Believe it or not, this list took a long time to compile. What truly deserves to be wiped off the face of the planet? I don't mean "When people are mean!" or "War!" or (insert random politician's name here). I mean actual, physical constructs that we could, in fact, easily remove. It's not a simple question to answer – if you're trying to be objective. (For instance, I could say "fast food restaurants", but I realize that many people enjoy them and that occasionally they serve a purpose.) I worked hard to come up with nine items that have no current benefit for the world and only add to the clutter, frustration, and decay of everyday life. Here they are:
- Trucks' backup beeps. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! You hear it all the time whenever a truck goes into reverse. Presumably this system is designed to warn an idiot standing behind a moving truck that it is about to back up over him. I think if said idiot needs that much of a warning, he doesn't deserve one. You can blame public safety advocate Ralph Nader for these, by the way. (Just like you can blame him for Bush winning in 2000.)
- Non-rewritable CD-ROMs. CD-ROMs (and DVD-ROMs) are inarguably useful. But since we now have rewritable CD-ROMs (aka CD-RWs), why doesn't the computer industry standardize the damn things? Answer: Because they cost more, and consumers are cheapskates. But in the long run, they're far more affordable; anyone who's had to burn a regular CD-ROM just to move one 50k file from one computer to another knows what I'm talking about. It quickly becomes another worthless addition to the landfill pile. There's enough garbage in the world. We need to stick with CD-RWs only.
- Valet parking. Maybe it's convenient to have some minimum wage-earning stranger at a restaurant whisk your car off to the parking lot without you having to expend the extra energy in doing so yourself – you lazy bastard. But why force already-paying customers to fork out another five bucks (or more) for a service that, most of the time, they can handle just fine by themselves? It's a ripoff and a nuisance. Away with it. (Though if a restaurant or hotel will offer free valet parking, I'm okay with that.)
- Syrupy sweet voice recordings. I'm referring to the automated voice systems that you hear on the phone everywhere, as well as radio commercials. Have you noticed? Lately, every female voice has become sickeningly sugar-coated, as though she's talking to a helpless child. Every male voice is gentle and reassuring, like the perfect dad asking his kids to go play a game of catch after dinner. Nauseating. I realize it's a fad, but bring back normal human speech.
- Styrofoam packing peanuts. There's no more justification for using these non-recyclable, non-biodegradable annoyances in shipping when there are variations made from potato starch that break down in water. Even the air-filled plastic pouches that Amazon uses to ship their merchandise do a dandy job without taking up much space when discarded.
- One-way streets. Whose bright idea was this? Sorry, but I can't think of any way in which one-way streets are more convenient or efficient than two-way streets. They're certainly more confusing and troublesome. Repaint and repurpose.
- The US one dollar bill. Heresy! you say? Well, just about every other nation on earth has replaced its filthy, wrinkled paper equivalent of the dollar with a nice clean coin. But we bullheaded Americans are resistant to change – no pun intended.
- The US penny. I've got nothing against Honest Abe, but the penny is even more obsolete than the paper dollar. As above, most other countries have obliterated the one-cent piece as nobody ever needs one, ever. When you receive four pennies in change and wish you could have just been given a shiny, useful nickel instead, you'll agree.
- Cigarettes. I tried to come up with something more clever here, but let's face it. I know some people enjoy a smoke now and then, but cigarettes... Well, I'm not going to turn this into an anti-smoking rant. You know what's bad about them. And you know that the world would be a better place without them.