I love my weather app. I can carry around a 10-day weather forecast in my pocket. In the old days, I had to dial the “time and temperature” number to get that information. It’s amazing what my phone can do for me these days.
It’s actually funny how frequently I check my weather app. I used to be such a skeptic. I wouldn’t trust the weather forecast if it came to me by Doppler radar. There was a good reason for my distrust. About 25 years ago now, I relied on a forecast that called for three days of sunshine. Sunshine is a rare and precious commodity in Juneau. I’ve learned over the years to translate the weather report to account for the vagaries of this rainforest town. When the forecast says, “partly cloudy,” that actually means, “you’ll see blue sky and sun today.” When the forecast says, “partly sunny,” that means cloudless blue sky and glorious sunshine. My heart soared with hope at this particular forecast: sunny, actually sunny, for three whole days.
Nope. We got three days of fog.
I lived in Douglas at the time, with a fine view of downtown Juneau across the water. The fog was so thick that I couldn’t see any part of town. Somewhere up there the sun was shining, but at ground level fog covered all. At the end of three unbroken days of fog, the rain returned. There was no sunshine at all.
I didn’t trust the weather forecast for the next 25 years.
But now I have an instant weather forecast at the tip of my fingers, and I’m sold. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is reach for my phone to check the weather. I’m snuggled under the covers, listening to the rain drumming on the metal roof, wondering what to expect from the weather. Hmm.
Really what I want to know is, will the rain persist throughout the day. Will I be able to walk home for lunch or will I have to make a sandwich to take to work with me? My weather app gives me an hour-by-hour breakdown. It’s often accurate, at least as often as my mother is.
My mother has her own system for predicting the duration of the rain. “Watch the birds,” she says. If the birds are flying out in the rain, that means that it will rain all day. The birds need to forage for survival, even if it’s raining. But if the birds are hunkered down to wait out the storm, that means that the rain will be short-lived. “The birds know,” Mom says. Mother knows best.
My second favorite app is my health app. It counts every step I take. Like in the song, there is a creepy aspect to that — my phone is watching me, calculating how far I walk every day. What else does it know about me?
Still, for a person who kind of loves data, it’s fun to know which days of the week inspire me to walk further. I have yet to make a spreadsheet, but my unscientific observation is that I walk more on weekdays than on the lazy days of the weekend. Can I conclude that my job keeps me healthy? Perhaps. I might also conclude that I have less time to walk on the weekends, because I’m sleeping in instead of dragging myself out of bed at 6 in the morning. There’s no question that weekend days are shorter than weekdays. They actually have less hours in them. I remind myself of this undeniable fact whenever I fail to complete my weekend chore list.
My standard walking goal is 10,000 steps a day, which adds up to just about three miles on my all-knowing app. By a health standpoint, however, not all steps are created equal. The 13 steps that take me upstairs in my house have a much higher exercise quotient than the 20 steps which take me from my couch to my fridge. My elderly phone app doesn’t discriminate between vertical and horizontal stepping, so I don’t get extra credit for walking up and down the stairs. But who’s counting?
Oh yeah, my phone is. There’s an app for that.
• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.