I drove through the drive-in window at a McSomething and asked for a chocolate milkshake. Before I got out of the parking lot, my daughter slurped a sip of the drink.

“This is vanilla,” she said. I clicked on the light and saw that the creamy mixture was the color of a bridal gown.

I parked and went inside. “I ordered a chocolate shake,” I said.

The woman behind the counter took the drink, threw it away and started making another one.

Thick Milk-of-Magnesia-white liquid spiraled from the machine.

“I wanted chocolate,” I pleaded.

“This is chocolate,” she said.

“It’s white, and my daughter says it tastes like vanilla.” I assured her.

She smiled and stood her ground. “It’s chocolate.”

I was getting edgy. “It looks like vanilla and tastes like vanilla, but it’s chocolate?”

“That’s right,” she said.

I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I left and went to McSomewhere-else. And I thought about how often some people rely on us to believe things that don’t add up.

Con men have been cheating gullible folks for a long time. The 1800s were called the Golden Age of schemes.

I picture a Frontier Medicine Man in the back of a wagon selling lotions, potions and deadly elixirs. Cure-alls, promising relief from pain and sickness. Hucksters peddling Fatoff Obesity Cream.

Back East, according to the New York Times, the Brooklyn Bridge was sold more than once to unsuspecting folks in the late 1800s. And in 1925, a European con artist sold the Eiffel Tower twice.

Amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson became famous in 1912 with his discovery of Piltdown Man. He claimed fragments of the human-like skull were 500,000 years old, the “missing link.” New technology, in 1949, proved his fake fossil was 50,000 years old. Now it’s commonly called the Piltdown Hoax.

Nowadays, we’re bombarded with phishing attacks, the dark web of the internet. The black market of technology. The days of the isolated, pimply, nerd living in his mama’s basement are gone. Hacking is a $600-billion-a-year industry for professional bad guys, trained tricksters luring us to provide personal information.

I noticed a bumper sticker not long ago that said, “Space is the future.” But, I’m not convinced we’ll be living on the red planet any time soon.

Since 1960, there have been 56 Mars Missions, and none have had a passenger on board. I can’t imagine why we’d want to live on Mars. Drive across the U.S. and you’ll see plenty of desolate land right here at home.

But if we do end up settling on Mars, I hope I’m on the planning commission. I have some definite ideas of how things should be.

I’ll make sure that if there’s a fast-food franchise with golden arches, the shakes swirling from the chocolate milkshake machine will look and taste like chocolate.

Meanwhile, until folks stop trying to mislead and deceive us, I’m gonna stick to the cliché that if it looks like a horse and sounds like a horse, it’s probably not an elephant.

Mary Belk lives in Auburn and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News.

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