Common Things We All Think But Never Question

We're supposedly all special and unique snowflakes, and yet the world often confuses us all in the same exact ways. We never openly acknowledge some of what confuses us, though, because a nagging voice deep in our cerebellum says there might actually be a reason why things are the way they are. Since no one wants to be that jerk who asks "why" and immediately gets shot down with an expert answer and condescending glare, we just silently keep these weird thoughts to ourselves. Weird thoughts like...

"Buses should have seatbelts."

We teach kids about the importance of seatbelts, and then stick them on school buses that don't have them, every day. Even as adults, we go on buses sans belts, even though we wouldn't be caught dead doing the same in our own cars. It seems like the weirdest, most careless design flaw in the history of transportation, and yet Even during a bus accident, you rarely hear about people being thrown through the window to the streets below, or even from one side of the bus to the next. Are the seats considered enough padding to save people's lives? That might be it, though you'd think by now somebody would lawsuit their way into making bus seatbelts mandatory, especially for school buses. The fact that this hasn't happened must mean the system works, though that doesn't mean anyone knows why.

"Airplanes don't need that 'no smoking' light anymore."

The airplane no-smoking sign is a given, even though you'd think we'd have all gotten the point by now. For awhile, when each flight had its own rules, the sign was necessary. For example, according to Stack Exchange, airlines banned cigars and pipes in 1979, then in 1988 banned smoking on all flights under two hours. So you needed the sign for those flights. Then, in 1990, they extended that ban to flights lasting under six hours, and in 1998 to all US domestic flights. Finally, in 2000, every plane in America went smoke-free. Sixteen years later, we no longer need that crossed-out ciggie lingering over our heads every second of every flight, reminding us of a rule that's been in effect 24/7 for an entire generation. And yet, as dumb as it is, we recognize why it still exists: because if ever it went away, a whole mass of people would assume the rule did too, and immediately puff away in front of your kids. So the next time you find yourself wondering why that light still exists, it's because smokers absolutely need the micromanagement.

"There's no reason to still call gas unleaded."

Back in the day, gasoline was full of delicious lead. Then, once we realized that stuff can kill you before you're finished filling up, the oil industry developed an alternative: unleaded gasoline. Eventually, enough people chose to not risk cancer, so leaded gas fell by the wayside. Ever since the 1970s, you can't get leaded gas at all, since the stuff is outright banned. And yet, we still insist on calling our gas "unleaded," despite the qualifier being completely unnecessary. Nobody's selling leaded gas from a trunk in their car. Basically 100 percent of our vroom juice is unleaded. It's the default to the point many of us ask the clerk to "fill it with the regular." So why isn't its official name "regular?" Would people suddenly assume that lead is making a comeback if the "un" goes extinct? That has to be the only reason, though it's not exactly a good one.

"Cops don't need to block off three lanes for one small accident."

How often have you found yourself stuck in a complete traffic standstill, 60 hours per mile, and when you finally crawl your way to the holdup, you find only a minor accident? To you, this should've caused maybe a slight slowdown, but the police insisted on closing down 75 percent of the highway, forcing everybody to awkwardly squeeze into one super-cramped lane. This makes absolutely no sense, and simply makes an already-stressful commute even worse. Not that we'd ever call out the police on their decision. For one thing, they don't like when you do that, and neither does their best friend, Mr. Handcuffs. But more importantly, once we bumrush past our selfish initial frustrations, we ultimately admit there's probably a good reason the entire highway had to shut down. Who knows how many got hurt, how badly, or how much hidden glass is spewed across lanes, after all? The cops and EMTs are probably thinking "better safe than shattered," and if that means you don't get home for the next three dinners, they'll take that over letting you do 70 and risk never making it to one again.

"Lots of things at the dollar store cost way more than a dollar."

The idea of a store where everything costs a buck is a tantalizing one, especially when it's Tuesday, you don't get paid until Friday, but you need groceries and a new wardrobe NOW. And sure, much of what you see at the dollar store indeed costs a dollar. But not everything—in many of these places, expect to pay way over a buck for the better items. The really good stuff might even run you double digits. In the dollar store! That's blatant false advertising and we all know it, yet nobody raises a stink about it. This is likely because deep down, we know a store selling everything for a dollar—even electronics and nice-ish clothing—wouldn't last a month before going under. So we accept the pricing, yet nobody questions the untrue name. Certainly, nobody sues to get it changed, though that might be because people who shop at the dollar store probably can't afford a lawyer.

"Taking off our shoes at the airport is pointless."

Who among us hasn't thought, at least once, that removing our shoes before being allowed to board an airplane is the dumbest thing imaginable? That's because it basically is the dumbest thing, an idea born out of pure panic and reaction. Post 9/11, one wannabe terrorist attempted to blow up a plane using a bomb in his shoe. He failed, miserably. Despite that though, and despite nobody trying to smuggle a bomb in their shoe since, now everyone has to slip off the footwear, just in case. But even though we know, deep down, that this idea was pointless then and even more pointless now that we've got full-body scanners to show us everything, questioning it would be useless. Because the second the airline industry lets us keep our shoes on, the masses would angrily complain that we've "gone soft," and that we as a nation no longer take threats seriously. So off the shoes go, forevermore, because the illusion of security matters just as much as actual security.