A Bunch of Hacks


The original title of this article was “Life Hacks are a Load of Garbage and if You Like Them, So are You.” But brevity is the soul of wit, I suppose.

Even if that title was a remarkably straightforward explanation of my true feelings on the subject.

It isn’t entirely clear who coined the term “life hacks,” or when. Many facts about the Internet era are muddied by multiple people claiming credit for the same meme or tiny scrap of Internet fame. It doesn’t help that I didn’t bother looking it up either.

If it wasn’t obvious by now, I’m not a fan. The exact reasons why vary based on the specific hack. A lot of them simply don’t work. Others were pranks intended to make your life worse somehow. Others still offer no appreciably different results one way or another. And a few will just straight-up give you second-degree burns even when you do them right. But you don’t know which are which until you try, so…good luck with that.

And ideally, keep a fire extinguisher handy. Yes, even for the one about amplifying your iPod headphones with a roll of toilet paper. You never know…

What people don’t realize is that we’ve had something very much like life hacks for more than a thousand years now. They’re called “old wives’ tales.” And their aim is to offer you secret techniques to make your life better. You know, unless they do nothing.

The only difference now is that the Internet has allowed every idiot who could paw at a keyboard to offer their own two cents. So I feel like life hacks skew a lot more towards just not working. Add to that the people outright hoping people will drink bleach to make their toilet fresher in just two weeks, and it’s sort of a nightmare scenario. I’d go as far as saying that maybe one out of every ten life hacks actually works as intended, with another one of ten leaving you rolling your eyes at a shattered pickle jar and saying, “I guess?”

I could probably go into a whole article as to what’s wrong with each kind of life hack – and I eventually might – but for now, here are some of the key problems:

Not everyone knows about the secret menus – even people working at the restaurants. Secret menus are a thing, but only kind of. They are in that they exist and some people might even know what you’re talking about if you order a “McGangbang” (and yes, that’s a real fake item). But if you have to explain what it is to 95% of cashiers anyway, how is this making things easier for anyone involved?

The food service industry is made of mostly underpaid and angry people who have no time for your nonsense. Ordering an item off a secret menu is only one degree better than ordering spaghetti at McDonalds or a hamburger at Taco Bell. There’s really only one surefire restaurant hack, and it’s how to make people spit in your food by being annoying.

Also, stop talking about the one about ordering two kinds of meat at Chipotle to get 10% more meat than usual like it’s the second coming of Jesus Christ and Ecto Cooler combined.

Food hacks are often harder and cost more than the original. I have a little rule in cooking. If I can’t make something either much better or much cheaper by buying the individual ingredients and making it myself, I’ll buy the store version. Why wouldn’t I? It’s exactly the reason I make my own sandwiches instead of paying $7 at Subway, and why I buy jar tomato sauce because it costs $1.

The best example of this is that one about making your own ice cream sandwiches by baking your own cookies and then cutting a slice out of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The minimum cost of that is maybe $7, and while it’s true that you could make more than one, is it really worth all that extra time, energy and money? Not to mention that many ice cream cookie sandwiches are less than a buck fifty in the freezer case. That’s not a life hack. That’s a moral victory. At best.

You want a real “food hack?” Make a pound of a spaghetti at once. You’ll want more later anyway, and that way you don’t have to keep boiling water. You’re welcome.

A lot of the kitchen hacks seem like they were made my people who’ve never been in a kitchen before. That little hole in the pot handle isn’t for holding a wooden spoon. It’s for hanging it up. And pouring Capri Sun into a glass doesn’t make you a visionary. It makes you history’s greatest monster.

Oh. And that one about turning a Chinese takeout box into a plate? Good idea. Let’s turn our container that holds noodles and liquid perfectly fine into a flat sheet that does none of those things for no reason.

But fear not. I’m sure there’s some life hack about getting out soy sauce stains by rubbing aloe on it or something. Which leads me to…

Some life hacks seem like they were something that worked for someone one time and they lost their mind over it. I don’t even think the majority of life hacks are meant to be malicious or cruel. I honestly think there was a guy who once microwaved his pizza with a glass of water and it came out crispy. Of course, this makes about as much logical sense as drying out a wet shirt by peeing on it. But one guy got lucky and decided to share his secret with the world.

About the pizza and water, I mean – not the pee shirt.

And lastly, people need to stop claiming credit for common knowledge. Fold the end of a roll of tape to make the next piece easier to get. Put a sponge below a leaky faucet to stop the noise. Freeze wine into cubes to cool your wine because you have a problem.

We’re about one day from people telling us to reuse old water bottles by filling them with tap water for a tasty summertime treat.

Anyway, I’ve said my piece. And I’m still pretty irritated. So there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing about this topic again.



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