5 World Cities That Have Weird Problems You Never Knew About
Every city has its problems. Los Angeles has its traffic, New Orleans has its hurricanes, and Cleveland has its deep existential malaise from which few escape. But sometimes a town has chronic issues that are so uniquely and unexpectedly weird that you'd never believe it was happening at all, much less that it was a serious problem. For example ...
Every October, Rome Is Absolutely Drowned In Bird Shit
Rome is one of humanity's most enduring settlements. The Eternal City has survived the weight of thousands of years of history, and still stands proud. Perhaps that's why it's so funny that every year around October, millions of starlings migrate from Northern and Eastern Europe and shit all over it.
We know what you're thinking. "Birds shit on my car all the time, where's my parade?" How bad could it really be, right?
In the mornings, the birds descend on nearby farms to gorge on olives, then settle down to rest and shit those olives out in the warmer urban areas, caking Rome's roads, buildings, and vehicles with noxious, slippery guano. Residents are forced to carry umbrellas around town, and authorities spread de-slicking agents on the asphalt to prevent motorcyclists from skidding off the road. When it rains shit, cartoon logic reigns supreme.
New York City's Tap Water Violates Jewish Law
New York City's tap water is full of tiny shrimp-like critters called copepods. Go ahead and picture this cutie the next time you down a glass.
The crustaceans are harmless, if a little gross, but removing them from the water is unfeasible and even detrimental. According to the Department of Environmental Protection, they provide "health benefits to water reservoirs." But copepods pose a unique religious problem for the city's 331,200 Orthodox Jews. Kosher guidelines prohibit shellfish consumption, and the discovery of the copepods ignited Talmudic debates over the water.
Only creatures visible to the naked eye are prohibited, but some copepods can grow up to 1.5 millimeters long and can be seen as little white dots flitting about in the water. So the Orthodox Union, the world's largest Kosher certification agency, released an official statement with guidelines on filtering water and washing dishes to avoid accidental contamination. There's no clear consensus on other potential offenses, like inadvertent consumption while showering or brushing your teeth, so to err on the side of caution, many of the city's Orthodox Jews have installed full house water filtration systems. Those things are pricey, but hey, if there's one thing worth filtering out, it's probably G-d's judgment.
Boston Has An Army Of Obnoxious Fake Buddhist Monks
If you asked an average American to describe a Buddhist monk in one word, you'd probably hear "peaceful." That chill reputation is the perfect cover for a small army of con artists and fraudsters who only dress like monks to bleed Boston dry of both its loose change and its patience.
The fake monks, possibly funded by a Chinese gang that provide their robes and visas, first appeared at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall a couple years ago. They solicit "donations" from tourists and locals, often tricking people into accepting fake prayers and cheaply made tchotchkes and then demanding cash. Faneuil Hall fought back by posting warnings which advised locals and tourists to ignore the "Fake Monk Mafia."
But the fake monks simply spread to other parts of the city, with a focus on tourist hot spots like parks and the waterfront. They can legally panhandle as long as they don't get too aggressive, so they toe a fine line of obnoxiousness. It's bad for local businesses, but it's also bad for Boston's real charities. People are only so giving, and the monks can quickly sap any goodwill that could be going toward nobler efforts, like getting the entire city speech therapy.
San Francisco Is Full Of Shit (Literally)
San Francisco is one of the wealthiest, most technologically advanced cities in the world. It has every amenity a resident could possibly need ... except public toilets. There aren't enough to accommodate the city's many asses, and as one of the great works of human literature taught us, everybody poops. Which means the city's growing homeless population has been forced to defecate on the streets.
The situation is dire enough that people are creating interactive poop maps, like Jenn Wong's Human Wasteland, which lists all public feces reported to the city's 311 hotline. There's also Haochi Chen's less elegantly named San Franshitsco, a map that pulls from 311 reports and official city data.
San Francisco only has 126 bathroom facilities that are accessible to the homeless (for comparison, New York City has 2,713), to say nothing of any broke tourists with a sudden urge to take a load off. And the majority of those public bathrooms close at night, leaving only 28 toilets in the entire city that are available 24/7. It's estimated that the city needs at least 500. That is a crippling crapper deficit.
Malmo Needs Help With Grenade Control
Sweden leads the world in recycling, as well as another, less desirable statistic: grenade attacks. They were a rarity prior to 2014, but since then rates have, ahem, exploded. Grenades go for about $12.50 on the street, or come for free with the purchase of a black market gun. With a deal like that, you can't afford not to get one.
In 2017, there were 20 explosions, with another 39 undetonated grenades seized. The overall list of recent incidents is something you'd expect from a country on the brink of civil war, not one of the planet's most prosperous nations. It's worse in Malmo, where 30 explosions occurred in 2015 alone. Police have advised residents to be on the lookout for the many unexploded grenades they believe still litter the streets, which really puts San Francisco's problem in a new light.
Not even the cops are safe. Explosions have been reported at police stations in Helsingborg, Uppsala, Katrineholm, and of course, Malmo. And considering the attacks that have already occurred in 2018, the trend doesn't look like it's slowing down.
It's mostly thanks to Sweden's open border with Denmark. The two countries are connected by the Oresund Bridge, a popular route for trafficking unused weapons left over from the Balkan conflicts of the '90s. Sellers are eager to unload excess grenades while they're still functional, and the buyers, mostly Swedish gangs, are eager to get a leg up on their competition. It would be an inspiring story about the adaptability of capitalism if it weren't about people exploding.
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