unusable alibi.
My fears were confirmed when I opened my iMessage app to the following messages:
There was no way I could show this to Greg without him getting suspicious, so I held the phone down by my right knee like a shady freak and mumbled something about my friend needing my spare key. He looked confused. I shrugged and said apologetically, “Gotta go.”
Despite my botched experiment, Handler’s app works. I tested the generator a few more times on my own post-date, and the messages appeared right on time, every time. While I may have ruined things with Greg (sigh), I’m relieved to know that I have Gotta Go in my back pocket for my future dating (mis)adventures.
*All names have been changed to protect the innocent.