Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lochte'd and Loaded

Through our almost unbelievably extensive worldwide network of undercover reporters here at Just a Smidge, we were able to secure an exclusive transcript of the impromptu meeting in Ryan Lochte’s Olympic village dorm room, just minutes after the story broke about the harrowing robbery he and his fellow party-goers were involved in. You’re welcome, America.

Ryan Lochte: Hey, why are you dudes in my room?

Jimmy Feigan: Did you seriously tell your mom we were robbed at gunpoint?

Lochte: Jeah, bro. When we got back this morning she asked me for some money. I didn’t have any because of last night, so I told her we got robbed. Pretty smart, huh?

Jack Conger: Smart? Are you kidding, dude? She told a reporter. It’s on the news!

Lochte: No way, bro. For reals?

Gunnar Bentz: Yes, for reals. Look at my phone!

Lochte: Dude. I’d better tweet about this right now.

Feigan: That’s a bad idea.

Conger and Bentz: Yes, very bad idea.

Lochte: Dudes, shut up. I’m the oldest. Plus, I’m rich. I totally know how to handle the media, bro.

Feigan: Why did you tell your mom we were robbed? Why not just say you spent all your money?

Lochte: I dunno, bro. I didn’t think of that. The booze at that France House was flowin’, yo! Plus, being robbed could be cool. Check it out, I’m sayin’ the dude had a gun to my forehead but I was all like, ‘whatever, bro.’

Feigan, Conger, and Bentz: Do not tweet that!

Lochte: Just did, bros! This is going to light up my Tinder account! Oh, man! I shoulda said I ninja kicked him. Dang. Maybe I’ll add that.

Feigan: You’re an idiot!

Lochte: Whatever, bro. I got a gold medal here.

Conger: We all got gold medals, you moron. We were in the same relay.

Lochte: Whatever, dude. You and Gunnar were only prelimers. I won the final.

Feigan: (coughs) Phelps

Lochte: Oh, whatevers, bro. I have twelve Olympic medals. That’s second most.

Feigan: Dude, you’re like thirteenth on the overall list.

Lochte: Second most for swimmers, bro.

Feigan: Dude, you’re tied with Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres, and Natalie Coughlin. And Jenny Thompson has two more golds than you.

Lochte: Second most for dudes, dude!

Conger: Yeah, behind Phelps.

Lochte: Whatever, dude. If it wasn’t for Phelps, I’d be Phelps.

Feigan, Conger, and Bentz: What?

Lochte: He’d be Ryan Lochte. You know what I mean. Whatever. I’m awesome.

Feigan: Which do you think is higher? Your IQ, or the pool temperature?

Lochte: Huh?

Feigan: You’re an imbecile. What happens when they get the video from the gas station?

Lochte: They’re not gonna have video.

Bentz: Every place has video.

Lochte: No way, bros. This country is totally bogus, man. My Tinder account wasn’t even working at that lame-o gas station.

Feigan: What?

Lochte: Jeah. It said there were no hot babes who wanted to date me within a mile of that place. That never happens.

Conger: We were at a gas station at six in the morning on a Sunday, dude. Why would there be any chicks around!?

Lochte: There’s always chicks around, bro. Always.

Feigan: Oh my God! Shut up! They’re going to get that video and you’re going to cause an international incident with Twitter because you lied to your mom! Are you kidding me right now? Why did you destroy that dude’s sign anyway?

Lochte: I don’t want to talk about it.

Feigan: I don’t care! You screwed all of us and probably the whole U.S. team. Why did you go berserk on that guy?

Lochte: Because I told him we were famous American swimmers, and he asked if Phelps was with us. He wanted his autograph. I hate that. Besides, you were the ones kicking the bathroom door.

Bentz: Because you locked it, dude!

Lochte: No, bro, I Lochte’d it. Get it?

Bentz: No.

Lochte: Hang on, let me take a quick selfie. *click* Oh, yeah, I’m SnapChatting that one. Look how good my hair looks. Hashtag woke up like this, hashtag ice blue goes good with gold. I’d better Instagram it, too. Hashtag no filter needed.

Feigan: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! We need to tell coach that we weren’t robbed. He’ll know what to do.

Lochte: No can do, bro. We’re already blowin’ up on Twitter. Check it. Four hundred re-tweets already. Boom! Robbery it is. Let’s get our story straight.

Feigan: What story? We busted up a gas station and then paid the guy for the damage. That’s the only story! They’re gonna have us on video coming home at the metal detectors with our cell phones and our watches.

Lochte: We’ll just say the bad guys only took our cash. Besides, they probably don’t have cameras either. I’m telling you, this country is bogus, dude.

Feigan: Armed street thieves in Rio de Janeiro only took our cash, and let you keep your nine bazillion-dollar Ralph Lauren watch? Do you even have any idea what country we’re in?

Lochte: Jeah, bro. Rio. Duh. 2016 Rio Olympics. Hello? Oh, man, Tinder is blowin’ up. There’s honeys everywhere wanting to make sure I’m OK!

Feigan: Oh my God!

Conger: We can’t do this. They’re going to know we’re lying.

Lochte: Relax, bro. I’ll handle the media. I’ll go talk to Matt Lauer and Billy Bush again. They love me. Billy’s got a serious man crush on me, bro.

Feigan: Oh, great! That should go well. Aren’t you even the slightest bit worried about losing your endorsement deals?

Lochte: No way, bro. Speedo? Ralph Lauren? Those dudes need me. I’ll totally handle this.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Gold Medal Wiener

In my opinion, when measuring the most dominate Olympic athlete of all time, we must consider the wiener.

If you are dutifully keeping up with your Rio Olympics YouTube fail videos, you might immediately assume that I’m referring to Japanese pole vaulter Hiroki Ogita, and his unfortunate, yet anatomically impressive disqualification at the hands of his man parts.

I am not.

And you gymnastics fans might be thinking that I’m referring to a three-time Olympic medalist in the men’s trampoline event - high-flying Chinese silver medalist, Dong Dong. Again, you would be wrong.

South African rugby phenom Werner Kok? American synchronized diver Steele Johnson?

What’s the matter with you people? Get your minds out of the sewage-infested gutters of Rio. I’m obviously talking about hot dogs. Now get your minds into the sewage-infested pools of Rio and think swimming, people! Swimming and hot dogs. What do they have to do with each other, you ask? Well, a lot, as a matter of fact, when discussing total swimming dominance.

Michael Phelps has once again turned in one of the most amazing sports careers of all time. He left the sport of swimming the first time in 2012, at the end of the London Olympic Games, but decided on a comeback and added six more medals to his neck in Rio this year. He retires (we think) with twenty-eight Olympic medals, a staggering twenty-three of them gold.

Let’s put that into perspective with some handy bullet points:
- No other single Olympian in history even has double digits in gold. Not even Dong Dong.
- Phelps has two more total career Olympic medals than Egypt, and the country of Ireland is only beating him by one in the overall medal count. Don't even get me started on Kyrgyzstan. He beat them before he could legally buy beer.
- Brazil, this year’s host country, has the same amount of career gold medals as Michael Phelps now has at home, assuming Phelps gets out of the crime-infested host country with all of his medals.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Phelps made history by winning eight gold medals in eight straight events. He broke the long-standing record of fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz, who went seven golds for seven events in Munich in 1972. When Phelps broke Spitz’ medal record, the world crowned him as the new “Greatest Olympian,” and there was very little public debate about it. Now, as Phelps finishes up with his astonishing career medal count, crushing former Soviet female gymnast Larisa Last-name-ina for all-time individual medals won, and ending up with close to three times as many career medals as Spitz, he will be written into the history books as the greatest, bar none.

I am here today to dispute that. I am here today to tell you that Spitz was better, and my argument lies with the wiener.

My case for Spitz being a more dominant swimmer doesn’t even take into account that he won most of his 1972 Olympic races by body lengths, or that he set new world record times in all seven swims. I’m not even focusing on the fact that he swam without goggles, that he swam without a cap, or that he swam with an afro, all of his rather prodigious underarm hair, and a Tom Selleck mustache. My argument even ignores his 1970’s red, white, and blue Speedo, which is hard to ignore.

My argument has to do with eating. A lot of fuss is always made during the Olympic coverage about how much Michael Phelps and the other swimmers eat every day. While it is certainly a lot, in the world of competitive swimming, it’s pretty standard. World-class swimmers do two things - swim and eat. I was by no stretch of the imagination a world-class swimmer, or even a county- or city-class swimmer, but when I was swimming in high school, I would come home from practice and eat the entire right side of the fridge. That’s just par for the course, swimming-wise.

The amount of food that Spitz and Phelps put away during their swimming days is not where my argument lies. My case for Spitz’ athletic superiority comes from the amount of food he could put away during a race.

When I was in high school, our swim coach told us a story about Mark Spitz. Back when Spitz was in high school in Santa Clara, California, Coach Pete had seen him race at a nationals meet. Spitz already held national high school records in every stroke, and he was heavily favored in every one of his races, but when the swimmers took the blocks for one of his events, he was absent.

His name was called over the loudspeaker, and everyone at the pool and in the grandstands began looking around for him. When the race officials called his name again, telling him to report to his lane to start the race, he was seen jogging toward the starting blocks from the snack bar. He had three hot dogs in one hand, and he was eating another while he was running toward the pool.

He reached his starting block at one of the middle lanes of the pool, chewing the last of the hot dog he had been eating while he ran. He handed two of the three remaining dogs to the timer behind his block, asking the man to please save them for him. He then joined his opponents, stepping up onto his starting block, still holding a hot dog.

Now, let’s be clear for a minute. We’re talking about an Oscar Mayer wiener, in a bun, with the condiments of Spitz’ choice. In his hand. On the starting blocks. Of a nationals race. He had just Joey Chestnut’ed one of them while running. He was now standing over the end of his lane holding another.

As the crowd looked on in gastro-intestinal awe, Mark Spitz proceeded to stuff the entire hot dog into his mouth, reach down to touch the block at the “take your marks” command, and dive into the pool with seven other swimmers, starting his race while chewing and swallowing a whole hot dog on lap number one.

He beat the nearest finisher by almost two body lengths.

Michael Phelps is undoubtedly awesome, but all he ever did was swim. What about the wiener? It probably never even occurred to him to combine competitive eating with competitive swimming. Mark Spitz was a trailblazing, groundbreaking, lightning-fast, “I can eat a hot dog during this race and still whip your ass” kind of an athlete. Wait thirty minutes after eating before getting in the pool? No thanks. I’ll eat while I’m swimming.

Phelps says he did everything he set out to do, and the world seems to be in agreement on his status as the Greatest Olympian.

That may be true, but when measured against the wiener factor, Spitz still has my vote.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Curls for the Core

Son Number One said the funniest thing he's ever said the other day. He asked his mom if we had any weights.

“Weights?” she asked, while trying not to laugh directly into his face. “Like dumbbells to lift?” *partially stifled snort*
“Uhh... Yes we do. Why do you ask?”
“I want to start working out. I need to work on my core. I can't even do a sit-up.”
*red-faced, snorting cough and quick turn away* “That’s great, honey.”

Please don't misunderstand. We are not normally in the habit of laughing at and mocking our children. I mean, not unless they do something incredibly stupid. Then, they’re just bringing it on themselves.

Anyway, this wasn't one of those times, so we were fighting very hard to keep straight faces. You see, the request for free weights and a workout routine would have seemed completely normal coming from Son Number Two, and would have been odd but believable from Number Three, but Son Number One? He doesn't like to move.

If you want to get him to groan, moan, whine, and complain all in one sentence, just wait for him to be sitting and then tell him he needs to get up. Want to hear him howl? Ask him to come upstairs to talk to you. He’s only eleven years old and he already sounds like he’s ninety.

Very early on in his first season, he asked his soccer coach if he could just go ahead and be goalie all the time, because as he put it, "I don't really like to run much."

Years later in his athletic career, Son Number One was told by his mean parents that he would be on his elementary school's cross country running team. After an intense period of whining we answered his main recurring question of “Whyyyyyyy????????”
“Because we participate on school sports teams and cross country is the only sport at your school.”

The other obvious reason was that his parents are all about any school-sponsored way to keep their kids out of the house for as long as possible, but we didn’t mention that part.

Son Number Two was told that he would be on the cross country team as well, and his response to the news was different than Son Number One’s, although it did involve him.
“I’m going to beat him!” was all he said.

We had very little doubt. Number One’s love of running had not yet blossomed at that point. Still hasn’t as a matter of fact.

At their first cross country meet, Son Number Two’s goal was to place in the top twenty runners. He met his goal. Son Number One's goal was, and I quote, "to not come in last." He also met his goal. By one runner. He was second to last. I think he beat a kid who was walking the course while playing Minecraft on his iPod.

It’s not a lack of ability. He can run really fast. I’ve seen him chase his brother when he’s angry. The boy’s got some jump. It’s just a lack of drive. That’s what makes baseball the perfect sport for him. The running is very short and far between episodes.

So given his eleven-year-and-counting streak of not wanting to give too much effort, we were more than a little surprised when he asked us for workout equipment. To his credit, we’re on day three of workout mania, and he hasn’t abandoned the five-pound weights yet. But I will maintain a cautious level of optimism, based on this conversation this morning:

“I just did a hundred curls on each arm.”
“Hmm... really feeling the burn, huh?”
“Well, A) maybe we need to get you bigger dumbbells, and B) I’m pretty sure that didn’t help your core. You should do sit-ups.”
“That’s the problem, I can’t do sit-ups very well.”
“What do you mean? I don’t get it.”
“I know you don’t son. I love you.”
“Whatever. You’re weird. Can I go watch TV now?”
“Sure. Find something really funny. It’ll help your core.”
“Never mind.”

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sesame Street Blues - Repost

‘A’ is for Axe. In light of the news that HBO just fired lifelong Sesame Street regulars Bob, Luis, and Gordon, I thought a repost of my column from a year ago on the subject was in order. Who could've seen this coming? Enjoy.

As if Legos that now actually fire projectiles and the intolerable addition of swamp-idiot Jar Jar Binks to Star Wars weren’t enough of a slap in the face to my generation, yet another thing from our childhood has changed forever. Sesame Street is leaving PBS and moving to HBO.

The PBS press release was disconcerting at best.

“We here at the formerly nonprofit PBS are sad to see our friends from Sesame Street go, but we are greatly comforted by the giant mountain of money we now have in the middle of the office. We will spend the next few days climbing up to the top and rolling down into the champagne moat we have constructed, and then we plan to take a year or three off and travel the world. As we search the globe for new programming inspiration and expensive shoes, have no fear about a lack of quality content on your local PBS station. For the near term we are rolling out a brand new format of 24/7 live-broadcast fundraisers. Enjoy!”

HBO’s press release was troublesome for the Sesame Street purists, but it met with guarded approval from many industry insiders.

“Since 1969, the Sesame Street franchise on PBS has been an amazing success. Now, in 2015, we here at HBO are thrilled to announce that we are ready to take Sesame Street to even greater heights. All great sums are a function of their parts, and that’s why we have decided to launch the iconic show into several exciting spin-offs.

As always, Big Bird leads the pack, and his new show is no exception. Our giant yellow friend will star in “Big Daddy,” a gritty New Jersey crime drama about one bird’s rise from the mean streets of Sesame Hill through the drug gangs and organized crime rings of the big city. He’s in for the fight of his life to stay on top and keep his massive empire from crumbling when his top lieutenants start to believe that someone else might really be calling the shots. Is the mysterious Mr. Snuffleupagus just a drug-induced hallucination of the giant feathered crime boss, or is he the power player who’s really pulling the strings?

Oscar the Grouch reveals his dark side in the new bone-chilling murder-mystery, “Trash Day.” A mysterious year-long rash of pet disappearances on Sesame Street ends abruptly one cold week in January. Hardened SPCA detective Elmo Van Buren’s gut tells him it’s the work of a serial killer, and he can’t ignore that the last report coincides with the disappearance of one of Sesame Street’s most notorious figures. Oscar “The Grouch” Plovich, the trash can-dwelling derelict from the wrong side of the street, has vanished. With his marriage on the rocks, the fuzzy red detective follows Oscar’s trail all the way to the Louisiana bayou, where Oscar’s trash can has been found in an abandoned shrimp processing plant. Tensions mount when Elmo learns the truth about Oscar’s past. Could the dirty green hobo be his long-lost father from a loveless Dumpster encounter thirty years before? Reports of missing pets have spiked in Cajun country since Oscar’s arrival, and now Elmo must unravel the mystery. Coincidence or murder? What will the squeaky-voiced detective find when he lifts the lid?

The neighborhood grocery store is the setting for our new paranormal thriller, “Hooper’s Revenge.” Since Mr. Hooper’s mysterious death in the ‘80s, Hooper’s Store has had unsteady management at best. David was left the store in Mr. Hooper’s will, but soon he couldn’t wait to sell it. Mr. Hanford took over the reins, but quickly sold out to good-natured and unsuspecting Alan, the current proprietor. None of the owners could ever manage to get any of the Sesame Street regulars to work in the store for any length of time, or even help out on weekends. What are the puppets from the street hiding? What do they know? Alan soon finds out what many have suspected for years. Mr. Hooper may have died, but he never left the store. Alan struggles to maintain his sanity as the ghost of Mr. Hooper wreaks havoc on his life and his business. Will Alan uncover the truth behind how David really acquired Hooper’s Store? And will Alan find a buyer before he buys the farm?

Bert and Ernie team up again, this time as detectives on the San Francisco police narcotics squad in “Partners in Crime.” The City by the Bay has a major new player in town, and he’s brought in the highest grade heroin anyone has ever seen. Overdoses are rampant, and the mayor is breathing down the police chief’s neck to put a lid on the new smack, quickly. Bert is forced to go deep undercover into the seedy world of underground nightclubs and motel room drug deals, while Ernie can only watch helplessly from the sidelines. Tempers flare on the job and at home as Ernie confronts Bert about his reckless behavior. Bert knows that to bring down this kingpin, backup is not an option. As Bert seems to spiral out of control into his undercover role as a high-priced male escort, will Ernie be his lifeline, or will the duo finally be forced to split, permanently?

And last, but certainly not least, comes the new original series, “Crank Street.” Fun-loving, mild-mannered, and mustachioed science teacher Gordon has lived an ideal existence at 123 Sesame Street for years. His perfect life is suddenly turned upside down when he’s diagnosed with Bubonic plague. Hit with the realization that he only has twenty-seven cents to leave to his family, he levels his sights on a grim future. Gordon’s knowledge of chemistry is the one thing he has to work with, and as his health rapidly deteriorates, he lures Grover, the neighborhood meth tweaker, into his web of despair. The brownstone at 123 Sesame Street soon becomes one of the most productive meth labs in the tri-state area. More innocent victims soon fall prey to Gordon’s insidious plan to leave his family millions instead of pennies. Count von Count can hardly keep up with the influx of drug money in need of laundering. The Cookie Monster regrets his decision to join the crew as the enforcer, but the steady supply of Chips Ahoy from Gordon keeps him reluctantly on the payroll. As rival gangs move in on the crew and Grover becomes more and more self-destructive with guilt, Gordon struggles to keep his meth empire intact. Will he cash out before the plague - or his own enterprise - does him in?

We here at HBO are excited about the acquisition of Sesame Street, and confident that the resulting new lineup of shows will blow you away!”

Sesame Street was brought to you today by the letters H, B, and O, and the number $.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Have you been wondering how to get your aunt to gag over the kitchen sink while you and the rest of your extended family howl with laughter from the dining room? Of course you have, and you’re in luck. Just like at AA, it’s a simple twelve-step process.

Step One: Start a summer tradition of having strawberries at nearly every meal. Make sure that Son Number Two learns the recipe for the best strawberry dip ever, which consists of one 8-oz package of Kraft Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese (Since 1872!), and one 7-oz jar of Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme. (America’s Favorite!).

(This column is in no way sponsored by Kraft Foods, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. Don’t be afraid to call me, Kraft Foods executives! Let’s talk.)

Step Two: Tell Son Number Two to make the dip, which for some reason he gets very excited about – maybe because he likes to cook, or maybe because the Kraft Foods fruit and berry dip is simply one of the best things in the whole wide world, thanks to the delicious, wholesome ingredients and quality craftsmanship of the good people at Kraft Foods. Thanks, Kraft Foods!

Step Three: While making a sandwich for lunch, accidentally drop the 30-oz jar of Kraft Real Mayo (with no artificial flavors!) mayonnaise off the top shelf of the fridge. Have it land upside down on the tile kitchen floor and break the lid. Marvel at the quality - not only of the entire Kraft Foods line of delicious products, but also the quality of their packaging - since the jar itself of Kraft Real Mayo did not break.

Step Four: Further marvel at what must be some sort of ingenious witchcraft mayonnaise containment technology developed by the obviously rocket-scientist-grade engineers at Kraft Foods, since none of the all-natural and delicious mayo escaped the jar, requiring absolutely no clean-up. Thanks again, Kraft Foods!

Step Five: Transfer the creamy and pleasantly ever-so-slightly-tangy Kraft Real Mayo to a GladWare Big Bowl 48-oz sealable food storage container and place back into the refrigerator. Rest easy knowing the quality microwave-, freezer-, and dishwasher-safe Glad container will keep your mayonnaise fresh indefinitely, thanks to their innovative and foolproof air-tight sealing technology.

(This column is in no way sponsored by Glad, or its joint parent companies, The Clorox Company and Proctor & Gamble, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. Don’t be afraid to call me, Glad, Clorox, and P&G executives! Let’s talk.)

Step Six: Have dinner. After dinner, have your aunt retrieve the strawberries and Kraft Foods fruit and berry dip from the refrigerator.

Step Seven: Make sure your aunt has a life-long and vehement opposition to mayonnaise, but loves Kraft Foods fruit and berry dip, both of which are very similar in color and consistency, thanks to the rigorous quality control measures at America’s favorite food manufacturer, Kraft Foods.

Step Eight: Pay no attention to your aunt as she helps herself to the first dipped strawberry.

Step Nine: Notice the slightly quizzical look on her face at the same time you recognize the high-quality GladWare Big Bowl 48-oz container on the table that you filled with Kraft Real Mayo earlier in the day.  

Step Ten: Break the news to her that she just ate a spoonful of mayonnaise on her strawberry,

Step Eleven: Watch her set a new land-speed record to the sink.

Step Twelve: Let the hilarity ensue.

(Special thanks to the wonderful folks over at Kraft Foods and Glad et al. for making this all possible.)

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pokemon Stop

By now I’m sure you’ve seen them. They have always been staring at their phones, but now because of something called Pokemon Go, they are walking around while staring at their phones. I had a few of them wander in front of my car at a gas station the other day - while my car was still moving. For a split second I debated putting them out of their misery, but I had a bad feeling if I had hit them, their friends would have descended on them like the walking dead, and stolen their phones. I didn’t want to see that.

I’m sorry to report that it seems the end is near. Our current presidential candidates are obviously the first sign of an impending apocalypse, and now Pokemon Go has provided us with zombies. I have actually heard people trying to put a positive spin on the galactic time and energy waster that is Pokemon by saying it’s getting our youth up off the couch and moving around. Well, isn’t that just fantastic. Our generation of slack-jawed, so-pale-they’re-almost-see-through youth have finally found an app that has health benefits. Healthy and fun right up until you walk in front of a bus or into an open man-hole. Best of luck to you, millennials.

We have turned a huge electronic corner. We’re so addicted to our electronics that the only way to get any exercise now is to get an app for it. You think I’m only talking about humans? Then you’re in denial about how close the end really is. No, my friends, you can get an app for your tablet to prevent obesity in your feline pals. Yes, a cat app. To help cats lose weight. I am not making this up. Apparently it has fast-moving objects that cats will try to hit with their paws, thus being active. Holy cr-app.

Didn’t the standard anti-cat obesity tool used to be called a mouse? I can just hear the phone conversation between millennial and parent.

M: “Fluffers is getting fat.”
P: “She needs to chase a mouse.”
M: “You are so ancient. I don’t own a mouse. We have tablets now.”
P: “No, an actual mouse, sweetheart.”
M: “Yeah, I know. And I actually don’t own one. I don’t even have a laptop.”
P: “You make me sad.”
M: “Whatever. I’m just going to get the new cat app.”
P: “I’m hanging up now.”
M: “Why do you say ‘hanging up?’ What are you hanging?”
P: “Goodbye.”
M: “Send me money.”

And if you think Trump vs. Clinton, zombies, and the cat app are the most telling signs of our fast-approaching doomsday, you’re still not paying close enough attention. I heard a news story the other day that really seals the deal. There is an organization that is ready to accept your donation of that old fur coat that Aunt Mildred left you in her will. Will they clean it and sell it and use the money to donate to a homeless shelter or an orphanage? Well… not exactly. There’s an orphanage involved, but not one with actual children.

This dedicated group of individuals wants to cut up your old fur coat and use it to make nests for orphaned squirrels. The goal? To reduce orphaned squirrel anxiety. Again, I am not making this up. Now, while “Orphaned Squirrel Anxiety” would obviously be a great name for a rock band, I’m not sure that safeguarding the mental health of rodents with luxurious outerwear is really a great use of anyone’s time and energy.

But that’s where we are folks. We’ve allowed enough distractions that we now have a choice between Hell No! and Are You Joking? for president, our kids are wandering in the streets staring at a small screen and mumbling incoherent names, our cats are playing on our iPads, and the most pressing issue we can come up with is squirrel psychology. Actually, now that I’ve said it, “Squirrel Psychology” is a better name for a rock band. Wait… “The Orphaned Rodents.” No wait… “Psycho Squirrel Fur.” Yes!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to download that cat app. I’m obviously not going to let my boys play Pokemon Go, but they’re starting to get a little too sedentary. Maybe that cat thing can help keep them active.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Let's Pool our Natural Resources

Our grass in the back yard died a few years ago because of the drought, so we decided to do the only drought-friendly thing that made any sense. We put in a pool. Droughts are caused by not having enough water, so we put in a twenty thousand-gallon water reservoir in our yard. We’re doing our part, California. You’re welcome.

Our front yard grass died at the same time, so I wanted to help even more by putting in a bass pond, but my wife insists there are some zoning issues with that, or something. I think she just doesn’t want an eighteen-foot MasterCraft floating in her front yard. Women, huh?

Getting a pool is not for the faint of heart. Besides choosing which two of the three kids won’t go to college, you also have to endure an eight-week demolition experience, and be prepared to deal with the aftermath.

All pool builders follow the same simple three step process:
Step 1: Remove fence
Step 2: Completely destroy everything between the street and the far corner of the back yard.
Step 3: Fill new pool with water

It looks like an atomic bomb went off in the middle of our back yard, leaving a beautiful pool in the blast crater, and total destruction everywhere else. Our front yard looks like a bad day in Afghanistan.

Once the pool was complete and it was time to deal with the utter destruction of our property, we did the first thing anyone would do. We ignored it and threw a pool party. And then another one. And another. I don’t know how the rich and famous do it. I have been at a never-ending pool party for two and a half weeks now, and I’m exhausted. We filled the new pool with water on June 24th, and since then the only time I have left the house was to get more beer, wine, and juice boxes.

Do I care that everything in my back yard besides the pool looks like the aftermath of a Vegas strip hotel demolition? Of course I don’t. I have a pool. Please ignore the rubble and enjoy yourselves, folks. Actually, it makes party cleanup quite a bit easier. Instead of picking things up, you can just sweep everything into the rubble pile the next morning and start over.

And it turns out the pool is convenient, also. Not only have none of us had to shower in the last two weeks (again, you’re welcome, California), but the boys have no more arguments for why staying home in the summer is boring. Every time one of them says anything about being bored, I just throw them in the pool. Many times while they’re still in their pajamas. Boredom problem solved, plus as a bonus, laundry done. The drought-friendliness of a pool never seems to end.

The pool can help in emergencies, too. Our Fourth of July party, for example, had a happy ending that could have easily been the other way around if not for the pool. When you accidentally light yourself on fire with an El Diablo fountain firework, a quick dip in the deep end is not only refreshing, but also eliminates a visit to the ER. California’s tax payers can thank me again in that situation, since we had to give up health insurance to afford the pool.

The bottom line is, I would highly recommend getting a pool, especially if you live in a dry area like we do. If we all do our part, we can not only eliminate our kids’ boredom complaints and prevent holiday-related injuries, but we might just be able to end this drought.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to ignore the annihilation of my landscaping some more and get ready for the pool party today.


See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Shotgun Wedding? - Repost

Today is our fourteenth wedding anniversary, and while out at dinner last night, my wife and I realized that we are only days away from our relationship tipping point. In just about a week we will have known each other longer than we haven’t. That’s a pretty big deal, but our waiter didn’t think it was a cool enough story to comp us any drinks or anything. Maybe we didn’t explain the math well enough? Oh, well.

Even though David the waiter didn’t care, I still think it’s pretty cool, so in honor of our upcoming tipping point, I thought I would once again regale you with the heartwarming tale about the night after the night I met my wife. Unfortunately, the night I met my wife was pretty un-eventful, besides the fact that I met the love of my life. So instead, I will regale you with the shocking, explosive, frightening, and downright weird tale about the following night. It’s a tale of a dive bar, a truck, a barefoot man, a policeman, a bathrobe, and a shotgun.

A guy walks into a bar. It was me. I met my wife in a bar.

That’s not the whole story. It gets better.

It was only my first or second time at this particular bar, but she had been there for thirty-two nights in a row. She and her best friend were going for a combined personal record. It was her initiative and dedication to the endeavor that drew me to her. We were both college students in San Luis Obispo, CA, and she was working at a pizza place that summer. She would get off work at midnight and meet her friend at Bull’s Tavern to shut the place down. We met one evening, talked until closing, and said goodnight.

I thought she was really neat-o, so having heard about their record-breaking attendance goal, I had a good idea of where I might find her again the next evening. After missing her a few times, between the bar and the pizza place, we finally connected, and had another delightful evening of bar-booth conversation. This was the kind of bar where “delightful conversation” means you sat in a red Naugahyde booth, taking turns shouting into each other’s ears, in an attempt to carry on a conversation over the AC/DC blaring out of the jukebox.

After the last-call light came on at two A.M. – this was back when we could stay up until two A.M. – we walked back to the pizza place where my truck was parked, and carried on our conversation in the cab of my Ford F150. By about three A.M. I had convinced her that kissing me wouldn’t be so bad, and just when I was about to plant one on her, a sonic boom came rolling down the street. It would have been much cooler if we had heard the explosion as we kissed, but you just can’t plan for these kinds of things.

She said, and I quote, “That sounded like a twelve-gauge!”
I replied, scoffing-ly, “There is no way that was a twelve-gauge shotgun. It was probably just a car backfiring.” In my head I was thinking, Cool. She knows her shotguns. But that couldn’t have been a shotgun.

Roughly four minutes later a barefoot man in a bathrobe came walking down the street carrying a twelve-gauge shotgun.

Now, if I can paint the scene for you - It is past three o’clock in the morning, and the town has completely shut down. We are the only car parked on the street, directly across from the pizza parlor. The only other car that we can see belongs to a police officer who is parked in a parking lot across the intersection from the pizza place. The police officer is standing outside of his car, chatting with a man on a bicycle. They have apparently not heard the big bang, and seem very relaxed. The pizza place is located on the corner of the intersection, and the man in the bathrobe with the heavy artillery is walking past the pizza place, toward the cop, but neither one of them can see the other yet. We are parked across the street and have a clear view of both of them, and a pretty good idea of what is about to happen. Between the five of us, we are the only people still awake in the whole town, and two of us are a whole lot more awake than we were a minute ago.

The bathrobe-clad gentlemen rounded the corner and came into view of the police officer, and they saw each other at about the same time. We were positioned at just the wrong angle, so when the cop drew his weapon, he was pointing it right at us. We both did that thing where you slide down below the dashboard in case the bullets start flying, but foolishly keep your head up high enough to see, because you don’t want to miss the action.

The policeman immediately started asking the nice man to kindly set his shotgun down. By “kindly asking,” I mean he instantly began shouting, “Drop the #$*%&@ gun right now! Drop it, #$@*&%!!!” I thought he was handling himself very well given the surprising circumstance he had just found himself in. The bicyclist he had been talking to before the rude interruption did something that still to this day I cannot believe, even though I saw it with my own two barely-visible-above-the-dashboard eyes. He dropped his bike to the ground and fit himself completely underneath the front bumper of the police cruiser. Next time you see a police cruiser, take a look at the ground clearance. I think it might have been Houdini himself in that bike helmet.

Well, the nice man with the twelve-gauge didn’t drop his gun right away. He just sort of stood there, trying to have a conversation with the cop. He was holding the gun at a forty-five-degree angle toward the ground, not exactly pointing it at the cop, but not exactly pointing it away from him, either. As the police officer walked closer and closer to the man, yelling commands louder and louder, I was sure we were about to witness something very unpleasant on what had, otherwise, been a really nice night.

Thankfully, for everyone involved, the man finally decided to set his shotgun gently on the ground, and seconds later, the police officer set his knee not-so-gently on the man’s neck, and the stand-off was over. As Captain Bathrobe was led to the police car and Harry Houdini extricated himself from underneath the Caprice Classic, I started the truck and drove my date home in stunned silence.

Fortunately, she didn’t hold the incident against me, and we continued to see each other. We searched the local paper for two weeks straight after that night for some mention of the incident, partially to prove to people that we weren’t making it up, but mostly to find out for ourselves what we had seen. Why was there a man firing a shotgun in sleepy, downtown San Luis Obispo, and why was he then walking the streets with that shotgun, barefoot, in a bathrobe? We never found a single mention of it, and to this day, have no idea what happened.

We graduated, parted ways, and met again six years later at a mutual college friend’s housewarming party. We have been together ever since. After meeting her father, I finally understood her knowledge of shotguns. And after getting to know my father-in-law, I had a strong suspicion that he and my wife might have known more about that night than they were letting on. I know he owned a twelve-gauge, and I’m pretty sure he owned a bathrobe.

Where exactly was he that night? Out looking for her, perhaps? Who knows?

Happy anniversary, baby. And happy tipping point!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I Love Lucy - Part II

Just before a section of the trail down into the Grand Canyon called Jacob’s Ladder, Simon, our lead wrangler, stopped the mule train and said a Navajo prayer. I don’t speak Navajo, so I said my own prayer instead.

Lord, please don’t let any of us die by:
a) falling off a cliff
b) being kicked or stepped on by one of these enormous mules
c) bursting into flames
d) some other way

The Navajo prayer sounded more poetic, but mine was to the point. Either way, the top of Jacob’s Ladder was a good place to pray. The bible story says that Jacob’s Ladder was a stairway to Heaven, but the name is deceiving. The one in the Grand Canyon is a slippery rock path straight to hell.

On that Monday last week it was over a hundred degrees by eight in the morning. At the TOP of the canyon. It only got hotter as we went down. It was one hundred and twenty degrees in the shade at the bottom. My mother-in-law lives in Morro Bay, California, an idyllic little beach community where it never gets above seventy-two degrees. For the whole ride, sitting atop her mule Sassy, she looked like she’d just drank an entire bottle of Tabasco sauce. The wranglers kept pouring ice water on her head and down her back whenever we stopped, presumably in an attempt to stave off spontaneous combustion.

Prior to the ride, Scott, the lead wrangler with the most kick-ass western mustache you ever saw, attempted to scare us into not going. He listed every conceivable way we could die in the Grand Canyon, which took him a half hour since it’s such a long list. Since I was planning on taking pictures with my cell phone, he told me to put it into airplane mode. Apparently a ringing phone can spook the mules. And if your mule gets spooked on a skinny trail carved into the side of a cliff, there’s a good chance you’ll be flying, so either way, airplane mode is a good idea.

Down we went into the furnace. Literally, we rode down into a place called The Devil’s Furnace. It was so hot, the devil himself would have probably said, “No thanks. I’ll stay here in the hotel.” That was just after we all somehow avoided plunging thousands of feet to our deaths off of a section of trail – and I’m using the term ‘trail’ loosely, just like how its rocks were attached – called The Devil’s Backbone. I’m guessing most of the places in the Grand Canyon were named in July by someone with no water.

Each time we stopped, after forcing water into us in an increasingly desperate attempt to keep at least most of us alive, Simon would tell us about what we were seeing. This is where so-in-so died. Here’s where they found more human bones. These rocks are only about a billion years old. The rocks kept getting older and older as we descended. Based on some very rough math, taking into account that we were breathing trail dust from many different sections of the ride, differing by thousands of feet in elevation, I calculated that my boogers were at a minimum, eighty-five million years old. I have kept them to sell to a museum.  

When we stopped for lunch my son asked Simon what his Navajo name was. He said something unpronounceable, and when we asked him what it meant, he said, “Walks into trouble.”

Hmm... Halfway down the canyon isn’t the best place to learn that. Maybe if Scott had mentioned that little tidbit, some of us would have backed out. All of a sudden following you doesn’t seem like the best idea. On the other hand, all of us will surely die right here in this spot if you leave us... OK, we’ll stay with you.

Back up on Lucy – which was no small feat because neither of my legs were working at that point – it occurred to me that while we were drinking nine gallons of water a minute to stay alive, the mules hadn’t had a drop of water all day. It was right then and there that I understood why they use mules for this ride.

They say they use them instead of horses because of the mule’s sense of self-preservation. They won’t do dumb things like a horse will if they get spooked. I really appreciated that about Lucy, especially when looking down the side of her neck at drop-offs that made me really wish I was wearing a parachute. But up until halfway through the ride down I hadn’t appreciated how tough they are. No wonder the Army loves them. Mules are the toughest animals on the planet. They make the honey badger look like a pillow pet.

Down to the bottom of “The Big Ditch” we went. Just in case all the cliffs on the way down weren’t exciting enough, the ride ended with a leisurely mule stroll across a four hundred fifty-foot-long suspension bridge, about a Lucy and a half wide, hanging in the air seventy feet above the deepest part of the Colorado River. I’m almost positive my mother-in-law had her eyes closed. Back on solid ground we rode into a place called Phantom Ranch.

Throughout the day we had occasionally caught a glimpse of a single power line, making its way from the top of the canyon down to some unknown destination at the bottom. Mercifully, Phantom Ranch turned out to be its termination point, and it was powering an A/C unit in our cabin, along with at least one refrigerator that was doing the most important thing it could ever do – keeping beer and wine cold. There is a God after all amidst all this hell.

The manager of Phantom Ranch told us that only one percent of the people who visit the Grand Canyon actually make it down to the bottom. I asked, but she didn’t have a figure for how many of the ninety-nine percent didn’t make it because they burst into flames.

Being in the elite one percent group made the beer taste even better. She never did tell us what percentage actually make it back up to the top, but luckily for us, Lucy and her mule buddies have a one hundred percent success rate.

Thanks for the ride, girl!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I Love Lucy - Part I

I had a mild heart attack when Lucy stumbled on the Devil's Backbone. That was shortly after I had a full-fledged aneurism at a place called Oh Jesus Corner, where Lucy hung me and most of herself out over a 1900-foot drop-off as she made a casual right turn.

By the grace of the aforementioned savior, I survived, and I would love to tell you all about my trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on a mule, but I’m much too sore to type. Everything hurts.

When I weighed in at the Bright Angel Lodge on Sunday afternoon, I was thrilled to discover that I’d made the cutoff by four pounds. At one hundred and ninety-six pounds, I was cleared to ride the mules. Hooray! I thought to myself. Looking back on that now, I’m thinking I might have been smarter to hit the bacon cheeseburgers a little harder and bring it in at two hundred and five. Then I would have been forced to walk down and I wouldn’t be as sore as I am right now.

I can’t sit at my computer to type this, because my butt hurts too much. Actually, technically I should say the bones at the tops of my legs where my butt should be hurt. Tragically, I was born without a butt. A butt would have surely helped with all the bouncing on that pile of pointy iron bars the wranglers had cleverly disguised as a leather saddle.

I can’t stand up to type this, because my thighs hurt too much, and my knees simply don’t work anymore. Apparently I have tendons or ligaments or nerves or something on the outsides of my knees. I had no idea they were even there, but it turns out they are incredibly allergic to riding a large animal down a steep hill for more than six minutes. Unfortunately, there was still a lot of riding left after the first six minutes, and the wranglers are very strict about their “don’t get off your mule and lay down on the ground” rule.

During our orientation, before the mule torture began, Scott, the bowlegged lead wrangler, told us that the mule rides have been operating in the Grand Canyon for one hundred and seventeen years. After about twenty minutes of riding I began to wonder why someone one hundred and sixteen years ago didn’t say, “You know what, this is silly. Let’s just walk.” I began to wonder that because nineteen minutes into the ride, a rock about the size of a basketball rolled down the cliff directly at one of the mules in the middle of the line. This caused four mules behind Lucy to try to hurl themselves over her, and consequently, over me.

Lucy was the tallest and widest mule in the group, likely due to my just barely clearing the weight limit. Presumably because it’s a pain to get cowboy boots on and off, they measure horses and mules by the “hand,” which equals four inches. Based on my public school math, and the fact that my stirrups were two or three feet above eye-level when I was standing next to Lucy, I’d estimate she was about two thousand hands tall.

Lucy was big and wide, but unfortunately, the trail we were on was anything but. When the rock came down, we were on a section of trail, carved into the cliff, about a half a Lucy wide. The four mules that needed to pass us - at two hundred miles per hour - each decided to take a different route. Lucy, not knowing what the problem was, but not caring either, was not about to be left behind. Just like children on a playground, if one of them starts to run, they all run. They don’t ask questions. The mule that was climbing over Lucy and the one that was under her legs were both left in the dust when she exploded away from the scene of the crime. The two mules that had managed to squeeze past her were understandably surprised when she just used her brute size to shove both of them up the trail into the five mules that were in front of us before all the excitement began.

The end result was ten mules all piled up at the next turn in the trail, kind of like a giant game of equestrian Jenga, all occupying a space you would be very hard-pressed to fit a mid-sized sedan into. Amazingly, no one was hurt in the melee, and we were able to extricate ourselves and our mules back out into a straight line again, albeit in a very different order than we had started.

The trip just kept getting more exciting after that.

Anyway, I’ll tell you all about the rest of it next week, provided my butt bones heal up enough for me to sit for any length of time. For now, about the only way I can be comfortable - and I’m using that term very loosely - is if I lay on my back while shoveling Advil into my mouth and washing them down with beer. As you can imagine, it’s hard to do that and type at the same time.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Arizona Mule Sweat

Son Number One and I are in Arizona, getting ready to ride mules down a skinny little trail on the wall of the Grand Canyon. It was only 99 degrees a few days ago when we arrived, but that “nice weather,” as the Phoenix meteorologist called it, is over. Now it’s about 200 degrees in the shade. I’m not 100% sure why people live in Arizona. Or how. Everything here is designed to kill you. The weather, the plants, the hot sauce at that burrito place. Everything.

The heat wave may be a good thing, though, because I think I need to sweat off about ten pounds in the next four days. The mule ride company has a very strict policy of no rider over 200 pounds, which unfortunately conflicted with my very strict policy of drinking beer and eating bratwurst when summer starts. Or winter. Any season, really. When it comes to me on a mule, I’m afraid the trail is the only skinny thing in the equation.

I arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport a little over the weight limit, I’m sure. Actually, I’m not really sure, because I have no way of weighing myself accurately. The only scale that matters regarding how much I weigh is the one at the mule ride company’s headquarters on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I won’t be near that scale until the night before we’re supposed to ride.

I have no idea if they have one of those good doctor’s office/gym scales with the sliding weights, or if they have a bathroom scale like I do. Bathroom scales are crap. No two home scales will give you the same number when you weigh yourself. Our scale at home is three pounds light, I think. I’m basing that on some really scientific comparison weighing of myself in other people’s bathrooms, and then trying to do math based on if I peed before getting home, how much water I may have drank on the car ride home, and whether or not I was holding a beer when I weighed myself.

But can I trust that I’m really three pounds heavier than what my scale is telling me? No. Because I step on it and get a number. I step off, step back on, get a different number. I try a third time and get the first number again. How much do I really weigh? I have no idea.

What if the mule company has a crappy scale like mine? What if theirs is three pounds heavy? I’m going to weigh in six pounds heavier than at home, and I’m quite sure they won’t just accept my argument that “my scale at home says everything is OK, so let’s mount up.”

I thought about mailing something to them so they could weigh it and I could compare the numbers, but it really needed to be something close to 200 pounds to be accurate, and that postage would have cost me as much as the mule ride itself. When I called them to ask if they would go weigh themselves in someone else’s bathroom, they hung up on me.

And what time of day this weighing takes place is a huge factor. In the morning, wearing my boxer shorts, I’m much lighter than I am at three in the afternoon with all my clothes on. None of this would really be a problem if I wasn’t going to be so close to the limit, but like I said, beer and bratwurst. Policies are policies.

I always figured that I would give it my best shot to lose the weight and be mule-approved, but then if the beer and brats won the battle, I could always walk down behind the mule train. Besides the obvious dust and mule-pie landmine considerations, it shouldn’t be all that bad, since the mules aren’t going to go any faster than a crawl anyway. (Please, God!)

But I’m a lot more worried about my backup plan after talking with a mule expert the other day. We had a fun day trip out to a family friend’s farm, and one of the horse and mule owners was excited to hear about our trip, because she’d just read a book about all the different ways people have died at the Grand Canyon.

Oh, great! said my wife’s grimace.

“No, no, no, they’re going to be fine,” she backpedaled.

She assured us that we were going to be totally safe, because hundreds and hundreds of hikers have expired over the years, but no one has ever died on a mule.

Well, that’s just fantastic news! I’m safe if I’m on a mule, but if I’m just another fat-ass, beer and bratwurst-sucking hiker, I’m screwed.

I mean, I sincerely hope I’m not the first guy in history to die on a mule, but if I was, at least I could blame the mule. And I’d be marginally famous for a little while until mule death number two occurred. If I hike down behind the mules, the odds are infinitely higher that I’ll die somehow, and if I do, there’ll be no one to blame but me and Safeway.

So, I’m more determined than ever to make it under the weight limit now, and I have four days left to lose an undetermined amount of weight. I think I’ll go for a nice jog, followed by a nice cold glass of nothing.

If I can keep my shoes from melting.

If I avoid ending up as another Arizona jogging statistic and I can manage to pull it off, I have a feeling I’ll be squeaking it in just under the wire. So, I still might make history.

Clothes are heavy, so I might be the first guy to ever ride a mule down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon wearing only boxer shorts and a gallon of sunscreen.

Or maybe only a half-gallon. That stuff’s pretty heavy, you know.

Stay thirsty, my friends,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My Main Man Chowhurdy

This week I’d like to take a moment and give a big shout out and a huge thank you to my new best buddy, Teodoro Chowhurdy.

I don’t actually know Chowhurdy personally, but he sent me an email the other day from his totally legitimate-sounding email address of It was a very helpful email alerting me to some recent account activity in one of my many accounts.

Mr. Chowhurdy,

The subject of your helpful email was “Operational Expense.” I want to thank you, Teodoro, for alerting me to the fact that an operational expense of 7,109,91 USD has been credited from my account. I do have a few questions, though.

Here in America we generally put the first comma between the hundredth and the thousandth place, so I’m not totally sure if you’re telling me that just over seven hundred thousand dollars has been credited from my account, or just over seven million. Either way it’s rather alarming. I sincerely wish I had an account with a large enough balance that either one of those scenarios would be possible, but unfortunately for both of us, I do not.

Secondly, you’re using the word ‘credited,’ but then saying that this comma-undetermined amount of money was “credited from” my account. We usually use the word ‘credited’ as an indication of an addition to someone’s account.

You might have meant to say “withdrawn from your account,” but I’m hopeful that you misused the word ‘from’ and you really meant to tell me that a large sum of USD was credited to my account. That would be sweet. Either way, my accounts all seem to be at their normal, depressing balances. Please advise.

You also invited me to view the details of this comma and directionally-confusing transaction by referring to the report that you so helpfully attached to the email. The report, however, was inexplicably named “”

Now, Mr. Chowhurdy, I’m certainly no expert in what they call ‘spam’ or ‘phishing,’ but I have heard that many not-so-legitimate emails contain viruses meant to steal my passwords, hijack my email, or lock me out of my computer in some nefarious fashion. You wouldn’t do something like that, would you, Teodoro?

Not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that I’ve heard those viruses usually show up in a .zip file, and the one you sent me starts with the word ‘caution,’ like some sort of subtle, covert warning...

Could it be that you are really trying to warn me that this isn’t on the up and up?

That’s it, isn’t it, Mr. Chowhurdy? You really are my friend. That’s why you put the comma in the wrong place. That’s why you misused the word ‘credited.’ That’s why I haven’t seen any unusually large activity, either coming or going, on any of my accounts. That’s why the file name on the attachment is so foreboding. You’re warning me, aren’t you?

Are you being held against your will and forced to attempt to scam people out of their money by bad guys who don’t speak or write English? Is that how you were able to sneak that ridiculously incomprehensible amount of USD and that utterly preposterous file name past them? That’s it, isn’t it? You are a genius, Chowhurdy!

How can I help you? They must have you chained to a desk somewhere, or maybe they threatened your family if you didn’t cooperate. I’d hate to think that Mrs. Chowhurdy and the little Chowhurdys are in danger. What can I do? You’ve been so kind to me, I need to help you out of this horrible situation.

Maybe if you were to actually credit my account with some actual USD I could use the money to hire a mercenary group to find you, neutralize the bad guys, and set you and the Chowhurdy family free.

Hit me back and I’ll get you my PayPal info. Thanks, man. Stay strong.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hazard Pay

This weekend I met the man with the most dangerous job in America. Actually he was a high school kid, I think. He looked to be about thirty to forty years younger than me, and approximately ninety to a hundred years younger than I feel, so that would put him around high school age.

He was obviously too young to fully grasp the gravity of his situation, so to speak. No experienced adult male would have ever signed up for the job this kid had.

We met him on a magical day. We got season passes to our local water slide park this year, and Saturday was opening day of the season. We arrived early and staked out our chaise lounges, and then the boys and I rushed off to The Riptide. It's the park’s brand new ride, and the boys and I have been salivating over it all winter.

It’s an enormous water slide - easily the tallest in the park - with four-person “quad tubes” so you can experience near-death with three of your closest friends, much like the time you let Steve drive the car on spring break.

You are in charge of getting your own quad tube to the top of the stairs, and they are apparently made out of equal parts ballistic rubber, lead weights and more lead weights. I can envision a system where two adults would be able to carry the massive tubes up the stairs together, but unfortunately, the boys weren’t much help. After a few minutes of tripping over each other and almost crushing Son Number Three with it, I reluctantly told the boys that I needed to carry the tube up the stairs myself.

The Riptide is a very high water slide, so we needed to climb up a lot of steps to reach the top. I lost count when I came close to blacking out, but it was probably about three thousand stairs. I didn’t have my Fitbit on, but I’m pretty sure I burned an entire HomeTown Buffet’s dinner rush worth of calories on that one climb.

The slide takes you down a steep tube and then rockets your terrified party of four up a gigantic vertical wall, where you hang motionless at the top for just a split second before your stomach catches up to you. Then, through a miracle of engineering (or a nightmarish trial and error period), you slide back down, directly into another cavernous tube that takes you around a 360-degree turn and into a huge pool of water, where lifeguards await to accept your deepest gratitude for being alive. It is awesome!

We finally reached the top of the stairs and made it onto the platform high above the park. After I had managed to get my heart rate back under four hundred and my blurry vision cleared up, I saw him. The man with the most dangerous job in America. Just a scrawny kid with a whistle around his neck and zinc oxide on his nose. He wasn’t the one who was directing traffic at the entrance to the slide, so it wasn’t immediately clear what purpose he served.

He welcomed us to The Riptide and then asked me and the boys to all step up onto the four-foot-square industrial scale located on the corner of the platform.

Apparently, in order to keep groups of fun-loving patrons from shooting straight up off the top of the vertical wall and into orbit, or missing the exit tube and dying a horrible death under a nine hundred-pound quad tube, The Riptide has a weight range. Your group's total weight has to be between two hundred and seven hundred pounds in order to ride. This kid’s job was to enforce the minimum and maximum weight limits.

Let me get this straight, kid. They've got you stationed up here on a platform, seventy feet off the ground, with no safety harness or anything, and your job is to ask groups of women in bathing suits to step on a scale so you can weigh them?

I’m not sure $8.50 an hour constitutes hazard pay. Good luck, kid. You’re a braver man than me.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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