Wednesday, May 18, 2022

An Open Letter to AARP

Dear folks over at AARP,

I’d like to start by saying, bite me.

Allow me to explain. AARP is for old people, and I’m only 49. Yet, you felt compelled recently to send me an AARP membership invitation entitled, “Welcome to the ‘50’s Club.’”

Sure, my 50th birthday is next week, but that still doesn’t excuse this egregious affront to my youthfulness. Again, your organization is for old people. Really old people. Women with blue hair and men who sit on their front porch and yell at the neighborhood kids to stay off the lawn.

I have teenage boys, for goodness sake. I’m not old!

I don’t even understand what you want with me, besides, of course, my subscription money. You’ve listed all these amazing benefits of membership, and none of them apply to me. Discounts on meal delivery services? Last time I checked, Meals-on-Wheels was free. (At least, they’ve never charged me.)

Thirty percent off on eyewear? Sure, my eyes gave up trying years ago, but I get my magnifying readers at the dollar store, so I’m good there.

Discounts on dining? I’m not interested in the early bird specials, thank you very much. I don’t eat dinner at 4:00 like your actually old members do. I eat dinner at 4:30 like young people do.

And you bill yourselves as the “proven advocate for protecting Social Security.” I don’t want Social Security. I’ve never wanted it. It’s socialist. It’s right there in the title. I’ve never wanted the government taking my money from me and “saving” it for me for my own good. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the government has a 100% track record of being really bad at saving money.

I can save for my own retirement, thank you very much. And speaking of retirement, might I remind you of what AARP stands for? I realize you pulled a KFC and don’t talk about what your letters mean anymore, but in case you forgot, it was the American Association of Retired Persons.

Why are you even contacting me? I’m miles away from being retired, so how the hell do I even qualify? Also, thanks for rubbing it in my face that apparently there are young people my age out there who have already retired. That’s just hurtful and mean.

One thing, though – you mention health tips and advice a lot in the brochure… do you have any advice for what to do about aching hips? I’m not saying that I’m old, or even that my hips hurt, but I assume that a lot of your actually old members have hip issues, and I’d like to know what is recommended for relief.

You know, for future reference, of course.

So, to sum up, I’ll skip the amazing free insulated car trunk organizer you are offering and just go about my youthful, young man business.

But seriously, any advice you could give me on the hip thing would be great.

Sincerely, a very young almost-50-year-old,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

An Open Letter to Dixon Ticonderoga

Dear folks over at the Dixon Ticonderoga Company,

I am writing you today to give you a heads up about the end of an era. Specifically, the era of the Number 2 Pencil, of which you are surely the world’s leading manufacturer.

I have been proctoring college advanced placement exams for the last two weeks. “Proctoring” is an old Latin word that means “trying not to fall asleep.” The job involves giving a large number of high school students very specific instructions for about five minutes, then nodding off in a quiet room for two hours.

A majority of the instructions I am required to give have to do with each and every student desperately needing to have in their possession one or more Number 2 Pencils. For this, I have to give you a ton of credit. I don’t know who you had to pay off over the years, or how much it cost, but that whole “Number 2 Pencils are the only thing that works on these little bubbles” nonsense has really stuck around.

So much so, that it’s printed on nearly every page of the lengthy instruction book I have from College Board. Seriously, you guys deserve a ton of credit for that marketing home run. You actually have testing companies putting it in writing that every high school student in America must use your products. I mean, that is a big win. Sure, they don’t actually write “Dixon Ticonderoga” in the instructions, but they may as well.

You guys are the Kleenex of pencils. The Xerox of writing implements. The Q-tips of Scantron bubble tests. When someone says, “you need a yellow Number 2 Pencil,” they may as well be saying your name, even if people don’t know your name. You’re that good.

The majority of folks out there probably think “Number 2” actually means that the pencil is wooden, yellow, and has your name on it. But we know better, don’t we, DT? You and I both know that Number 2 is just another designation for “HB” lead hardness, on the long and weird scale of pencil lead harness/blackness that only artists and us old engineers care about. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool us old engineers. (Because our hips hurt if we lay in bed too long, and we needed to pee anyway.)

I mean, I can understand the reasoning behind the whole “pens will not work” instruction on the bubble tests. It’s not because the machine wouldn’t read the pen mark – it’s better than a pencil. It’s because the kid can’t erase it if they need to.

But where your marketing department really came through for you was the “mechanical pencils will not work” instruction. You guys are good! Never mind that I have an old set of wooden pencils with all kinds of different lead hardnesses that are not “Number 2,” but I have plenty of HB lead for my mechanical pencils.

I’m just super impressed with the long game you guys played in the Scantron testing field! But here’s the thing. How long can it really be before the AP tests – all tests, for that matter – go digital. I’m actually amazed it hasn’t happened yet. The SAT is slated to go digital in the next year or so, and colleges might even stop using that one. I can’t imagine the AP tests’ move to digital will be far behind.

And as near as I can tell, bubble tests are your last remaining market on earth. I’m assuming you’ve noticed a slight dip in sales over the last few years, but just in case you’re still all wearing polyester Sansabelt slacks and riding high on those Number 2 Pencil glory years of the ‘60s thru ‘90s, change is a-comin’.

I guess you still have the paper crossword puzzle crowd, but there are fewer and fewer of us around these days, and Wordle is probably putting a major dent in that market, too. (And I use a mechanical pencil. Less pencil shavings, you know.)

Anyway, just wanted to give you a heads up.

Best of luck with everything,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

We're Burying the Lead, Here

Two news stories have captivated my interest lately. Actually, it’s more the stories behind the stories that I’m interested in.

First, some boaters on Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, found a dead body stuffed in a barrel. But the barrel hadn’t washed up on shore. Instead, the shore came to the boaters as the water level of Lake Mead has dropped to historic lows.

As additional details have emerged over the last few days, we found out that, to no one’s surprise, this seems to be the result of foul play.

One additional detail was that the body has an additional hole in it, caused by a bullet. And our unfortunate murder victim has likely been barrel-marinating since the late ‘70s or early ‘80s.

"The victim's clothes and shoes were sold at Kmart in the mid-to-late 1970s," Metro Police Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told KLAS.

So, based on the wardrobe, I have to assume at this point that the police are looking into disappearances of very, very low-level Las Vegas mob guys forty-plus years ago. Kmart was never high-end, even in the late ‘70s.

We also learned: The decades-old barrel is also believed to have originally been about 100 feet underwater and "several hundred" yards from shore, Lt. Spencer told Fox5 Las Vegas.

The drought has caused a large decrease in water level, and Lake Mead is one of two major reservoirs in the country. According to The Associated Press, Lake Mead and Lake Powell supply water to over 40 million people, but its drop in water level has created major cause for concern.

Here’s where the story behind the story comes in, and the news doesn’t seem to be covering it. They state that it’s the “drop in water level” that “has created a major cause for concern.”

The articles even dropped this little speculation from law enforcement on us: According to Spencer, there's a "very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains."

Even after that cheery news, the press still hasn’t covered the real story here.The major cause for concern is not the water levels. It’s all the dead bodies in the drinking water, people!

I mean, come on! The headline here should be: “Bottled Water Sales Skyrocket in the Nevada/Arizona/Utah Regions”

 

The second story that has me glued to my phone is the Alabama jail break. Lauderdale County Assistant Director of Corrections Vicki White, a formerly model Sheriff’s department employee, seems to have broken her secret jail boyfriend out of said jail.

(Note the fun built-in foreshadowing of the county in Alabama being named “Lauderdale.” You just know damn well this thing is going to all wind up in Florida, the natural magnetic home of American crazy.)

Casey White, our murderous incarcerated love interest, was released from jail a little earlier than expected by Vicki. She broke department policy by failing to bring along another officer when transporting Casey to his fake court appearance and then she broke AMA and HIPAA policy when she failed to show up for her own fake doctor’s appointment hours later.

Initially, the U.S. Marshals Service put out a reward for information leading to the capture of a dangerous fugitive and hopefully, the safe return of his poor little hostage. Shortly thereafter, more information began to arrive.

"Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White," Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement Tuesday. "That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means."

Throughout the reporting of this story, the press has been very diligent in noting the fact that Casey White and Vicki White are not related.

Inmate Casey White and Lauderdale County Assistant Director of Corrections Vicki White -- who are not related -- went missing from Florence, Alabama, on Friday.

Vicky White, 56, and Casey White, 38, who are not related…

Etc.

You might think that this is just a natural result of standard reporting practices, but I believe it to be something more. I think that’s the real story behind the story here.

The reporters keep pointing out that Casey and Vicki are not related for a much different reason than you think. The rest of us around the country would initially see the same last name and think, “Oh, maybe they’re cousins and she’s helping a family member escape.” We would think that before we found out they were romantically involved.

This insanely stupid jail break is serving to showcase a huge media bias that is almost never talked about. The real story here is the elite media snobs’ natural bias against hillbillies. This isn’t a case of racism, it’s a case of regionism. The press are regionists, or whatever you call it when people from Manhattan automatically look down on people from Alabama.

The New York press keeps pointing out that the fugitive lovers are not related because they are simply amazed at the fact that they’re not cousins.

The other thing that amazes me about this particular story is the fact that Vicki is five-foot-five and “walks with a waddling gait,” and Casey is six-foot-nine.

Six feet, nine inches tall.

For the love of Pete, how is this couple hard to find!?

See you soon, and May the 4th be with you,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A Light at the End of the Carpool, Part Two

When Son Number One was born, we had to quickly master the baby blanket swaddle wrap. Confining his arms and legs in a blankie, like an eleven-pound Chipotle burrito, was the only way to shut him up at bedtime. It worked like a charm.

A little over sixteen years ago, when Son Number Two was born, our swaddle game was at its peak. I burrito-wrapped him like a pro in the hospital on his very first day.

He cried.

Then, unfortunately, he kept crying. Soon, my wife was crying.

After somewhere between eighteen and twenty-four hours of crying, I was about to cry. I went to his bassinet to do the only thing I knew to do – re-wrap the burrito boy. When I pulled the top locking blankie fold loose, his little arms and legs all went “fwump” down onto the mattress, and he fell instantly asleep – completely unwrapped.

That was the moment that my wife and I came to the horrifying realization that our boys would not be exactly the same.

Neither of us really remember what Son Number Three preferred. Those years are just one big hazy, sleep-deprived fog, with my most consistent memory being Shop-Vac’ing Cheerios and goldfish cracker dust out of car seat crevices.

While all three of our sons being very different creatures has presented many, many challenges over the years, one recent bright spot is the driver’s license situation.

Son Number One didn’t seem to care about getting his license at all. Thankfully for everything except our insurance premiums, he finally became a legal driver a few months before turning seventeen, and takes himself where he needs to be.

Son Number Two, not surprisingly, is taking a different approach. He is on what I would call the more traditional driver’s license timing path. He’s still acting like a psycho and didn’t schedule his test on his sixteenth birthday, but his test in this coming Monday, so he’s at least within a couple weeks of the date.

Assuming – and finger’s crossed – everything goes well on Monday, we will have two teenage drivers. Army generals and insurance companies have known for centuries that the teenage boy is the most reckless and wild animal on the planet, scoring just in front of the honey badger and the Tasmanian devil.

When Number One was learning to drive, we were told to just expect our insurance premium to double when he got his license, and that’s pretty much what happened. I’ve done zero research and asked zero questions about what happens to the premium when you add a second honey badger to the plan. I don’t want to know.

I don’t care at this point, because money doesn’t matter right now when balanced against carpool. I’ve never been freed from a long imprisonment in a POW camp, but I would imagine it’s a very similar feeling to being freed from carpool.

I am currently in the middle of the second-to-last carpool week of my life, and I am giddy. Son Number Two getting his license is a big part of that. With all three boys at the same high school next year, and two of them driving, there is a very good chance that Son Number Three will have a ride to and from whatever school or sports activity he’s involved in, nearly every single time.

Again, it's hard for me to express the joy I feel when I think of never driving carpool again, but to try to put it into monetary terms, it’s totally worth whatever multiple-Tasmanian devil insurance bill is coming my way on Monday afternoon.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

This Survey is a Big Doughnut

Son Number Two turned sixteen yesterday. Pedestrians of Northern California, you have been warned. He had a high school lacrosse game last night, so we bought doughnuts for the team to celebrate after the game.

There are eighteen guys on the roster, so we did the math and figured, conservatively, we’d need about six hundred doughnuts. When I got to the drive thru menu board at Krispy Kreme, however, I realized that, from a long-term financial survival standpoint, we’d only barely be able to afford three dozen, so I went with that.

My giant receipt offered me the opportunity to take a “brief” survey in order to get a free dozen doughnuts with my next purchase of another dozen. Normally, I would have thrown that away, but Son Number Three is turning fourteen on Saturday, and he also has a lacrosse game that day. He was there for his brother’s game last night, so there is no possible way we’re getting out of doing the “doughnuts for the whole team” thing again.

Suddenly, taking the doughnut survey could potentially be the smartest financial decision I make all year.

 

What food items did you purchase?

Umm… doughnuts. I thought that was implied here.

 

Please rate your satisfaction with our service, etc.

Phenomenal, except for the price. I was unaware that doughnuts are now priced like Tesla batteries.

 

Based on this experience, what is the likelihood that you will…

Return to Krispy Kreme in the next 30 days?

Highly. That’s why I’m taking this ridiculous survey.

 

Recommend Krispy Kreme to others?

I’ll recommend everything except actually paying for them.

 

When do you plan to purchase Krispy Kreme again?

In the next couple days, but I feel like that answer might be giving you a false sense of my willingness to keep coming back and paying these prices…

 

What type of doughnuts did you purchase?

I was sincerely unaware that you made more than that one type of doughnut.

 

After your purchase, how soon was the first doughnut eaten?

Is this a trick question? I had a box of doughnuts on my lap. About three seconds.

 

After your purchase, when were the majority of the doughnuts eaten?

OK, that’s a little better gauge of what happened. About three hours later.

 

After your purchase, when was the last doughnut eaten?

Umm… these are high school kids. I don’t understand the question. There was no “last doughnut.” They were all devoured in less than ten seconds.

 

After your purchase, where were most of the doughnuts you purchased consumed?

Inside a swirling vortex of high school lacrosse players. We went over this already.


How much did you spend on this visit?

Way too much! Again, why do you think I’m doing this survey??

 

Was this your first visit to Krispy Kreme?

I’m fifty years old. Of course not.

 

What was your primary reason in deciding to visit this Krispy Kreme?

Umm… is this another trick question? To buy doughnuts.


When did you make the decision to visit this Krispy Kreme?

Umm… right around the same time I decided I wanted doughnuts…

 

You guys should hire better survey people. I’m not sure your questions are doing you any good, but I sure do appreciate the discount for this Saturday!

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

An Open Letter to Life 360

Dear folks over at the Life 360 app,

I am writing you today to ask you to do just a little bit better with your app. Please don’t get me wrong – we love it. As parents, my wife and I just can’t get enough of knowing exactly where our children are at all times. At least, exactly where their phones are.

Your app can cause trouble for people, however.

As an example, one of our police officer friends told us a story about an older gentleman who visited a coffee shop one day, and was seen by one of the employees placing his phone in a Ziploc bag, and tucking it under the outdoor deck. The man then drove off in his car.

The barista was obviously confused and concerned, so he called the police, who came and retrieved the phone, then tracked the man’s car via traffic cameras to a rather shady little strip mall. The strip mall happened to contain a massage parlor of the blacked-out-windows variety, if you know what I mean.

Inside the massage parlor, our friend the cop was able to return the phone to a very, very concerned gentleman wrapped in a cheap towel. A gentleman who not only did not want to be talking to a police officer inside that particular “massage parlor,” but most definitely did not want his phone to be there.

That was a case where your app caused a problem for that older gentleman, and rightfully so. He’s obviously a dirtbag.

My problem is that your app recently caused a problem for me.

No, I was not putting my phone in a Ziploc under a coffee shop’s deck.

You see, Son Number One and Two are in Mexicali, Mexico right now on a mission trip with our church. They are currently working hard, building a house for a deserving family in need of one. We are very proud of them, to say the least.

But their mother and their grandmother tend to worry. They tend to worry a lot. Many times, they will search out things to worry about if life seems to be going too smoothly. So, as you can imagine, two of our three boys going to Mexicali was plenty of fuel for the worry fire.

Your app, however, piled some unnecessary logs onto that fire.

The boys left on Friday, and we followed their progress down south on the Life 360 app as the day progressed. We knew that they would turn their phones off on Saturday morning when they crossed the border. The group leaders hold onto their phones for the week so the kids have no distractions and can focus on why they’re there.

The problem for me here is two-fold.

First is the accuracy of location and the update speed your app provides. Regularly, both of my sons will be riding in the same car to and from school, but it appears on the app as if they are in separate cars and are racing each other, trading the lead back and forth the entire way. That seems like it could work better, but it was always more of an amusing glitch than a problem. Until now. You’ll see why shortly.

The second part of the problem is how your app reacts when the phone gets shut off. For some reason, the app doesn’t just immediately say, “The cell signal has been lost or the phone has been shut off,” or something like that. No, your app holds out hope – for about two days, it turns out – that the user will regain the cell signal or turn the phone back on. While you are holding out hope, that person – my wife’s first- and second-born, in this case – remain frozen on the screen as if they’ve simply stopped and are hanging out there.

In this case, for two days on the Life 360 screen, Son Number Two was being detained at the border crossing and Son Number One was at a hospital a mile inside the border.

A hospital, man!

Do you have any idea what I had to go through to talk my wife and mother-in-law out of storming Mexico to retrieve their babies?

Not cool, Life 360. Not cool.

So, yeah, if you could fix those little bugs, that would be amazing.

Thanks in advance,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

A Twelfth Open Letter to the School District

Dear folks in charge of the decision making down at the School District,

I am writing you today to inquire about getting three or four student loans going. I’m not sure about the process for getting student loans for boys that are still in middle and high school, but I definitely know I want them.

I read the news recently that repayments on student loan debts have been frozen for a few years now, due to people’s inability to leave the house and get to the mailbox during quarantine. The government just voted to extend the freeze a while longer, and they are pushing for total forgiveness of up to $50,000 for any loan.

So, obviously, I would really like to get four separate $50,000 student loans going right away.

Most of the cost of public school seems to be built into my taxes, but with sports, school fundraisers, clothes, food, and the big three – masks, Clorox wipes, and hand sanitizer – educating our three boys has EASILY cost us more than fifty grand each over the past few years, so I should have no trouble qualifying.

I will also gladly sign up for a class or two at our local junior college to get the ball rolling on my own $50,000 pre-forgiven student loan. I’d like to look into a psychology track, but if they also have classes on basic math, personal finances, civic responsibility, compound interest, or what a loan is, I think those could really benefit everyone involved here.

Any information you can give me regarding applying for this fantastic “loan” opportunity would be greatly appreciated.

On another note, I’d also love to renounce my citizenship and become an undocumented immigrant, if that’s possible. Our governor here in California is giving out cool free stuff to them, and from what I understand, I would no longer have to pay taxes. So that seems like something I’d be very interested in exploring.

Let me know if that’s your department, or if I need to contact someone else. I am absolutely willing to cross either one of our nation’s borders and then sneak back in if that’s what’s required.

Thanks in advance!

Yours in educational excellence through continued partnership,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Slapstick Comedy

Did anyone watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night? Yeah, me neither, but I’ll bet a lot of money you’ve seen some footage from it by now. You know what I’m talking about.

The slap.

That’s right, the slap in the face received by Nadia Stacey, when her masterful work in Cruella lost out in the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category to that no-talent hack, Linda Dowds, from The Eyes of Tammy Faye. What a travesty.

Oh, also when Will Smith walked up onstage when he wasn’t supposed to be there and slapped Chris Rock across the face.

Here’s what happened, in case you somehow, inexplicably missed it. Chris Rock, a professional comedian, was hired to be onstage at an event where Hollywood gets together to congratulate itself. Not surprisingly, he made some jokes. In order to keep with the theme of the evening, the jokes were about actors and movies.

One of the jokes was about how Will Smith’s wife, Jada, could be cast in G.I. Jane 2.

Will Smith laughed. He laughed out loud. Then he happened to look over at his wife.

You see, the joke revolves around the fact that Demi Moore’s character in G.I. Jane, and so, by default, Demi Moore herself, shaved her head in the movie. Jada Smith is currently bald, because of a medical condition called onomatopoeia, which makes the hair go whoosh, right off your head.

Jada’s facial expression after the joke clearly indicated one of the following:

a) she didn’t think the joke was funny

b) she didn’t think her husband should be laughing about it on national television

c) both a and b

Which answer is correct? We may never know, but what we do know is that upon seeing his wife’s face, Will Smith then decided that he actually hated the joke so much he was willing to make a complete ass out of himself in front of the world by acting like a middle-schooler with hurt feelings.

Chris Rock didn’t get smacked because Will Smith was angry about the joke. Chris Rock got smacked because Will Smith was in trouble with his wife, and took it out on him, like a spoiled heiress who didn’t approve of the temperature of her lobster thermidor. (And to his absolute credit, Chris took the slap like it actually came from a spoiled, limp-wristed heiress.)

If Jada Smith had walked up on stage and slapped Chris Rock, it would have still been petty and sad, but completely believable. It might have even been funny, and Chris could have played it off even more masterfully than he did with Will’s slap.

But when Will chose to attempt to get out of hot water with the missus by slapping a comedian, that was just plain pathetic.

But never mind all that. Here’s the real issue: What kind of dude slaps another dude? Come on, man. You must have had extensive fight training for your roles over the years. I mean, you played Muhammad Ali, for goodness sake. Muhammad Ali!

If you’re going to resort to violence to try to get out of trouble with your wife, at least punch the guy.

And to both Will and Jada - If you’re going to choose to be a public figure, your skin has to be thick.

Even if your hair isn’t.

(It’s cool, Jada. I have onomatopoeia too, so we can “ha ha” about it together.)

No, still too soon?

OK, my bad. Please don’t send Will over.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Theft is Finally Illegal

Great news out of Sacramento recently for all you Californians who own cars. So, basically, all of you.

It took ten separate Senate and Assembly bills to get it done (I wish I was making that up), but stealing things is once again illegal.

It is possible that with these ten important new laws, someone hacksawing your catalytic converter out from under your car in the middle of the night could, in fact, be breaking some sort of law now, punishable by some sort of punishment of some kind.

That’s exciting news! For those of you unfamiliar with how the modern automobile works, allow me to explain. The catalytic converter is a metal box in the middle of the exhaust emissions tubular tailpipe system of your car that, in layman’s terms, converts the unwanted and poisonous gas, catalyte, present in your car’s exhaust, into water and pure oxygen using an interior grid filter mesh system made out of platinum, mink fur, and diamonds.

As you can imagine, these devices, about the size of an insurance executive’s wallet, are quite valuable. Roughly seven-eighths of the total cost of your car is the catalytic converter, based on data from top insurance companies and repair shops. The other three-quarters of your car’s value is any other part that gets dented.

Up until the distinguished ladies and gentlemen in Sacramento sprung into action, if a cop pulled over a meth tweaker out cruising the town at two in the morning, and said upstanding citizen happened to have one, two, or even a dozen catalytic converters riding shotgun, the police officer was forced to assume that those very specific and valuable car parts rightfully belonged to this man with no discernable access to personal hygiene products or logical itinerary for his evening.

Having in your possession a grand total of thirty-five cents, six cigarette butts, a hacksaw, and nine thousand dollars-worth of the same loose car part that is commonly stolen due to its value just wasn’t enough probable cause under the old laws.

Apparently too many legitimate catalytic converter supply house drivers on their way to the Chevrolet assembly plant in Antioch were being unfairly hassled by the cops when they got pulled over with nine grimy catalytic converters strewn across the back seat of their crappy ’97 Nissan Sentra with the donut spare on the right front wheel.

Oh, wait, that’s not how catalytic converters are delivered to the auto manufacturers? Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Who could have known? Thank God we have ten new laws to sort all this out.

And never mind the cops’ hands being tied. I mean, the recycling companies that purchase catalytic converters with hacksawed tailpipe remnants on both ends from scabby, strung-out meth heads were obviously powerless to stop this crime wave. How could they have known these things full of precious metals were stolen and not the legitimate property of this skinny, toothless, itchy weasel who apparently owns twelve cars but doesn’t want any of them to ever pass smog again because he needs money to complete the cabinet renovations and granite countertops in his two thousand-square-foot sunroom?

It's just impossible to figure out some sort of system or enforcement that could have stopped that. What a puzzler!

Anyway, with these ten innovative new laws, Sacramento has come through for us big time. Crime is finally illegal again. Catalytic converter theft should stop any second now.

Now if we could just think of some innovative way to make drugs illegal… oh, never mind, I forgot. We’re going the other way on that one.

That should help.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

No Time to Change

It is entirely possible that the federal government is about to do something that I will like. That rarely happens. And by rarely, I mean never.

I have been saying for my entire adult life that we have enough laws. We have far too many, actually, since there are laws about what kind of light bulbs I can have in my house and how much water is allowed to be in my toilet.

I have also been saying that the federal government should be part time and be paid accordingly. Career politicians are THE problem with any government, and if we could just make it so the lawmakers had to have two or three jobs to support themselves and their families, we would actually get some hardworking, sensible people in there. But alas, no such luck.

There is one more law that needs to be written however, before we drastically revamp how Washington works, and it appears as if it might just be happening now. I am, of course, referring to the abolition of twice-yearly “Daylight Savings” time changes.

No one likes changing the clocks. Whomever came up with the idea was a complete psycho, and we were (and are) complete morons for continuing to go along it. Our kids get up waaaay too early in November and we need a pneumatic jackhammer to get them out of bed in March. It’s a gigantic pain in my ass having to remember how many clocks I own (garage sprinkler timer, I’m looking at you), not to mention trying to remember how to set the clock on our overly complicated car stereo. But most notably, it messes with my wife’s sleepy time, which is hazardous to everyone’s health.

In short, it’s dangerous and it sucks.

But now, there might be an “extra” hour of sunlight at the end of the long, dark time change tunnel. An unprecedentedly bipartisan bill has passed through the senate this week that would get rid of clock changes nationwide. Currently, it’s a state-by-state decision whether or not to change the clocks, which makes even less sense than changing the clocks in the first place.

I mean, we already have time zones, which although obviously necessary, are still confusing. Just think about those poor people who live and work near the time zone line. If you lived right on the line, how would you ever know store hours, or what time practice starts. How would you ever plan anything?

“I’ll see you at three o’clock.”

“Which three o’clock?”

What if you lived in one time zone and worked in another? That’s my idea of what hell would be like. So, why have we allowed individual states to further complicate things by not changing their clocks when the rest of us had to? It’s absolute madness.

The madness could be coming to an end on November 20, 2023. The bill – which in true government megalomaniac fashion, they have named the “Sunshine Protection Act,” as if our benevolent leaders on Capitol Hill are somehow actually shepherding the sun for us – would keep the entire country on what we just changed to – Daylight Savings Time.

We can’t just stay on DST now and never touch the clocks again, because airlines and other transportation entities apparently don’t know how to use computers. But if the bill passes – and so help me, House of Representatives, it better – we would only have to endure one more set of ridiculous clock manipulations before everything will finally be logical again.

That is, unless the Association of Early Morning Winter Joggers or some other such group has a powerful, monied lobby. Then the career politicians may be swayed by a series of generous donations to their wife’s brother’s non-profit organizations, and vote poorly.

I mean, no politician in Washington is dumb enough to actually want to continue changing our clocks, right?

Right?

I’ll be here holding my breath.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Now Accepting Network Offers

I was lucky enough to be asked last year to help with the public address announcing at our high school lacrosse games. Son Number Two was a freshman on the team last spring, and since I know virtually nothing about lacrosse, I immediately agreed to help.

This was back when healthy, mask-wearing kids were being quarantined from school and sports for two weeks at a time because someone in their class may or may not have had COVID symptoms. It’s fine. I’m over it, mostly.

One of our good friends on the team was forced to hang out on his couch while perfectly healthy and miss the game.

I was in the booth when I got a text from them at home saying they could hear me. My immediate response was, wow, I must have this microphone turned up waaay too loud, because your house is like three or four miles from here.

No, they told me, not on the P.A. system. They were watching the game on something called the NFHS Network. Come to find out, the National Federation of State High School Associations has a network where member schools can provide a camera feed so that subscribers can watch the games – usually with no sound.

I had the windows open on the front of the stadium press box so that I could see, and the NFHS Network cameras turned out to be mounted right above my head on the front of the building. They apparently had microphones that were picking up my voice, ever so faintly, from inside the booth, when I wasn’t talking on the P.A. system.

Since I am always the consummate professional, I only had a minor heart attack about what I might have unknowingly said. Our friends assured me that I was OK, then informed me that there were two cameras, one for each side of the field, and the scoreboard side camera was not working. So, they were only seeing half the action and didn’t know the score or the time.

They asked me to please speak up about four or five notches and provide a running play-by-play for that side of the field. I was happy to do so, which most certainly annoyed anyone sitting in the bleachers directly below my booth, but I didn’t care because they were mostly the visitors’ fans anyway.

When I got home that night, I looked up the NFHS Network website to see how the whole thing worked, and made a startling discovery. In small print at the bottom of the website it read, “NFHS Network is part of the CBS Digital Network.”

Yes, that’s right. For about seventy-five minutes on a glorious spring evening last year, I was a national sports play-by-play announcer for CBS.

I had no idea.

We are back in business this spring with a full team on the field, and I am announcing a game tonight. But make no mistake, CBS, I will not be providing any free play-by-play to the cameras above my head this time without a substantial contract offer from you.

I’m serious, fellas. No free rides. That offer needs to have at least one or two zeros behind it. Let’s make it happen.

And look, I know you obviously want more of the microphone magic, but I understand how things are going these days, I really do. Not to show my cards too early in the negotiations, but if things are tight over there at the network right now, I would be willing to talk about accepting some sort of snack bar voucher in lieu of a salary.

Seriously, call me.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, March 2, 2022

An Open Letter to the $%*#@ Government

Dear Federal and State Government Yahoos,

I was finally able to complete our tax returns the other day. I would have been done with them much earlier, but I had to wait for you folks from the California Franchise Tax Board to finalize a form. You know the one – the Passive Activity Loss Limitation form.

That makes a ton of sense, since that form in no way applies to the activity that was in question – our rental property. On my taxes I told you that we were active participants in the managing of the rental and we didn’t have losses. So naturally, we needed to delay our filing by two weeks while you let the ink dry on the form that is for people who had losses from a rental they weren’t actively managing.

Once we were able to fill in that handy form with a long column of zeros and N/A’s, we finally e-filed our state and federal returns. As you are aware, I don’t like giving you interest-free loans, but I also don’t like having to send you money at the end of the year either, so we adjust our withholdings accordingly to get a small return back from both of you.

As you federal government whackos might recall, you attempted to buy my love this year with my own money. You sent us six separate paper checks in the mail, totaling half of our sizeable child tax credit we get for being foolish enough to let our three large teenage boys live in our house and eat our food.

Again, I’m not sure how sending me money early that was going to be a credit on my taxes changes my net financial situation, other than certainly causing me a financial hardship if I was foolish enough to spend it.

I was not that foolish.

Since you took it upon yourself to send me a tax credit early, in a turn of events that no one could have seen coming, I actually owed you money with my tax return. I know you can’t see it right now, but rest assured I’m making my shocked face.

I, unfoolishly, kept all the money you sent me, so sending you what I “owe” will be no problem. What was a problem, however, was your tone at the end of my return. You printed me four quarterly tax pre-payment coupons for next year with my return, each one for a fourth of what I “owe” you this year.

OK, that’s one idiotic thing, but what really was even more ridiculous was the stern warning you included with my useless payment vouchers:

If you expect to owe more than $1000 next year, you may be subject to underpayment penalties if you fail to send adequate quarterly payments.

Um, excuse me? If I EXPECT to owe more than $1000?? I expected YOU to owe ME $1000, not the other way around. The only reason I “owe” you money this year is because you chose to send me a bunch of it early! How the hell am I supposed to expect anything from now on?

I have no idea what you’re planning to do, and you sure as hell didn’t ask me if I wanted your pretty green “please love us” checks to be mailed to my house. I might owe you twice as much next year if you get a wild hair and send me ALL of my child tax credit early.

Or are you only planning on sending me a quarter of it, due to budget cuts? Or maybe the whole early child tax credit thing is too passé and you’re planning to attempt to endear yourselves to me some other way?

Maybe you’ll send me a puppy this year instead of checks? I would then have to figure out the street value of the puppy to decide if I should be sending quarterly payments, and how much they should be.

What if you decide to go a little more exotic than a puppy and you send me something like a baby giraffe? That could really seal the deal on gaining my trust and affection, but it would be much harder to gauge its value.

You can see my dilemma here…

In conclusion, I will not be sending you any estimated tax payments over the course of this year, and I wish you would all resign.

With my sincerest disapproval,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

This Column is Going Downhill Again and Again

Our regularly scheduled column has been rudely preempted by Ski Week, for the third time!

Yes, that’s right, I said Ski Week. Instead of celebrating the glorious birthdays of Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison on two separate Mondays in February, like we all did when we were young, our school district changed things up a few years ago. Apparently, they think we’re all rich.

They tacked on three extra president’s days (both of the Adamses and James Buchanan, strictly because of his kick-ass hair) and  to the previous two, and lined them all up in a row this week. This phenomenon is nicknamed “Ski Week,” so the idea, apparently, is that we’re all supposed to head up to the slopes and spend the education-free week on a ski vacation. I guess I forgot to let our school district know that we don’t have thirty-eight thousand dollars lying around for just such an occasion.

And our school district failed to check with any of the surrounding districts to see if they were also populated by the idle rich and doing the same thing. Turns out they’re not. Since my wife teaches in a neighboring district, our week-long ski vacation, could we afford it, would be momless.

Sure, we might be able to shave a few thousand bucks off the total cost with one less lift ticket and no overpriced ski lodge chardonnay, but if you think I’m taking these three monkeys on a vacation by myself, you’ve obviously been drinking something a lot stronger than wine.

So, what I’m telling you is, the kids in Rocklin, which unfortunately includes MY kids, have the ENTIRE damn week off. And not only that, but this particular week has weekends on BOTH sides of it! Do you know what that means? It means my three boys have been here at home with me now for five whole days in a row already, and we still have four more whole days, also in that row, left before they go back to school.

Those of you with kids, or those of you who have met kids before, should now understand the fact that I’ve got nothing done in the last five days, and that trend will continue for the next four. In particular, I haven’t been able to write this column. I haven’t been able to do anything useful.

(Author’s note to aspiring writers: Take notice of how I deftly implied that this column is actually useful through the trickery of italics, even though there is absolutely no historical evidence that would support that claim.)

So, to all of you who are not currently on a week-long ski vacation, I apologize for not having a column for you today. I don’t know why our school district is choosing not to celebrate the President’s Days as our forefathers intended, but one thing is certain – our distinguished former presidents of yesteryear are rolling over in their ornate, gold and diamond-encrusted graves.

As for you folks who are swooshing down the slopes all this week and sipping expensive ski lodge cocktails in plush leather chairs in front of magnificent fireplaces while I spend another day eating cold pizza and refereeing at the World Brothers Wrestling Federation, I’ll say this:

I am NOT sorry that I don’t have a column for you this week. You’re probably too busy to read it anyway, what with all your swooshing, and expensive sipping, and plush fireplace sitting, and stacking gold coins in your Rolls Royce, and snorting caviar, and whatever else it is you people do.

But I’m not bitter. I would never wish for you to have a skiing accident or anything like that. That’s just not right.

But I do kinda wish you’d fall off your wallet in the lodge and get a mild sprain.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Not-So-Super Bowl

I’ve had some easy jobs in my time. I’ve been the traffic control stop/slow sign guy. That was easy. I’ve been paid to sit in the booth at a gas station and sell people cigarettes, which, looking back on it seems dangerous and poorly thought out, but it was certainly an easy job.

The problem with the easy jobs is that they are inevitably boring and, in almost every case, don’t pay very well. There is one job I can think of, however, that would not be boring and pays really well. I mean, even if you were at the absolute bottom of the pay scale compared to your coworkers, this job still pays better than most.

And it’s easy. Really easy.

That’s the thing that has me a little miffed at the moment. If your job is really easy, and you get paid a bunch of money to do it, you ought to do it well, don’t you think?

I think so!

It just so happens that I run a Super Bowl pool every year. It’s the standard 10x10 grid of squares with the last digit of each team’s score randomly assigned to the squares. It’s not my job, but it is relatively easy to run it, and I do it well. It’s easy for me to do it well because it is easy to do well. You know what I mean?

Now, for those of you folks from the IRS or any kind of federal gambling commission who may be reading this, let me assure you that we play this pool each year for fun.

A lot of fun.

Each square is a fair amount of fun, and when we multiply all that fun by the 100 squares in the grid, there’s a whole lotta fun up for grabs. Each score change results in the holder of that square receiving a substantial amount of fun. Five times more fun than each square is worth, to be precise.

And if you nice government folks are at all concerned about my recent Venmo activity, let me explain that January and February are my months to go out to a lot of expensive dinners with friends, family, and a few folks I just recently met through mutual acquaintances.

Anyway, all I have to do to run the pool is watch the game, keep track of the score changes, and tally up all the fun everyone is having. Like I said, it’s an easy job.

You know what job is even easier than running a Super Bowl pool for fun? Playing in the Super Bowl, of course. That is, as long as you are the guy lucky enough to have that easy job I was talking about earlier – namely the placeholder for extra point attempts – a job literally easier than being the Gatorade guy.

Do you know who failed to do their incredibly well-paid and easy job last Sunday? The Rams’ placeholder, that’s who.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t rooting for the Rams and I didn’t really care if they scored any extra points (or any points at all, for that matter) in the game. It just so happened that one of my squares in the pool would have afforded me a significant amount of fun had the football been upright and available to kick between the uprights at that moment.

But alas, someone failed to do their job. (Their job that they do while literally resting on one knee, I might add.)

I ended up not having as much fun during the game as I could have.

I’m not bitter.

Do your job.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A Wordle from Our Sponsors

Once again, the British have found a way to bring our entire country together. They did it the first time in 1775 with all their unfair taxes. We showed them! We can unfairly tax ourselves just fine, thank you.

They tried to unite us again recently with the whole Prince Harry/Meghan Markle thing, but it backfired. We just further divided ourselves into people who think that following the British royalty live-action soap opera is a worthwhile use of their time, and people who can’t give even one small crap about any of it, but think Meghan Markle is pretty hot.

But the British are not quitters. They’ve been going strong ever since the Norman Briton Viking Druids built Stonehenge in the year negative 702, if I have read Wikipedia correctly, and they aren’t about to quit now.

A few weeks ago, in a stroke of internet genius, the English have once again united our nation in solidarity, using, quite fittingly, English. Some company called Power Language in the UK burst into our lives with Wordle.

It’s a simple game that gives you six tries to guess a five-letter word. When you hit enter on your guess, it gives you clues. A letter in your word will turn green if it’s the right letter in the right place, gold if it’s in the word but in the wrong place, and gray if it’s not in the word at all.

There is one Wordle per day, and the whole world is trying to guess the same word. It keeps track of your stats on how many guesses each daily puzzle took you and allows you to share your results on social media to flex your word nerdiness. I like crosswords and I like logic puzzles, so Wordle is a natural fit for me. What is amazing, however, is that Wordle seems to be a natural fit for everyone else, too.

Middle schoolers like it. High school kids play it. Everyone in America, old and young, is playing it, and it’s actually ever so slightly educational. It makes you think. It makes you use your vocabulary. It might even teach you a new five-letter word, instead of all the four-letter words that come so naturally to you.

It doesn’t have fast moving graphics. It doesn’t have any graphics, at all, really. It has no guns, no cars, no explosions. Just six blank five-letter word slots, waiting for you to start guessing. And kids are actually into it! It’s amazing. What will those crazy British come up with next? First that fun baking show and now thi… wait, what?

Wordle isn’t from England? But the website is powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle

What? Anyone can have a .uk domain? It’s not restricted to residents and businesses of the United Kingdom? Well, that’s weird.

So, you mean to tell me that powerlanguage.co.uk is not British at all? It’s just some dude named Josh from New York?

No kidding?

Wow. Well, sorry, Old Original York, I guess you guys don’t get the credit after all. But keep after it. We believe in you, even if you couldn’t keep Meghan Markle around.

And thanks, Josh! Wordle is awesome.

Wait… what’s that?

The New York Times bought it from you last week?

Oh, OK, well, congratulations on the sale. Enjoy your early retirement. We’ll keep playing your cool game until the Times inevitably screws it all up.

It certainly has been fun.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

An Open Letter to the Kids of Placer County

Dear school-aged kids of Placer County, California,

As some of you are aware, I started substitute teaching at the beginning of this year. If I have subbed in your class and your teacher didn’t leave a detailed lesson plan that day, then you learned about the miracle of compounding interest, why the Labrador Retriever is a superior dog breed, small engine repair, or whatever other useful information happened to be on my mind.

You’re welcome.

I also perform another very important public service when I sub that I wanted to call to your attention so you could be grateful.

I take roll.

My main job as a substitute teacher is, in fact, to take roll, and I take that responsibility very seriously. Not in terms of making sure I have a super-accurate head count, or knowing exactly which students are in class and which ones are absent. I’m a libertarian by nature. Your attendance is really none of my business.

No, I take my job of taking roll seriously in terms of making sure I read each and every name out loud, pronounced right or wrong.

Mostly wrong.

It’s the least I can do. You see, there’s a lot that you kids are missing out on, and you don’t even know it. When we were your age, we were standing in front of the DMV on our sixteenth birthday, sometimes before they even opened, paperwork in hand, ready to get our driver’s license. You kids don’t seem to care about getting your licenses nearly as much as we did.

Should they have given us a license to drive a car at sixteen? Probably not, but that’s not the point. We wanted them so we could leave the house, and go do stupid things far away from home. You don’t even seem to be interested in doing stupid things in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven near your house. Or the AM/PM. I mean, I can’t figure you kids out.

You just stare at your phones and LOL with each other digitally about the latest viral TikTok. I worry about you. I want you to have the same amazing experiences I had growing up. If you won’t leave the house and do stupid things, I will at least do my part to make your school days as meaningful as possible by taking role. I guess you will relay the story on your phone instead of in the Circle K parking lot, but I won’t deny you the hilarious recounting of how the lame old man sub butchered your friend’s name today. That’s a school tradition we cannot let die.

And I want to thank you, Lilieth, Elleia, Adagio, Bode, Imogen, Sibohan, Isla, Cian, and of course, Anais, for always being there for me, in some amount and combination, on my role sheet. With your help, you and your friends will never run out of stories to text, tweet, Snap, Insta, or TikTok about.

Again, you’re welcome.

See you soon,

-Mr. Schmatjen (rhymes with pigeon)

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Adventures in Substitute Teaching, Episode One

I am almost a full month into my new substitute teaching adventure, and I’m still trying to work out where I want to concentrate my time, grade-wise. I haven’t attempted it yet, but I’m almost positive I won’t be a good fit for kindergarten.

I love dogs, but I’m not a cat person. It seems like running a kindergarten class would be a lot like managing a room full of adult cats mixed with puppies. Cats and puppies with open markers and glue sticks tangled in their hair. And random emotions.

I believe there is a good reason that 126% of all kindergarten teachers in America are women. Women just naturally deal with random emotions and knotted, glued, emotionally-charged hair better than men.

I have subbed second and third grade, and that’s about as low on the age chart as I think I’ll get. I mean, let’s face it, first grade is basically just the second semester of kindergarten.

I subbed third grade the other day and the teacher was telling me about the class before school started. “It’s a great group of kids,” she said. “She’s a little squirrelly,” she told me, pointing to the desk closest to us, “but no big deal. They’re great.”

Turns out, “a little squirrelly” to a third-grade teacher means a girl who literally did not stop talking for the entire hour I was covering the class, never sat down in her actual chair once, and at one point, simply left the room without asking. I was informed by her peers that she had to use the restroom and apparently, I was not responding to her requests.

It seems my years of parenting Son Number Three have given me an above-average ability to tune out constant chatter. Probably not the best trait for a kindergarten substitute teacher.

Fifth and sixth grade were OK, but so far, I have drawn a line there, avoiding middle school. I drive a middle school carpool, and being in the car for fifteen minutes at a time with seventh- and eighth-graders is plenty for me. I’m not especially interested in an entire day of it. They’re like kindergartners, but with B.O. and an advanced slang/curse word vocabulary.

The line is lifted after eighth grade, however. I’m finding I enjoy subbing at the high school level. It’s far more humorous, on a tragically hip level, than elementary school. Meaning, there’s still the same amount of goofy issues with the students, but the high school issues are so varied and insanely self-centered, that I’d almost go for free just for the entertainment value. Almost.

An example of what I mean happened a couple weeks ago when I subbed for a high school English teacher. The English class was actually called LA-II on my paperwork, which stands for Lulling Asleep Individuals Instantaneously. The school system has finally adopted truth in advertising.

It was immediately obvious which desk cluster I was going to have problems with (and I’m using “cluster” in the truest sense of its slang meaning, here). Two of the three young ladies could not keep their attention off their cell phones. Why the teacher allowed them to have their phones at their desks is beyond me, but I am not suicidal enough to try to separate a teenage girl from her iPhone without body armor and a cattle prod.

The class was learning and writing about the Holocaust. They were supposed to be watching a movie about the Auschwitz concentration camp, and then answering questions and writing an essay. The entire class, minus the cluster at issue, was watching the movie on their Chromebooks. Most of them were using their own earbuds and a few had asked for the class headphones.

Over at the cluster, there was something hilarious on one of the phones. A short while after we managed that issue, it was selfie time. I looked over to see Girl Two leaning over to Girl One’s desk, with Girl One’s arms stretched high above her head. Heads together, looking up, duck lips deployed – snap. The perfect in-class dual selfie… wait, hang on, this stupid Chromebook was in the picture. Let’s do it over… Oh, crap, that lame old man sub is staring at us. Let’s pretend not to care about our phones for a while…

Girl Three of the cluster was clearly not friends with the other two. She was completely uninterested in selfie time. She was also wearing approximately six pounds more makeup than Girl One and Two combined. She was also doing absolutely nothing at all.

I walked over to ask if her Chromebook had stopped working, since it wasn’t even pulled up to the page that had the link to the movie, let alone the movie itself.

“Oh, yeah, so, like, my AirPods weren’t connecting to the computer and stuff, so I’m just going to watch it at home later.”

“Hmm,” I said, doing the mental calculation of the zero percent chance that she was planning to watch the movie at home. “No problem. I have a whole bin full of headphones over at my desk. Let me get you a pair.”

“Um, yeah, so, I have a cartilage piercing, and headphones really don’t feel good on it, and stuff, so I’m just going to watch it at home.”

“Oh, OK, no problem. Let me just get on the phone and call the last remaining Holocaust survivors and let them know you won’t be able to learn about their unimaginable ordeal today because it’s a little uncomfortable to wear headphones with your self-induced ear ornaments,” I said, inside my head.

“OK,” I said out loud, “do you have a book you can read instead?”

“No.”

“Of course you don’t. Best of luck with your future career as an Instagram model/part-time barista. I’ll bet your TikTok about your cartilage piercing gets like, a zillion views!” I said inside my head.

“Okey dokey,” I said out loud.

 

See what I mean? I’d almost do it for free, just for the laughs.

Almost.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Tax and Spray Policy

It’s that time of year again, folks. That’s right, it’s time to shop online for more adorable masks that match your outfits and hoard that toilet paper.

Oh, and taxes.

Right about this time every year I buy another copy of TurboTax, because I’m too cheap to pay a professional to do my taxes, but not brave (or stupid) enough to attempt to figure out all the forms on my own.

This will be an especially challenging year, since, starting this past July, Washington decided to send me half of my child tax credit early, in the form of six paper checks that arrived one after the other, each month.

I still haven’t figured out how giving me a tax credit early, before I file my taxes, helps my net financial situation, but I’m sure that it had absolutely nothing to do with politics. After all, the tax code is based solely on reasonable, logical, and completely fair math.

However, if I read the rules correctly on 2021 Form 1040-EZ-PresidentBidenLovesYou-4Ever, I may owe more taxes now, since I received some tax dollars in advance.

As I understand it, if I have spent all that money already on – let’s just say, hypothetically – a pair of sweet used 1997 Yamaha Jet Skis, and a Traeger Pro Series 34 Wood Pellet Grill with the optional polyurethane wheels and SmokeMaster bronze lid, I might need to actually return one of my children to the government if the math doesn’t come out in my favor.

That’s a little worrisome, but what really has me the most concerned right now is TurboTax’s recent ad campaigns. Have you seen the one with the coffee spit takes?

The scene: Two guys sitting at a table. One is named Steven. He’s drinking coffee.

Announcer: Steven, did you know TurboTax is free, no matter how you want to file?

[Steven turns his head to the right and spits his coffee all over his friend.]

Steven [looking back into the camera]: I don’t believe that

Announcer: It’s true. Anyone with a simple tax return can get help from an expert, for free.

[Steven again spits his coffee all over his friend.]

Steven: That can’t be true.

Announcer: It is. And with TurboTax Live, our experts will even do your taxes for you, for free.

[Steven, for the third time, spits his coffee all over his friend.]

Friend [utterly soaked in Steven’s coffee, hair dripping]: Honestly, that sounds amazing.

Announcer: For a limited time, TurboTax is free for simple returns, no matter how you file.


I mean, sure, I’m a tad concerned that since my tax returns aren’t “simple” because I’m not a single, apartment-renting Starbuck’s employee with no dependents and no financial investments of any kind, so I actually have to pay for my copy of TurboTax, that I’m footing the bill for all this “free tax return” nonsense. But that’s not what has me really worried.

What made me cringe and fear for the future of our great nation was the disclaimer across the bottom of the screen during the commercial:

Spray simulated. Do not attempt.

It’s kind of a toss up actually, now that I think about it. Am I more worried that we have a government that will try to buy my love with my own money, hoping I don’t notice, or that lawyers legitimately feel the legal need to warn me not to spit coffee on other people?

The answer is yes.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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