Single and dying of swine flu? There are apps for that

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on February 5, 2014

From The News Desk

Swine flu has descended. Or, at least, you think it's swine flu. You lay in bed, convinced you're dying. Between bouts of hacking coughs and woozy naps, you google "swine flu symptoms." They're pretty generic -- fever, cough, sore throat. Same as a cold or even strep throat. But you know in your heart it's swine flu, and these are your final hours.

Even worse? You're single. You're a young, single, twenty- or thirty-something living in San Francisco, trying to make the startup life work. There's no one to come take care of you. Your best friend is too busy attending meet-ups day and night in a desperate bid to break into the business. Your mom lives in Iowa. That girl or guy you hooked up with last week turned out to be a bro or bro-hogrammer. Nobody will come save you. You will die alone.

Fortunately, you do have one thing going for you: technology. For all of Silicon Valley's posturing and problems, it does one thing really, really well: solve trivial first world problems. Startups will bring you better take out food and come to your house and do your hair. The "Uber for x" trend has taken off, and you can get almost anything you need instantly, by pressing a single smartphone button.

Here are the apps that will take care of you when you think you're dying of Swine Flu. Perhaps not the loving touch of another human, or the soft tones of a Scarlett Johansson operating system, but they'll have to do.

1) To bring you medicine, tissues, vitamins, and Vick's Vapor Rub

Postmates: This app lets you order anything from 3,300 stores in San Francisco. Just punch in what you want, and a Postmate delivery guy or gal arrives at your door. That way, you can avoid the long, sad slog to Walgreens yourself, where you show up in stained sweats looking like the living dead and have to suffer through the chirpy checkout attendant's astute observations, "Someone looks like they're not having such a great day!" (Cost: Starting at $5)

2) To bring you chicken noodle soup

Caviar: Caviar is like Seamless but for bougie restaurants. It lets you order the best cuisine San Francisco has to offer right to your doorstep, from Nick's Crispy Tacos to Brenda's French Soul Food. And you bet your bright red throat and phlegmy lungs it has soup offerings. You can order Chicken Noodle Soup from Turtle Tower-or seasonal soup from American Eatery or smoky tomato soup from American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. Whatever floats your boat and will let you pretend someone you love cooked it for you and you're not alone in the universe. (Cost: Delivery is $10, but that includes tip and no mandatory minimum)

3) To convince you you're not dying of swine flu

Doctor On Demand: You think you're about to hitch a ride to those pearly gates. Guess what -- there's an app for that! Doctor On Demand will let you find out immediately whether your suspicions are true. Hop on a video call with a real, live, licensed doctor, who will hear you whine about how terrible you feel and assure you it's not swine flu, or that rare African disease you read about on WebMD when you plugged in your symptoms. They can even give you a prescription! (Cost: $40)

4) To offer a human touch

Zeel or StyleBee: Maybe this is just me, but whenever I've sick I crave massages like no other. I just want something to ease my aching muscles and lymph nodes. Zeel and StyleBee offer exactly that: masseuse on demand. Hit a button, and voila!

Someone will arrive to take care of you. You might need to hide all the gross tissues and change into decent clothes first though. Otherwise they'll be onto you…and know you're giving them swine flu. Or you could just own up and hand them a surgical mask, brought to you from a local Walgreens by helpful Postmates. Only problem: Zeel is only in NYC and StyleBee only offers massages in LA. That should change soon though. (Cost: $120 for Stylebee, $160 for Zeel)

5) To run your errands

TaskRabbit: Unfortunately, just because your life is over doesn't mean the world stops turning. On the off chance you survive, you probably have a job, and responsibilities, and people counting on you, blah blah blah. Of course, none of those people are feeding you chicken soup when you need it, but whatever. There's only so much work you can do when you're dying of swine flu, but for the easier errands you can hire a TaskRabbit to fill your shoes. Send them to mail that birthday gift for your dad so it doesn't get there late just because, you know, you're dead. Have them fax this or that important document that can't wait a few days to be sent. (Cost: Varies)

6) To clean your clothes and your sheets

Washio: If you're sick for awhile, your bed might be getting kind of gross. You can only lie in your own drool, snot, and unwashed night sweats for so long. Washio to the rescue! Someone will pick up your clothes and linens and return them 24 hours later. You may not have the wherewithal to make your bed, but at least you can lie on your mattress feeling less worthless. (Cost: Varies)

7) To clean your house

Homejoy: Last but certainly not least: Repairing your broken relationship with your roommates. In all the time you were sick you could not bring yourself to clean your crap up. You considered washing the kitchen counters with tears of unhappiness, but that seemed needlessly melodramatic. You're starting to feel better, but everything around you is filthy and your roommates hate you. That's where Homejoy comes in. For $20/hour, a team of professionals will arrive and wipe away any trace that you once were dying of swine flu.

Ain't technology grand?

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]