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

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 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

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 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

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, May 25, 2016

44 at 44

I turned 44 years old yesterday, which sometimes seems impossible to me, since my brain tells me I was in my 20s only a few short years ago. But then I wake up some mornings more sore than when I went to bed and realize, yep, I’m old. The fact that I buy my Advil by the 50-pound sack is another clue.

This year, in honor of making another successful trip around the sun, I have added to my list of thoughts, observations, and acquired wisdom (arguably). Here it is, one for each year. You’re welcome.

1.  There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who prefer the toilet paper to come off the top of the roll, and those who prefer the bottom. The people who like it to come off the bottom of the roll are wrong.

2.  If beds were advertised the same way as tents, a queen-size mattress would sleep nine adults comfortably.

3.  The three-second rule has almost infinite extensions depending on how much you like the food that dropped.

4.  You never fully appreciate how crazy your family is until you have to explain all of them to your new wife.

5.  I don’t understand why disappointed is not the opposite of appointed.

6.  Pi and the circumference of a circle have a similar relationship to pie and the circumference of a person.

7.  Here’s the main difference between men and women: Men can look at a picture of women's underwear and get excited. Not women in underwear, just the underwear itself. Women do not get excited looking at pictures of boxer shorts.

8.  The toothpaste tube is the most amazing invention ever. You get four days of toothpaste out of the large main body of the tube, and six weeks of toothpaste out of the last 10% of the tube, up by the cap. If we could make automobile gas tanks out of the same stuff that the last 10% of the toothpaste tube is made of, cars would get 700 miles per gallon.

9.  The clearest evidence that America is the greatest country on earth is that the Red Bull beverage company put a man in space. Take that, Belgium.

10.  If you give enough money to the right charities, you will never have to buy address labels again.

11.  I am over the electronic tipping point. At this point, I would much rather lose my wallet than my phone.

12.  A really good financial goal in life is to have your bank account balance be larger than your bank account number.

13.  Life without beer, wine, and cheese would be horrible, but life without bacon would simply be pointless.

14.  When packing thirteen suitcases into the car for your wife, is it impossible to have ten of them be “on top” so she can get to them easily.

15.  Never get a woman personalized license plates like "HOT QT" or something like that, because eventually you, the boyfriend or husband, will have to drive the car and you will be mercilessly ridiculed by the rest of us.

16.  You can ask someone to do something, or you can tell them how you want it done, but you cannot do both.

17.  A good indicator of where you are in life is this: Does the advertisement of free food still affect your decision making?

18.  Fabric softener sheets go in the dryer, not the washer. Just FYI. I’m not saying I didn’t know that.

19.  There is no “t” or “t” sound in the word across. There is no “b” or “b” sound in the word supposedly. Please pronounce accordingly.

20.  Men are far more likely to clean things with spit than women are.

21.  Money and toilet paper have something in common – They’re both easy to take for granted until you run out. Also, in totally opposite, but equally dire situations, they can be substituted for each other.

22.  Pets and skull tattoos have something in common - Just because yours is badass does not mean you are badass. In fact, it usually means the exact opposite.

23.  If you ask any guy to tell you a story about a time he almost died, he will have four stories just off the top of his head, and one will be from this year. If you ask women the same question, most of them will look at you like you’re crazy.

24.  One sure sign of getting old – When you start sitting down to put on your pants.

25.  Children and ceiling fans are just incompatible. It’s science.

26.  In life, it is very important to remember where you are and why you're there. That way, when your podiatrist tells you to drop your shorts, you’ll ask some questions first.

27.  The hotel alarm clock - You can either take the time to figure out how it works before you go to bed, or you can figure it out in the dark at 4:30 A.M. when it unexpectedly goes off. Your choice.

28.  Probably the funniest thing ever written is this: “We’ve upped our contribution. Up yours!”

29.  People who don’t use their cruise control on the freeway should be pulled over and arrested. Or water-boarded.

30.  There are 21 words in the English language that need to be used more. They are: Bailiwick, Hootenanny, Skullduggery, Scofflaw, Ballyhoo, Shenanigans, Donnybrook, Catawampus, Chicanery, Cajoled, Hullabaloo, Besmirch, Boondoggle, Haberdashery, Melee, Befuddled, Flummoxed, Hoosegow, Wiseacre, Tomfoolery, and Kerfuffle.

31.  Nothing is more interesting to a child than what you are doing, provided that what you are doing is easier without children involved.

32.  You cannot claim to be a grown woman, fully capable of taking care of yourself, and also claim that you do not know how to operate a toilet seat.

33.  Fried chicken and touch screen devices do not mix well.

34.  A carsick child and a blender without a lid have a lot in common.

35.  To be or not to be is not the question. The real question is, which towel in the guest bathroom am I allowed to use to dry my hands?

36.  Give a boy enough time with any object, whether it be a stale Cheerio, a bouncy ball, a doll, or a book, and he will eventually turn it into a weapon.

37.  "The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys" is a pretty accurate saying, but it leaves out the other major difference: the speed at which they heal when they fall off those toys.

38.  New parents - The best thing to do when your infant cries at night is to set a timer for ten minutes. If the timer runs out before the baby stops crying, reset the timer.

39.  The people investigating alternative energy sources should take a look at my wife's side of the bed. When she comes to bed she is in a near-frozen state, but the bed somehow heats her up to roughly 8,000 degrees in the middle of the night. I have never once plugged the bed in or recharged it in any way.

40.  As I get older, I find myself dividing the world into two categories: People I would let watch my kids for five minutes, and people I wouldn’t.

41.  The person who invented the hotel shower curtain rod that curves out away from the tub so the shower curtain doesn’t stick to your arm should receive the Nobel prize.

42.  If you want a good example of unbridled optimism, look at your smoke alarm. They all have "test weekly" printed on them. Yes, smoke alarm company, I’ll get right on that.

43.  Guys, do you ever have trouble figuring out if you’ve had too much to drink? Here’s a handy guideline:
“There is no way I can scratch that itch on my ankle while I’m standing here peeing, so I will not try.” – You’re still OK
“I can totally do it without peeing on myself.” – You are drunk

44.  If you have to choose, it makes more sense to become a strong swimmer than a strong runner. You don’t automatically die when you stop running.

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, May 18, 2016

Nursing School

My kids only have two more weeks of school left and I am not happy about it. Actually, they only have one more real week of school since the “last day” is the Thursday after the Memorial Day holiday. With no school on Monday, and an all-school field day on Tuesday, Wednesday will be filled with movies and games, and the last day is a half day, so it doesn’t even count.

Although, the one “real week” we have left isn’t really much of a week. The Friday before the Memorial Day weekend is a total write-off, and we have a couple minimum days in there too. Basically we’re in the elementary school equivalent of the last two weeks of your job before your official retirement date. You still show up to the office, but nothing productive is going to happen.

I’m not concerned with the lack of education that will occur in the next two weeks. I’m concerned, as always, about them being home all the time. School is very helpful to me. When they’re in school I can get things done. When they’re home they always want stuff.

“Dad, can we go to the park?”
“Dad, can we go to the pool?”
“Dad, can we play inside since it’s 105 degrees out?”
“Dad, can you feed us food?”
“Dad, can you come out of your office?”
“Dad, where are you?”

That’s going to get even more annoying if they ever find my hiding spot. I wish they would bug their mom for stuff but she’s a high school teacher, so during the summer months she automatically gets the better hiding spot.

Besides being in charge of them for the entire day, the main thing I’m concerned with as the school year draws to a close is the lack of medical notes I’ll get over the summer. Elementary schools are very good at notifying you of the dangers posed to your children by everyday life. I have a stack of “information letters” here on my desk just from the last few weeks.

How am I supposed to know if my children were exposed to hand-foot-and-mouth disease over the summer if I never receive a warning letter? Or conjunctivitis? Or fifth disease, whatever the hell that is.

“Son Number One has a cough.”
“How are we supposed to know what it might be? It’s July! We have no letters!”

And head lice. Don’t even get me started on head lice. Although, we tend to shear our boys like sheep over the summer, so that one shouldn’t be a problem.

It’s the absence of the head injury form that I’m most worried about. Son Number Three’s head comes into contact with hard objects, including other heads, so often that the school nurse has me on speed dial. She called the other day and didn’t even tell me who it was. She just said, “I’ll give you one guess why I’m calling.”

As she was handing him yet another concussion form to take home, he asked her, amazed, “How many of these forms do you have?”

The problem is he’s a little squirrelly when it comes to giving us information. (Possibly because he’s eight years old, possibly because of all the head injuries, probably a little of both.) I’m just not confident that over the summer I’m going to hear about every collision involving his head and a solid object. I can easily see a scenario where he’ll be playing down the street, collide with a parked car or a tree, knock himself completely out, wake up, cry for a while, see a butterfly, forget he’s hurt, chase the butterfly for two minutes, then tell me about it a week later.

I guess I’ll just have to hang on to one of these head injury notification letters for the summer and go through the concussion symptom awareness protocols every night just to be safe.

On the plus side, the short hair helps with more than just head lice. It makes it pretty easy to spot the goose eggs, too.

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, May 11, 2016

Let's Make America Awesomer

We have no good options left, America. This election is looking like a choice between Holy Crap! and Are You Kidding Me? That’s why during the recent Cinco de Mayo tequila tasting at my house, a new partnership was formed to give you, the concerned voters of America, a more palatable option. Derek Miller (my neighbor) and I will be running mates for president. I lost the Ro-Sham-Bo for the vice president slot, so I’m the presidential candidate.

Now, I know many of you might be saying to yourself, “But I don’t know Derek Miller.” That’s a fair concern, so let me tell you a little about him. He’s tall and handsome with no hideous facial scarring, he has an actual job and a lovely family, he has some really good tequila at his house, and he’s not Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

I’m sure many of you are also saying, “Can Smidge really be president? Is he qualified? All I’ve ever seen him actually do is be sarcastic. What is his IQ?” Those are also fair concerns, so let me put your mind at ease. Technically and legally I can be president, and after the presidents I’ve seen in my lifetime I’m starting to think I might be overqualified. I think the office needs a lot more sarcasm, and as for my IQ... that’s none of your business. Sure, I have no idea where Kazakhstan is, but does anyone? And does it really matter? Of course not.

And I’m also not Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

I think I’ve made the case for Schmatjen/Miller 2016.

At this point, I’m not sure we can actually get on the ballot, chiefly because neither of us have looked into it at all, so please just write us in.

And we only have $2.58 in our campaign fund, which was the amount of money we got from recycling the Cinco de Mayo beer bottles, so donations would be greatly appreciated.

Even after all the good reasons I’ve already given you for voting for us, if you’re still on the fence, here’s a list of our major platforms. (This is only a partial list since we’re still trying to remember everything we came up with that night. Seis de Mayo was a little foggy.)

First and foremost, free beer for every person in the U.S.A. That’s a no-brainer. We did the math, and with 323 million people in the country getting a fourteen dollar twelve-pack of beer each month, it only costs us $54.3 billion. Done! We can handle that just by eliminating the State Department.

And keep in mind, in case you think we’re being stingy, you get a twelve-pack for every person in your family. If you are married with three kids, and grandma lives with you, that’s six cases of beer headed your way each month, like a huge, frosty-cold paycheck. And if you’re like me and have Mormon or Muslim friends and neighbors - score! They usually have a ton of kids, and you can probably have their beer, too.

Speaking of eliminating the State Department, we’re going to be doing a lot of that as well. The short list of redundant federal departments doing things that are already being handled by the states will get $336 billion back in our pockets. Goodbye Departments of Energy, Education, Labor, and Transportation. It was nice knowing you.

You nice folks can have that money back in the form of a $1000 check for every single person in your family. Spend it however you want, America.

In the interest of inclusion, all this applies to the nice folks in our outlying territories as well. It’s about time they got full citizenship, voting rights, and free beer. And it’s about time we got five new states. Welcome to statehood, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Glad to have you aboard.

Subsequently, we’ll be launching an exploratory committee to figure out how best to fit five more stars on the flag, and also to determine where exactly those five new states are. The committee will also look into whether Costa Rica is the same thing as Puerto Rico. There has been some question.

Back in D.C., we’ll be firing everyone we have the power to fire. Then we’ll hire lawyers to figure out a way to fire the people who say we don’t have the power to fire the other people. Then we’ll fire all the lawyers.

We’re going to pay ourselves $10 million a year for the eight years we’ll obviously be in office, but don’t worry. That’s only a couple of drips from the faucet in Washington, and it will reassure you that we’re not for sale to special interest groups. We’ll still take tons of money from special interest groups, but we’ll turn around and give it all to you! As a thank-you, you guys can vote to repeal term limits for us. That’s a win-win.

And lastly, we’ll immediately instate Cinco de Mayo as an official national holiday, on par with the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. To reduce any potential hurt feelings or appearance of North American favoritism, we’ll also adopt a lesser Canadian holiday to be named later.

Also, recognizing the brilliance of the New Year’s Day holiday immediately following the New Year’s Eve celebration, all national holidays will now have a minimum of two days off work and school. Welcome, Fifth of July and Seis de Mayo. You’ve always been there, but now you’re official.

Thanks for your support, and tell your friends.

“In 2016, write in Schmatjen/Miller. Free beer and money is totally killer.”

I’ll get back to you if we come up with a better slogan, or if we can remember any more of our great ideas on how to make America awesomer.

Vote early and often!

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, May 4, 2016

Multitasking Moms

I am getting stupider. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t all that smart to begin with, but over the last few years I have actually felt myself dumbing down tremendously. I can pinpoint the exact moment it started happening, too: My first day as the stay-at-home dad.

Back when I was an engineer and had an office job, I was actually pretty good at getting things done. I would knock out tasks left and right and check off the to-do list every day. Now that I’m in charge of the house, I can’t find my socks. Seriously, I have like two pairs left and they don’t match.

I have always blamed multitasking on my recent inability to do anything well. I’ve told my wife for years that my brain does not have the ability to do two things at once. I can do one thing adequately or two things very poorly. Those are my choices.

Well, now it turns out that my inability to multitask has been validated. Hooray! Dr. Labcoat and his research team at the University of Stanford-or-Somewhere recently published a groundbreaking study that proves, among many other things, that funding is somehow still available for college brain studies. Also that no one’s brain has the ability to do two things at once. The study found that people who thought they were good at multitasking actually multitasked worse than people who normally tend to focus on one task at a time.

They also found that multitasking during cognitive tests actually reduced performance on those tests as much as smoking marijuana. I think that part of the study was done in Colorado. When the Stanford researchers contacted them for follow-up data, the Colorado team replied, “Huh?”

Add all that to the fact that they believe more studies will prove that multitasking actually causes brain damage, and... hang on, I have to go change the laundry.

This news is huge! I finally have some concrete scientific proof to point to when my wife questions my inability to function. It’s not me, honey, it’s the kids. There’s three of them and they all want stuff at the same time. They’re to blame, not me. It’s science.

As an example of what I’m talking about, here’s a typical conversation between me and my wife when she gets home from a long day at work:

Her: “What’s for dinner?”
Me: “Sorry, Son Number Three’s shoelace broke this afternoon, so I haven’t gotten around to planning dinner yet.”
Her: “Uh... it’s 6:45.”
Me: “Have you seen my socks?”

See what I mean?

Mother’s Day is this weekend, and as we celebrate all those stay-at-home moms, all those working moms, and all those single moms who do everything all at once, let’s remember this multitasking study. The fact that they can get anything done at all is a sheer miracle. The amount that they do accomplish for their families is a testament to how awesome they really are.

They could probably find a cure for cancer if we just left them alone for a few hours.

So to all you moms out there - Happy Mother’s Day! Take the day off and go smoke some dope or drink a couple bottles of wine. It will actually be better for your brain than dealing with the kids. You can find a cure for cancer some other day.

You know, come to think of it, those two pairs of socks I still have might match if I just swapped their partners...

See, this is what I’m talking about. What’s for dinner?

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, April 27, 2016

I'm Drawing a Red Line on Misbehavior

I read an article in the Sacramento Bee the other day. For those of you not from the greater Sacramento area, the Sacramento Bee is our pretend newspaper. For those of you under the age of twenty-five, a newspaper is how roughly six hundred remaining subscribers in the country still get their daily information. It’s words printed on paper and usually has nothing to do with the Kardashians or Jay Z and Beyonce. I know, right?

The article was about how the Sacramento Regional Transit folks were planning to “ward off loiterers and fare cheats” at the train stations. Like so many other things about the “big city” of Sacramento, it seems that the RT system is just a Fisher-Price version of the real thing.

The plan? They’re going to draw red lines on the ground.

It seems that the light rail stations in and around the greater Sacramento area have become rife with loiterers, skateboarders, homeless people, drug dealers, and general miscreants, none of whom have ever bothered to purchase a ticket for the train. This has led to a revenue shortfall, which has led to budget cuts, which has led to some serious outside-the-box thinking from the RT muckety-mucks.

The area inside the new red lines “will be designated as a ‘Paid Fare Zone,’ where smoking, bike riding, skateboarding, and open containers of alcohol are prohibited.” It seems, after reading the article, that painting the red lines on the ground and putting up signs was found to be a significantly cheaper solution than actual fences and turnstiles.

I’m not making this up.

The payoff quote from Sacramento RT’s new red line visionary – “We want to start that process of getting people to think of our stations requiring fares.”

Yes, I guess that would be good. And I think a line on the ground – especially the “we really mean business” color red – is a great place to start. I can’t wait to read how this “solution” works out. If the Sacramento Bee stays in print long enough, I look forward to the follow-up article.

Here on the outer edges of the greater Sacramento Metropolitan Region, we have no trains. We have a few buses, though. I see them every once in a while cutting me off to get back into traffic after loading on another passenger to bring their total ridership into the low single digits. While we might not be cool enough to have any trains out here in Rocklin, I am still adopting Sacramento RT’s visionary light rail station policies into my parenting strategy.

I am immediately implementing the painted-line-on-the-ground system for a number of different trouble areas with my children. Son Number Two and Three, for instance, are much like oil and water. Or fire and ice. Or incredibly annoying to be around together - however you want to look at it. I have already painted an orange line around our entire house, designating the area inside the line to be an argument and whining-free zone. That should solve that issue.

Spills and generally eating like wolves has been another trouble spot, so I’ve painted a yellow line around the entire kitchen and dining area, designating it a spill and mess-free zone. Problem solved.

Proper aim and location of urine is always an issue near the toilets, so I’ve painted a blue line on all the toilet rims, designating the area outside the lines as a pee-free zone. If the lines are ever green, we’ll know there’s been a violator.

Getting the three boys to stay on task at homework and piano practice time has always been a major challenge, but not anymore! The purple lines around the piano and kitchen table have successfully designated them as slack-free zones. We’ll be laser-focused now!

Barefoot carpet Lego injuries have continued to plague our household, but the gray line I painted across the doorway to the game room has now designated the rest of the house as a Lego-free zone. Happy feet!

And lastly, as our children get older, we’re letting them have more freedom to roam during play time. They range up and down our long street with their friends, but we’ve yet to let them head over to the park by themselves, or down to the store. I know this is a concern for all of us, not just the folks in my neighborhood, so I’ve broadened my vision on this one. I’ve contacted the City of Rocklin, and we’re currently talking about a plan to get a red line painted around the entire city to designate all of Rocklin as a creep-free zone.

The idea was well received at City Hall, and they’re currently talking to the folks in Sacramento to make sure they get the line specifications correct. No sense painting a line around an entire city and then finding out it’s useless because it’s the wrong width or the wrong shade of red to keep the bad guys out.

Thanks, Sacramento RT, for all the great ideas. Keep up the good work over there. I can’t wait to ride one of your new, safer, cleaner trains one of these days.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go explain the lines again to my kids. They seem to still be arguing even though they’re clearly inside the orange argument-free zone. I don’t understand how that’s 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!