Re: This is a deliberate feature and it's because Apple cares.
"It'd be nice to have a UNIX that I don't have to constantly fuck with to use every now and then."
Frank, have you tried Slackware-stable as a day-to-day box? I moved my Wife from WinXP about ten years ago. Granted, it took a little hand-holding at first as she learned where the stuff she wanted to do was located ... but it's three or four laptops later now, and I haven't had to do anything other than new installs and routine updates for her in years. Try it, you might like it.
Hint: If you're new to Slackware, do a complete install. It's not like hard drive space is precious anymore. You can strip out the bits you don't need/want later if the inefficiency annoys you.
Caveat: Slack's KDE-centric, but if you hate KDE it ships with alternatives. And obviously, if you are somewhat computer literate you can easily install any of the desktop environments.
Note: My personal day-to-day box uses the same exact box-stock Slack setup that my wife uses. I never have to fuck with it, it just works. That doesn't mean I don't have a couple of dev boxen with other crap grafted onto them, and a couple of Slackware-current boxes just to keep an eye on development. Hardware's cheap.