My phone screen is crowded with apps that I have downloaded either because I believed they would make my life easier, or my kid forced me to, to keep up with her myriad activities. Through my apps I follow my church, two school districts, my neighborhood, my bank balance, my car dealer’s recalls, two local craft stores, local high school sports, my realtor, the high school band, and our dance studio. I can get and give cash to friends via an app, and I can track my favorite baseball team’s progress in real time—that is if they ever play again.
I can be sound asleep and a notification from an app shoots me straight up in bed. I search frantically only to find it is telling me that overnight my app has updated and has more new features I will never use.
I have a Paula Deen app that I don’t remember downloading, and I cannot get rid of. I have removed it from my screen several times, and it just reappears. Kind of like she does after her latest weight loss or newest hairdo. At least every suggested recipe has butter, one of my lifelong friends.
And more new apps appear on the horizon every day. My daughter’s school even offers a class for our brilliant youngsters to design new apps and figure out how they might work. My daughter has never taken the class, and I have to say I am kind of glad. I would imagine her first venture would be an app that provides snarky, single syllable, monotone answers for any parent inquiry with just the tap of a button or methods for increasing eye-rolling stamina.
But since I have been cleaning closets and drawers during our COVID-19 induced isolation, I have been thinking about cleaning up my apps, or at least replacing them with some I might just enjoy and not need.
Why hasn’t someone invented the cattle prod app? I think it could be called MOO, and here is how I envision it would be used. I would load my contacts list and then I could ‘gently’ prod someone to complete a task or finish a thought. I think the app could contain a numerical attachment for the strength of the prod. For instance, if we are two days into waiting for my daughter to clean her bathroom, maybe she gets the prod at level five; four days in and the intensity increases to seven.
Most commuters could surely use an app to help them on their morning drive. Oh sure, I have seen the apps that help us with the traffic flow, sending us alerts for road closures and backups. But someone needs to invent one that predicts what stupid thing the driver in front of us will do. While I am sure they will still do the stupid thing, the app might automatically launch calming music in the car or release a lilac vanilla scent through the car vents to mitigate the road rage.
I would love an app called WTH that scans a stain on my family’s clothing and not only identifies it, but also suggests a pre-treatment method before it goes into the wash. I have spent hours determining the difference between chocolate and blood, simultaneously willing myself not to ask the offenders questions about how the stain appeared.
And while we are on the subject of laundry, what about an app that matches socks by color, size, and owner? I hate that task so much that I have been known to buy new ones rather than match them.
What about an app that we turn on the first time we meet a person to help us determine right away if we should invest time in being friends, maybe called Besties? I visualize the screen giving me a little read out: 40% appreciative of sarcasm, 50% likely to overeat at a barbecue restaurant, and only a 10% interest in yard work of any kind. Yes! She’s a keeper!
Some apps could be helpful to me in my older age. If I have my phone in hand, maybe the You Always Screw Up Names app tells me the name of the person I pass by in the grocery BEFORE I call them by the wrong name. Perhaps another one scans drug store shelves for things I might need when I injure myself putting on a pair of those mismatched socks because I bent the wrong way.
My friend has an app that suggests side dishes for main course meals she wants to prepare. She has another one that allows her to enter ingredients in her pantry and it comes up with a recipe for her to make. I would like an app that then further encourages that friend to double her recipes and bring them to me and my family to eat. It’s the neighborly thing to do.
I will conclude with my best idea for an app: one that dispenses a common sense pill for me to share with a friend who has been making questionable choices. I would just say, “Here, you have been acting stupid, and my app tells me you need a pill. Take this.” Only people who had previously shown good common sense would be able to download this app, so the market might indeed be rather small.
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.