I sometimes find myself these days gripping my iPhone like a child would a blankie or favorite stuffed animal. I rarely put it down or let it out of my sight. I SLEEP with it. And yes, while this is disturbing, I’ve been thinking about how my life has changed for the better because of it. Especially for someone who lives alone, doesn’t have a car, and lives 1,300 miles away from family.
1. Words with Friends, online “Scrabble.” Generally, I talk to my mother once every week to ten days. With Words with Friends, we play EVERY day. I also play Words with Friends with my cousin Maureen, who I see once year if that. But now we too “talk” on Words with Friends nearly every single day. (You can play me under kristainlondon — yes, still haven’t gotten around to changing that username.) Neither my mother nor Maureen are happy that I keep beating them though.
2. Peapod, online groceries. Without a car, I used to hate schlepping to the grocery store, especially if I needed anything big like laundry detergent or paper towels or toilet paper. Now, as I remember things I need around the house, I add them to a shopping list on my Peapod app, and when I get to about $100 worth of stuff, I get it all delivered. MAGIC. Just last week, I was sitting in a restaurant thinking “I should really get those paper towels delivered soon” and placed my order via the app around 6 pm at night. The groceries were delivered by 8 am THE NEXT MORNING.
3. Zipcar, online car-rental. OK, I don’t have a car, but if I need a car, I just hit up Zipcar (the pay-by-the-hour car-sharing service) and do a search for available cars within a 1 mile radius and boom, I’ve got a car for a few hours for just $20 or $25 bucks or so. It’s life-changing to have access to a car when you previously wouldn’t have.
4. Yelp, online city guide. Laugh however you’d like about Yelp, but the other night, my friend Christina and I finished dinner at a local brewery here in Chicago — Revolution Brewing — and we weren’t ready to go home yet. We did a quick proximity search on Yelp to see what else was around and discovered The Whistler up the street. I drank a lot White Russians and we met a lovely couple from Hungary, all the while grooving to a pretty fantastic DJ. Wouldn’t have found The Whistler without Yelp. (Although of course we could have asked random people on the street.)
5. My Transit, online transit times: I take the bus now ALL THE TIME. All thanks to this app, which tells me when the next bus is coming. I’ve become quite the expert in finding a good coffee shop to wait in while I wait the six or seven minutes for the next bus. My point here is that I’ve enlarged my geographic circle of influence. I explore more of Chicago than I would otherwise because it’s so much easier for me to take the bus.
6. xfinity, cable TV scheduler from Comcast: I can be 4000 miles away in a different country, and I can still program my DVR to record stuff. That’s pretty awesome.
7. xfinity player: I can be somewhere not in Chicago, and still watch my favorite shows online. Also, I don’t have Showtime or HBO and the xfinity player lets me watch a limited number of episodes of things like Homeland and Girls for FREE.
8. Uber and Hailo, taxi ordering services: The other day, I was stuck on a street corner in the West Loop of Chicago after an ok lunch at Belly Q. The restaurant called us five taxis. One arrived. Finally, I ordered an Uber taxi off my phone and BOOM. I had my own personal taxi in three minutes. AND this was all paid for by my credit card, which was great because I was low on cash.
9. Everyblock, neighborhood communities: I’m kinda obsessed with this neighborhood community website. You type in your address and it tells you where the new restaurants are opening, what property is for sale, where all the most recent crime has happened, and what new fun community events are happening. The other day, I got this weird letter from the city about electricity and I didn’t know who to ask about it. I posted it on Everyblock and within minutes, I had the answer.
10. Apple Remote, control your Apple TV from your phone: Half the time, I cannot find my Apple TV remote. No trouble, I can just USE MY PHONE instead. It’s kinda awesome.
I can go on and on. You get the point. Actually, you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Well this is a dumb post. Who doesn’t know all these things?” And that’s okay. I’m just in a thankful-quality-of-life mood at the moment and wanted to write this all down.