5 Horrible Lies We Tolerate Every Day

You know that saying, “sometimes it’s easier living the lie?” Well, if that still rings true we just might be living the easiest life imaginable. Who decides exactly when the jig is up, when the music stops? Because when that happens,  we can all just throw our hands up and say, “Yeah, we made it all up. It’s all bullshit. Sorry about that.” But as the saying goes, sometimes it is just easier living the lie. In fact, judging by the charades that constitute the five horrible lies we tolerate daily, I’d say it’s almost too easy.

1.) Street Sweepers.

I would have gladly eaten anything off the streets of Fukuoka City, Japan. And I’m not talking about food trucks—I’m talking about the literal ground that you walk on. Living in a Japanese city was foreign to me for reasons other than the customs and language; the city was so damn clean it made me wonder why anyone ever had to wear shoes outside in the first place. Everyone should have been just been running around in socks all day long.

But in sharp contrast to the adequate investments the Japanese make in public infrastructure, the U.S. is…well…different. Just take a stroll along the sidewalk of any major U.S. city and ask yourself what dollar amount could persuade you to eat anything on the ground. If your desired bribe isn’t somewhere upwards of 1000s of dollars, you likely don’t live in reality and have always been the “dumb one” in your group of friends. Sorry to break the news.

Then there’s the entire facade of the street sweeper: large tractors with rotating bristles that squirt water while passing over the curbs and gutters of city streets. The implication of their function is that they “clean” the streets, and yet, anyone lucky enough to move their car in time to avoid a ticket has likely never seen a difference in debris after the sweeper has passed. I once stood and watched NOTHING get cleaned away by one of these machines that undoubtably double-fuck my wallet in the form of taxes to support its maintenance and the tickets they write me for not moving my car in time. I’m almost entirely convinced that the theatre of “street sweeping” is an elaborate ploy to mandate parking rules by which to collect ticket revenue. UGH.

2.) Crosswalk Buttons.

I haven’t tried to find research on this particular charade, but anyone who’s been in hurry to cross a busy city street surly knows the drill: no matter how many times you smash that crosswalk button with your thumb, the light is NEVER going to change any faster. So what’s the point? Clearly the only function these buttons serve is psychological pacification for irate pedestrians, ready to dart out in front of traffic and kill themselves to get somewhere faster. To be sure, buttons that prevent bloodshed are a good thing, but let’s cut the crap already; the light is going to change whenever it’s programmed to change and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

3.) “Mixed” Recycling Bins.

Separating recyclable materials from regular trash makes sense; it also makes sense that recyclable materials are separated amongst themselves. That’s why it’s baffling to discover that there are recycling bins out there that have two or more distinctively labeled holes for glass, aluminum, and even paper—and each hole leads to the same receptacle.

Recycling bin lies

I’ve even seen shared receptacles for recycling materials AND regular landfill trash.

Recycling lies

SERIOUSLY? What’s the point of feigning the efficiency of separating recyclables if they aren’t actually being separated? Even if technological advantages in waste management allow for material separation upon collection, why not just get a head start at the can? This is one of those mysteries of life that simply will never be solved.

4.) TSA Airport Screenings.

After 9/11 security in the United States surged to levels that continues to challenge the integrity of civil liberties, approaching mythical proportions set to rival Orwell’s vision of 1984. Sure the bad guys had won the battle, but we would go on to win the war. In the shadows of ballooning military budgets and mounting fear, the TSA emerged as our guardians at the gate—the airport gate. It used to be that air travel was easy. Throughout the 1990s the airport was pretty laid back; family and friends could follow you all the way to the gate and practically kiss the hull of the jet you’d take off in. Things are much different now.

These days you’re practically strip searched—if not physically by the snapping of latex digits, then by magic of high frequency waves generated by a body scanner. And this is all before you even see the terminal bathrooms, let alone the gateway. The entire culture of safety and warm feelings of security at the price of extraordinary inconvenience is all courtesy of the TSA. There’s only one small problem: the TSA doesn’t actually keep us any safer. Not only has the TSA failed nearly 95% of security tests, one study found that the chances of detecting “suspicious behaviors” that led to the revelation of a legitimate security hazard was no better than chance. Its all a sham. $1 billion dollars down the drain.

5.) Self-Checkout Units.

I’ve harped on this many times, and somehow it still never gets old. If markets are going to introduce convenience to customers, the least they could do is be better at lying about it. The paradox facing the case of “automation for convenience” is when automation becomes less convenient than a human being. The problem with self-checkout is that despite its proclamation of a more pleasant and speedy experience in paying for merchandise, its efficacy depends on a multitude of factors that are less predictable than simply hiring a qualified employee.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been caught in the self-checkout line—believing it would be different this time—and wishing for a bomb to drop on the store just to put me out of my misery. The crazy part is that many times you’re almost FORCED to used self-checkout machines because there’s a line out the door for the ONE human employee counter that’s open. But the truth is that how “fast” one gets through a self-checkout counter is completely dependent on several factors that NO ONE HAS CONTROL OVER:

How tech savvy is the person before you?

If the person before you hasn’t used a computer in at least the last two days, you can bet that it’s going to be a while. Between shifting the weight of bags properly before proceeding and navigating the on-screen operating system, every checkout experience is like an IQ test.

Is the machine functioning properly?

Nearly every time I’ve tried self-checkout, a machine is out of order or on the fritz. Human beings don’t break like that. We aren’t suddenly completely incapacitated without warning.

How many human employees are on register?

As noted above, during certain hours of the day, most grocers and stores that employ automated checkout machines rarely have adequate human staffing. It’s quite common to find one human being ringing customers and a line out the door because the self-checkout machines are too much of a hassle.

Matthew Rosario

American / Writer / Musician