Remind me again why reminders are a good idea

May 2 2013 - 12:52pm


Apparently the warranty on my car is about to expire.

And if I don't renew it, something bad is going to happen according to a letter I just brought in from my mailbox. I find this a little troubling because I don't have a car warranty, and haven't for years.

The positive side of this is that whatever was supposed to happen once the warranty ran out didn't. Which kind of negates the warning that I need to renew a warranty I don't have.

I keep getting mail like this. Envelopes packed with random reminders from all sorts of agencies and companies and service groups. I don't need to have my mom nag me. My mail does it for me.

Like this envelope that says, "Important Reminder about Your Refrigerator."

Say what? I'm too curious to throw it away. So I read, "It's time to change your refrigerator water filter. We recommend replacing your water filter every six months." Naturally it offers a promo code to order more filters, etc.

My fridge and I are registered in some data base somewhere that automatically generates mail to tell me to change the filter. That's just plain weird.

Medical reminders are perpetual and unwelcome. I don't want to be reminded that it's time to go to the dentist, that it's time for an annual check up, that a mammogram is overdue, that people my age must get a colonoscopy NOW.

I resent being told that it's time to get my prescription filled, particularly if it is. Granted, I probably wouldn't remember all this on my own, but that doesn't reduce the annoyance generated by unexpected reminders of my mortality.

I get phone calls like this too. I answered an unfamiliar number on my cellphone the other day because it was the third time they called. I figured I'd just tell them they had the wrong number. But, no. It was the Red Cross reminding me it was time for me to donate blood again. Really? I donated just a couple of weeks before I told her. She looked into her magic records and said, "Well, we don't have you in here." Oh, I beg to differ. I know the level of information required to be permitted to donate blood. The Red Cross knows more about me than just about anyone else out there. Heck, they know me well enough to call every six weeks and remind me to go open my veins. I'm confident I am on their radar -- and reminder list -- for life.

If this level of supervision is now the norm, then it should be more practical, more useful than a twice-a-year reminder to change my fridge filter. Heck, why can't I have reminders to change what's in my fridge? Like a call that says, "Hey, Louise. You bought broccoli two weeks ago, but you didn't last week, which likely means it's still sitting in the bottom drawer of your fridge. If you haven't cooked it by now, just open that drawer and drop it straight into the trash. Then go get some more, and this time use it."

Or offset all those medical reminders with an occasional update of my medical history record. Every time I visit the doctor, I have to fill out (the same) six pages of my medical history. I know they already have this information. The only addition is why I'm there that day. But we have to go back through all my surgeries (when, what and where), my parents and grandparents (if they're living or not, and why), my medication history, and half a book on why I'm visiting today. I figure I give them plenty of info. They ought to at least send it back periodically so I'm reminded of what's happened and happening.

Perhaps I resent the reminders because they're becoming more essential. As our world grows more complicated (folks living 100 years ago didn't need reminders to change their fridge filters or get the dog de-wormed), they should probably be welcomed, not resented. It's just kind of challenging to get past the fact that in our growing forgetfulness, they remind us how much we need them.

And we just don't like being reminded of that.

You can contact D. Louise Brown at

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