Just briefly ... commenting on the beginning of your reply ...
Since I provide between 30 & 50 (depending on business flow throughout the year) computers to people each and every year, I also have a pretty good handle on what they're looking to use. The most important thing that you're forgetting in the beginning of your response, is the impact of social media. That's why I said most people only require a handful of apps ... because their social media already requires so much of their attention, that the people whom I've been dealing with (Joe Average) have absolutely no desire whatsoever, to expand on their computer knowledge.
On a personal level, I find this to be quite disturbing. IMO social media has directly contributed to the decline of knowledge, education, and the willingness for people to expand their horizons. My wife and I participated in social media for 2 years, before deciding that we can do without that crap in our lives ... specifically because of the distractions and the time that it sucks out of an individual.
As far as the USB stick is concerned, I did mention that the same stick worked with an MX Linux image without a problem ... on the same machine too.
I'll use another stick, but it'll have to wait for awhile. I'll be back to let you know the results. Have a great weekend.