Because the Internet has reduced my brain to a 10-watt bulb that needs stimulation every four seconds, I clicked on a link that promised to rank all the grocery-store list-making smartphone apps. The first one let you enter your list by typing or talking, and you could sort things into categories. It had a red icon. The last one let you enter your list by typing or talking, and you could sort things into categories.
It had a blue icon.
Several apps incorporated social media, of course. When you'd checked off every item, you could post news of your victory to Facebook, in case you're the type to get up on your roof with a megaphone and shout "ALL STOCKED UP ON SOUP NOW" and wait for scattered applause.
I have one of these apps, and while it isn't perfect, it beats the old way. Before shopping, I'd ask: Anyone need anything? NO. Sure? WE'RE GOOD. If you were smart, you'd sit in the garage for five minutes, then go back in the house and ask again.
"Oh, right, we need bleach." Any kind? "Bleach. There's no kind." Scented? "No scent." So there is another kind, then. "Weren't you just going?"
Wouldn't it be great if you could just type "bleach" into a grocery-list app on your phone and avoid all this? But first you'd have to get someone in the house to admit you need bleach, and you'd have to type it in with your cold, stubby finger. GET BLERCH. Or your partner would add it to the list, and you'd come back with bleach, all proud of yourself. "Where's the blerch? I asked you to get blerch! We have six people coming over for dinner, and I need blerch!"
Most grocery-list apps allow you to separate items according to rows in the supermarket, which is brilliant. How many times do you turn into the bread aisle and think, "Oh, so that's where they're hiding it." The app can send you an alert when you are in the bread aisle, telling you to buy bread, which means you might have the process of selecting bread interrupted by the need to take out your phone and see an alert that says BUY BREAD. It beats having someone follow you around and jab you in the thigh with a hatpin and say "get whole wheat." But not by much.
I always buy bread, because no one ate the last loaf and it's now stale. But you have to have bread. If someone wants to make grilled cheese sandwich and says, "There's no bread! Why is there no bread?" you could reply: "There are no marinated monkey glands, either, to name something else we never use."
It's frustrating because we're just a few years away from fixing this with some quick and simple home tech. Bar code scanners by your trash and recycling: beep the empties when they're discarded and have the item added to your list.
The closest thing I have today is an Amazon Dash button, which delivers certain products with the touch of a button. When I'm running low on trash bags, I press the button, and two days later UPS delivers them to my porch, where they are stolen. I have another button for dishwashing capsules, which I don't use very much because I pressed it three times while setting it up and now have enough soap to run the machine continuously until the presidential election.
They don't offer Dash buttons for many products. There's no Dash that summons a jar of cloves, for instance. No one's ever said, "You going to the store? Pick up some cloves. We're running low." But if I do want to plan ahead for a clove-secure future, I can just say: "ALEXA, ADD CLOVES TO MY SHOPPING LIST."
And she will. This is why I don't bother with paper lists or fancy apps. I have a robot lady on the counter. It's the Amazon Echo, and it responds to "Alexa." It plays my favorite radio stations, reads audiobooks, tells me a joke if I ask it. You tell it to put something on the list, and it does. Because it is a robot, though, it is very literal, and will add to the list whatever it hears. Items I have found on my list, possibly the result of Daughter showing off the device to friends:
Dish dish soap yeah. I looked for the most enthusiastic dish soap I could find, the type that just made you say "yeah" when you looked at all those suds.
Do you have you got to fill letavis me? I didn't know what that was, but checked the mouthwash aisle to see if they carried Letavis. No luck. Maybe it's some old hair oil they stock for old men.
Bleach. Seriously? Again? Is there a smallpox ward in the basement I need to know about?
By the way, I read the paragraph about cloves to my wife, and Alexa heard it. She added it to the shopping list. I checked my phone, and sure enough, there was a new item.
Perfect! Wonder what aisle that's in.