Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wife Bee-ter

As I was doing research for this column (‘research’ being defined here as farting around on the Internet looking for something to write about), I came across probably the most disturbingly awesome video footage I have seen since Crispin Glover was on Letterman. Or even since Joaquin Phoenix was on Letterman.

A man in the jungle – inexplicably wearing black dress slacks and a nice belt - with a tucked in white tank-top undershirt (commonly referred to as a ‘wife beater,’ but I don’t want to make any judgements on this gentleman), was standing far too close to a tree swarming with bees. I would normally define far too close to a swarm of bees as ‘within thirty miles,’ or ‘in the same state,’ but this guy was standing in a cloud of bees right next to the tree.

So here’s this guy in a swarm of bees with nothing but his Lionel Richie mustache as face protection and he is proceeding to grab handfuls of bees off the tree with his bare hands and stuff them down the front of his T-shirt.

What!?

He keeps on grabbing handfuls and stuffing them down the front of his shirt until he has a classic wife beater beer belly. Only this beer belly is not made from endless empty calories, polish sausages, and bitter regrets – it’s made from live bees!

What am I watching here!?

The video has no sound, so I’m left to make my own conclusions. All I can think is that this guy is dirt-poor and has no other means of transporting bees back to his village where they are desperately needed to pollenate the one carrot plant his family owns, and to make honey for dirt sandwiches. He has been forced to build up a crazy immunity to bee stings over the years due to his dirt-poor-iness. How many stings did it take to...

Wait. What is he doing now?

Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. He got his T-shirt stuffed full (OF LIVE BEES!!!) and then he just proceeds to untuck it, pull it up, and let all the bees fly away.

What the actual hell is going on here? He was doing that for fun!? He’s not a wretched dirt-poor carrot farmer? And where is this? Probably Brazil or Myanmar or some other jungle country that has the perfect combination of tropical-looking trees with huge swarms of bees attached to them and crazy people.

Now, for all I know, he might be a Brazilian Intel executive on his lunch break, just messing around. He might be the Johnny Knoxville of Myanmar, and this was a soundless clip from Myanmar Jackass III.

For good measure, after they all fly off his belly, he grabs a clump of them off the tree and kisses them, letting them hang off of his mustache, which is clearly not a great facial protection device against bees, since one of them is crawling up his nose and another is crawling on his eye right now.

Who is this guy!?!

I have no idea where he’s from, but we need to find this man and import him to the United States immediately.

I have heard that our bee population is somehow in trouble, and that if it keeps declining, eventually all life as we know it will stop functioning as a result of no food being able to grow anywhere. That could eventually lead to the malnourishment of our IT professionals, which in turn could affect the quality and strength of our WiFi signals, which would be very, very bad. We might even lose the ability to send tweets completely.

This is serious, people, and I’m thinking this guy can help. He’s a natural for bee transportation and relocation, and if their habitat is in trouble, I’m guessing enough bees could actually live on this guy to pollenate every single crop in one of our lesser-size states.

If he’s got any friends who can also do the bee shirt stuffing trick, we’re in business. When we find them and get them on a plane, we can even have them pre-stuff their wife beaters, then throw on a suit jacket. Fast track them some TSA-Pre clearances and, Boom! More bees for America.

Get on tracking this guy down, USDA. Make yourselves useful! Worst case scenario, he ends up as a popular carnival attraction, touring the regional honey festivals.

That probably pays more than Intel Brazil does. That’s a win-win.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

These Guys Sound Fishy

A long time ago, in another life, I worked in the construction industry. I was pretty good at pretending, so it took a number of years before anyone figured out that I had no idea what I was doing, and I was forced to become a humor writer instead.

At some point along the way, I worked with a guy named Ivan. As you can imagine from the name, he was Chinese... wait, no, Russian. He was Russian. He and his cousin had moved to the United States from Russia (or maybe one of the ‘ias, or the ‘stans – I don’t remember exactly) when they were in their early twenties. He was (and I am hoping, still is) a fun and enthusiastic guy, a hard worker, and an interesting fellow to talk to.

I had a lot of great conversations with him about his move to America and settling in. When he arrived he was most amazed about the amount of choices for everything at the grocery stores. He said in Russia you could usually find what you needed, but there would only be one brand of each thing. No wonder he moved. That’s just no way to live.

Fortunately, we have a lot of Russian immigrants, so he had an American-style selection of Russian ladies to choose from when it came to dating, and he was married with kids when I met him.

One day at the job site he was on the phone discussing his wife’s birthday present - with his black market hedgehog dealer, obviously. Because it had simply never occurred to me to own a hedgehog, I had no idea they were illegal to keep as pets in California. Apparently, the way he told it, every person from Russia loves hedgehogs, so it was going to be the ultimate gift for his wife.

I’m not one hundred percent sure what would happen if I gave my wife an illegal hedgehog for her birthday, but I’m certain she would have a less-than-Russian reaction. She might even report me to Fish and Game, or whomever is in charge of trying to thwart illegal hedgehog smuggling. No telling.

He had some good stories, but none better than the one about his first trip to Walmart.

He and his cousin had just arrived in the U.S., and wanted to gear up to go fishing. They were looking to purchase waders. (For those of you from New York and LA, waders are rubber overalls with attached boots, sort of like a prophylactic for your whole body. Instead of standing on the bank of the river not catching any fish, you can wade out into the water up to your chest and still not catch any fish, but you’ll be dry, like you were on the bank.)

Ivan and his cousin spoke almost no English at this point, and they were at the sporting goods section of a Walmart, which did not carry waders. This was before the internet (yes, kids, there was a time before the internet when we all had to talk to each other – dark times indeed), so with severely limited English, the two Russian twenty-something males were attempting to ask the female Walmart clerk where to go to buy waders.

That’s all well and good, and might have turned out fine, but the problem was that between the two of them, the only English fishing-related word they knew was ‘hook.’

They did not know the word ‘waders,’ nor did they know ‘boots,’ or anything else that might have described the uniquely-purposed item they were trying to source. All they knew was the word ‘clothes.’

So here are our heroes, both pantomiming the writhing, thrashing, yanking, and pulling required to actually get a pair of fishing waders on and pulled up to your chest, occasionally throwing in a whipping motion to simulate casting a fly rod, all the while repeating the same phrase they have expertly assembled in English to get their point across to the female clerk.

“We need hooker clothes.”

She called the police.

When the police department’s Russian interpreter peeled himself off the floor after his fit of hysterical laughter, he explained the misunderstanding to both parties, and everyone had a good chuckle. No charges were filed.

Learn the language, kids. (Or always have the internet handy.)

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mrs. Magoo

I wanted to take this opportunity to do a small but vital PSA for the medical professionals out there – specifically all you doctors. I realize you spend an inordinate amount of time and money on medical school, and when you graduate and start practicing medicine, you’re all wicked smaht, as they say in Boston. But there seems to be one thing they’re not teaching you in medical school, and I wanted to share that with you today.

It seems like it would be obvious to everyone, but apparently not. The thing that some of you doctors are missing is the fact that almost all of your patients didn’t go to medical school like you did. That should make sense now, if you think back on it, because your classes were regular size, and didn’t include all the rest of the people in the world.

The end result of that fact is that you might need to explain the things going on in your head out loud to your patients, because your patients might not inherently know what a high blood CRP level means, for instance. Or what “wow,” means when you stick that cold thing in their ear and shine the light in there.

You might also want to take a second to put yourself in your patient’s gown, as it were, when prescribing medicine or advising on treatment, and think about some of the challenges your suggested course of action might present. Let me give you an example...

My wife was recently diagnosed with iritis, which is an irritation and inflammation of the irises (which, after I Googled it, turn out to be the colored parts of your eyeballs). We had to go to the ophthalmologist to get that diagnosis, because she had another issue going on with one of her eyes.

Besides being very bloodshot, her iris was stuck to the lens behind it, so her pupil wasn’t opening and closing properly, causing it to be almost rectangular instead of round. One eye looked normal and the other looked like a cat with a severe hangover. She’d been to the optometrist the day before for a routine visit, so she went back to have them look at the new problem.

They saw the funny shaped pupil and immediately opted for the worst possible diagnosis, guessing she had an eye-threatening condition that would likely leave her homeless, wearing a second-hand eye patch, with no friends and a bad case of mange.

(That might not have been exactly what the optometrist said, but it was something like that.)

The second opinion from the ophthalmologist was a little more upbeat. You get to keep your eye and your home and your friends. We just need to keep both your eyes dilated for a week while we put steroid drops in them to cure the iritis. Dilating your eyes will also un-stick the iris from the lens.

Hmm... Well, that does sound better than the mange scenario, but I have to keep my eyes dilated for a whole week? That’s going to make seeing a lot harder. OK, well, let’s do it.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had your eyes dilated, but it’s not very fun. You can’t drive, light hurts your eyes, and everything is fuzzy. My wife is a high school teacher, so keeping her eyes permanently dilated for a week was interesting. I needed to drive her to and from work., and she wasn’t able to see anything that she, or anyone else, was writing on the board or on their papers, which made teaching much more exciting.

Her district didn’t have an extra Braille computer lying around, so reading her emails was a challenge at best. She could just start to see a little as the drops were wearing off, so she basically had a half-hour window right before her next scheduled dilation to get six hours of grading and computer work done.

It was a rather frustrating, tiring, headache-y, and overall non-productive week for her. Back at the ophthalmologist’s office for the follow-up visit and he tells her she needs to keep up the dilating for another week. After a very heavy sigh, she turned to me and said something about emails, or not being able to read some other thing.

“Well, you just need to get stronger readers. Then you’ll be able to see.”

I’m sorry, what?

“Yeah, you just need a stronger magnification on your glasses when your eyes are dilated, then you can see again. Just buy the strongest ones they have at the drugstore.”

You see, doctors of the world, this is what I’m talking about. We out here with non-doctor jobs have absolutely no idea how the eye works. We never studied it at the medical school we didn’t go to. You just assuming we would know something like that is really unhelpful. That was an offhand comment that really would have helped out a great deal... A WEEK AGO!

So, off to the Dollar Store we went. I found her a sweet pair of Mrs. Magoo glasses with a classy zebra print on the sides. She put them on and shouted, “Holy crap! I can see!” Since we were at the Dollar Store, no one even noticed.

We splurged and got her two pairs of zebra print glasses, just in case she took one of them off and couldn’t find them again in the blur.

Mrs. Magoo sure is a lot more pleasant to be around now that she can see! Thanks, Doc.

Is there anything else you want to tell me?

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Better Homes and Garbage

There was this one time that I tried to cut down a tree in my front yard in a wind and rain storm. Approximately ten years before that day, some jackass landscaper had decided to plant a little cedar sapling five feet away from the corner of my house. I guess it looked cute there. Ten years later it was towering over my house and rubbing on the roof. Not cool, landscaper guy. Not cool.

It needed to go, not only because eventually it would swallow my house, but also because it was blocking access for tractors to get into my backyard and dig a pool. Pool good. House-swallowing tree bad. Tree loses.

I asked a tree service guy how much they would charge me to remove the beast, and he gave me a number that made me actually choke a little and accidentally spit on him, so I decided to remove it myself. What could possibly go wrong?

Ever since we had our first child, I’ve never done anything at the optimum time or weather conditions for that activity. I simply do everything when I actually have time to do it, which is almost never, since kids somehow manage to suck nearly every productive minute out of each day. So there I was, on a windy, rainy Sunday, cutting down a really tall tree.

The tree was tall enough that I didn’t want to cut it down in one shot, since it would reach the street and possibly damage the street light in my front yard. I was up on a ladder that was swaying with the tree like a drunk wino trying to stand still, cutting through the middle of the tree trunk with a hand saw, since there was a very good chance that the chain saw would have removed my arm before anything else. When I was more than halfway through the trunk, I tied a rope above the cut and tied the other end to the front of my Ford Expedition. One good pull and I would have the top off the tree and then I could chain saw the bottom half to the ground. Simple.

Apparently the middle parts of healthy cedar trees are really tough. One good pull with my Expedition failed to pull the top half of the tree down. Instead it pulled the whole tree down, yanking the roots halfway out of the wet ground. It came down to the ground in slow motion, the top of the tree missing the street light by six inches. Well, that wasn’t what I was planning, but it worked out great! Let’s cut this baby up.

By this time, my sons and most of the neighborhood kids were braving the wind and rain for the free show. Above the cheering, a voice could be heard.

“Dad, the hole is filling up with water!”
“Because of the rain?” I asked, falsely hopeful.
“It’s filling up really fast.”

Hmm... Let me shut off the main line for the sprinklers. The roots probably broke the sprinkler line. False hopefully...

Nope, still filling up.

Oh, good. I just broke the water main to the house.

Ten hours and one gigantic hole later, in rain that was now blowing completely sideways, covered literally from head to toe in mud, by the light of a halogen work lamp, I finally reconnected the broken water line, and I was able to take a shower. More importantly for my health and well-being, my wife was able to shower the next morning.

Why did I tell you that story? First, to illustrate how much of an idiot I am, so you can appreciate the rest of this story. Secondly, to put into perspective how much I have emotionally and physically invested in my front yard. Now let’s talk financial investment.

Fast forward through the pool building process and the entire front yard looks like a bad day in Afghanistan. Multiple truckloads of soil and sod later, combined with many, many one hundred-degree days of backbreaking labor over the summer, and the once destroyed front yard is transformed into a magical emerald-green paradise of lush grass and happiness.

Why did we expend all that time and significant amount of money and sweat to transform our front yard? Apparently it was to make way for a refugee camp.

Son Number Two, our resident builder of forts, has claimed squatter’s rights on the spot where the cedar tree used to be. Up against my fence he has conjumbled together some scrap 2x4’s, reclaimed plywood, and other construction site trash. It’s all being loosely held together with rusty nails, duct tape, and hope to form what resembles a small shed if you squint from a distance. If you open your eyes it looks like something a desperate homeless person would still take a pass on.

To add to the curb appeal, he spent his own money at Lowe’s to purchase two five-gallon buckets and some PVC pipe. One of the buckets sits high above his shanty town for all the world to see, on top of my actual shed, which resides on the other side of the fence in the back yard, where sheds actually belong. That bucket is the water tank that feeds his “sink” inside the plywood hovel. The sink consists of the second bucket and a leaky drain that is meant to transport the wastewater to one of our landscaping drains, but mostly just leaks through the hot glue gun caulking around the PVC fitting and makes mud inside the fort.

What is the purpose of having a sink made out of a bucket inside your mud-floored fort? So that you can cook, obviously. The neighborhood kids have all pitched in their Melissa & Doug cookware and probably some of their parents’ silverware to outfit the refugee kitchenette. After school they heat up beans in our actual kitchen, then take them outside and eat them in the fort, on chairs made from the log rounds of the cedar tree that used to grace the very same spot. Then they “clean” the dishes in the sink. Afterward, they go off to fight dragons or have Nerf gun wars or what have you - and presumably fart a lot.

My wife and I are torn. As parents, we are all for this kind of creative, outdoor, non-video game type of play time. As homeowners who just spent a crap-ton of money to make the front and back yards look presentable, however, we cannot condone ugly squat houses in our otherwise lovely new front yard. We’re in a quandary.

So far, I have not set fire to the offending structure, but time will tell how much we can take. If only some anonymous person – perhaps a person who enjoys popular online humor columns such as this one – would call the city’s code enforcement office and alert them, the decision would be out of our hands. (Hint, hint.)

In the meantime, I’m just glad none of my neighbors are trying to sell their homes right now. I’d surely have a realtor at our door asking if they could put up some camouflage netting.

Wait a second... camouflage netting! Why didn’t I think of that earlier? Do they sell that at Lowes?

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

HIPAA Critical, Part II

Does anyone have the number for the idiot or idiots over at HIPAA that I can send my gas receipt to? I just had to drive across town to Son Number One’s pediatrician for a special office visit so that he could get his own health care web access all set up... you know, because he’s twelve now.

When you turn twelve these days, at least in California, you’re medically independent. For everything except the bill, that is. The bill they still send to me, even though I’m not allowed access to his medical records anymore. Funny how those HIPAA folks made a nice loophole for actually collecting the money and all.

Why did I have to drive all the way across town? Well, they want to make it so the twelve-year-old has their own personal user name and password-protected access to your health care plan’s website, but ironically, you can’t set that up on the website. You have to physically go to the doctor’s office and bring the actual twelve-year-old with you, so they can repeatedly ask why they had to come if they’re not having an appointment. Do you know why you, as the parent, have to go, too? Because twelve-year-olds CAN’T DRIVE, that’s why!

As if this galactically stupid monumental waste of our time is not asinine enough, the poor doctor’s assistant, who has approximately two bazillion better things to be doing, has to go through the ridiculous process of showing the twelve-year-old all the fun features of the new website he now has access to. The guy actually tried to show my son how to set up an appointment. My son and I looked at the guy with the exact same blank stare.

My stare meant, “Are you being $#&%’ing serious right now?”

My son’s stare probably meant, “Can I change the background image to a dragon?”

Prior to that, the guy had actually asked my twelve-year-old what he wanted his user name and password to be. Here’s how that would have gone if I hadn’t been in the room:

“What would you like your user name and password to be?”
“Huh?”
“Your user name. Right here. What do you want it to say?”
“I get to choose??”
“Yes.”
“Cool! Make it FlamingNinjaDeathRay.”
“All right. How about a password?”
“I dunno.”
“It has to have at least one number or character.”
“OK. Make it FlamingNinjaDeathRay2000##**##.”
“All right. You’re all set.”

Thirty seconds later

Me – “What happened in there?”
Son – “I got a website.”
“Huh?”
“Yeah, I have a user name and password.”
“OK. What are they?”
“SamuraiDeathFlame, or something.”
“Is that the user name or the password?”
“I dunno. I’m hungry.”

Since I was in the room, we now have a user name and password that one of us will remember. Now my big grown-up twelve-year-old can finally take charge of his health care, as it was always meant to be. I logged on for him when we got home. (Don’t tell HIPAA.)

While I was on his amazing new health care web access portal – which looks exactly like the one I have, just conspicuously without the ‘Bill Pay’ option – I noticed that the doctor’s office had two online forms that they wanted my medically-independent son to fill out, since they sent them to his new account that I’m not allowed to have access to.

The first questionnaire started like this:

Please answer the following questions. It will help your clinicians spend more time discussing those specific issues that concern you.

Please list all medications, vitamins, inhalers or supplements your child is currently taking:
Actual answer – None
What his answer would have been – I don’t understand any of those words.

Please list your child's medication or food allergies, if any:
Actual answer – None
What his answer would have been – Cough syrup, peanuts, cauliflower, mayonnaise, carrots, and celery.

Has your child had any major medical problems since his or her last check up?
Actual answer – No
What his answer would have been – I have a wart on my toe and my dad is freezing it off and it hurts like crazy when he puts the cold thing on it, but I don’t know when my last checkup was and I don’t know when I got the wart and I also skinned my knee really bad playing kickball.


At that point I stopped reading the questionnaire, deleted it, and went ahead and changed his password without telling him.

I’ll bet you folks at HIPAA never saw that one coming. I’ll send you the gas receipt. And just so we’re clear, you can reimburse me, not my son.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I Have a Dream - A Father's Version - Part 2 - Repost

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past Monday, I thought I would revisit my old “I Have a Dream” posts. I wrote this one six years ago, and unfortunately, much of it still rings true today. The only real difference between then and now is we no longer have diapers, the sippy cups have been replaced with easy-spill open-top plastic cups, and the six-year-old is now a twelve-year-old, so he can eat two chickens instead of just one. We really do need a raise and a giant refrigerator!

Enjoy.


Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. It is a Father’s Dream.

I have a dream that one day the people at Lego will take pity on my bare feet and finally round the sharp corners on their little plastic blocks.

I have a dream that one day my sons will pee in the toilet, instead of peeing on and around the toilet.

I have a dream that my sons will begin to think about putting a toy back where it goes, instead of throwing it over their shoulder when they’re done with it, or when they hear, “Dinner.”

I have a dream that eventually the daytime decibel level in my house will drop below the equivalent of a rock saw being destroyed by a jackhammer on a freight train.

I have a dream that one day we will be able to get my four-year-old tired enough that he will sleep past 5:30am.

I have a dream that someday soon my sons will be able to get out of bed, no matter what the hour, and go poop or get a drink of water without having to tell me about it.

I have a dream that I will change my last diaper on my child before I am old enough to need them myself.

I have a dream that the people who predict college tuition levels to rise 250% over the next 15-20 years have actually been smoking crack, and college is really getting cheaper.

I have a dream that somewhere, out there, there is a sippy-cup manufacturer that can actually make a container for milk that doesn’t leak when turned upside-down and slammed on the table by a two-year-old.

I have a dream that someday I will walk into my office and not find that my computer login name has been changed to bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbAW#4e5c by one of my sons randomly pushing buttons.

I have a dream that one day, taking the boys with me on an errand will not automatically add 45 minutes to that errand.

I have a dream that I will never again hear the words, "Daddy, help! I fell off the toilet while I was peeing." That I will never again have to deal with the cleanup of that unfortunate incident.

I have a dream that I can someday stop having to explain to the 911 dispatcher that my son was just playing with the buttons and they do not need to respond to my cell phone’s location.

I have a dream that a pharmaceutical company somewhere will eventually produce a safe and reliable children’s tranquilizer for short-term knockouts, so that we parents may sign escrow documents, or talk to the bank teller, or read the paper in peace.

I have a dream that someday I will hear about what actually happened at school, instead of hearing, “Nothing.”

I have a dream that the next call I receive from the principal will be to congratulate me on something outstanding my son did, instead of to discuss another “incident.”

I have a dream that someday we can find a food group that all five members of the family will willingly eat, besides bacon.

I have a dream that my three boys will somehow moderate their food intake to fit my budget, and not eat the entire contents of the refrigerator in one day. My six-year-old can eat a whole chicken, so I guess… I have a dream that someday soon food will get a lot cheaper, and giant refrigerators will go on sale.

And when this happens, I will sing:

                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Because teenagers clean up after themselves, are better behaved, quieter, and eat less, right? Right!?!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whoops, We HIPAA'd your TDaP

I’m confused, California. I just want to make sure I’m perfectly clear on what’s happening here...

I have a son in the sixth grade, attending a public school in our great state of California. Next year, if we’ve paid off the right people, he will go on to the seventh grade. Our public school district, operating in and under the authority of our great state of California just sent me, his parent, a notice about his immunization requirements for school. What?

The letter starts like this:
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, continues to threaten students in California. To help stop its spread, all incoming 7th graders are required by law to have proof of a whooping cough booster (TDaP) vaccine, or file an exemption, in order to attend classes this year. Students will not be allowed to attend classes without an immunization or medical exemption signed by a physician.

Then you guys ask me, his parent, to please submit an immunization record for him. You see, this is the part that confuses me. He’s twelve, for goodness sake. You know he’s twelve because you know his birthdate, and you’re in charge of teaching him algebra, so I assume you guys can also do birthday math. So why are you sending this letter to me?

Don’t you remember the letter that your HIPAA folks sent me a few months ago when he turned twelve? Do your HIPAA people and your school district people not talk to each other over there?

How in the world am I supposed to tell you anything about his immunization record? Your HIPAA department just informed me that I don’t have access to his medical records anymore now that he’s all grown up, being twelve and all.

By the way, how old are your HIPAA people over there? I have to assume they’re all over one hundred and fifty years old. Is that why you chose the ripe old age of twelve? Because the people writing these laws are all from the good old days when everyone left the farm at twelve to get a job and needed to prove to their new employers that all their liniments, tonics, and salves against consumption and winter fever were up to date?

Anyway, if you want to know about his immunizations, you’ll obviously need to talk to him. Which leads me to the next thing I’m curious about. Are you just tired of having anyone over the age of twelve attend school?

Students will not be allowed to attend classes without an immunization or medical exemption signed by a physician.

So, in case you’re slow on the uptake, let me recap this for you. You told the twelve-year-olds that their parents aren’t in charge of their medical decisions anymore. Then you told them that they have to do a medical thing or they can’t go to class. So, what you did there was tell twelve-year-olds that they are now in charge of deciding whether to go to school or not.

I would assume you school district folks have met twelve-year-olds before. You must see the problem here. Or do all your old-timey HIPAA people just want them to go get jobs? I can’t figure you guys out.

Speaking of that, there’s one more thing in this letter that I can’t figure out. I don’t mean to get all logical on you or anything, but you started the letter by saying that whooping cough continues to threaten students in California. Then you said to help stop its spread, students are required to have proof of a vaccine, or file an exemption?

So, just so I’m clear, one of the ways you plan to stop the spread of whooping cough is by collecting vaccine exemption letters? Was there even a meeting on this, or does Phil in the back cubicle just write down whatever the hell comes into his head and then sends it out to the parents?

Again, not to get all logical on you, but the only way that makes any sense is if the non-vaccinated kids are required to carry their exemption letters with them at all times to hold in front of their faces when they cough. Since my twelve-year-old regularly forgets to carry anything that isn’t physically attached to him, I don’t see that plan working.

Anyway, good luck getting my son’s vaccination records from him. He doesn’t know the name of his doctor, the name of his doctor’s medical practice, the name of our insurance provider, his insurance plan number, the telephone number to any of the aforementioned offices, the fact that he even has a vaccination record, or the name of his school district.

Basically he knows the name of his school and the exact time of each recess.

But I think everything will work out fine, you know, because he’s twelve now.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Crash Boom Bang

Sing to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. (For those of you under 40, Gilligan’s Island was a show about a bunch of people who could have easily gotten off an island if they had just killed and eaten Bob Denver. I assume you can YouTube the theme song.)

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from a snowy town,
and ended in a ditch.

The driver was a mighty steering man,
his wife worried and unsure,
three passengers in the back,
for a six-hour tour.
A six-hour tour.

The weather started getting rough,
but the Suburban was going straight,
if not for the driver of the sliding Nissan,
we might have made it out of the state.
Made it out of the state.

The Suburban landed in a ditch,
on an uncharted stretch of road,
with Ron the tow guy,
Tow Truck Chuck, too,
the state trooper and his car.
Now the passengers,
the driver and his wife
are all at the Shilo Inn.


Yes, we started the New Year with a bang. Well, first an expletive, then a bang, then a ricochet, then a crunch, followed by eight more simultaneous bangs as all the airbags in our Suburban deployed. Good times.

I’ve always been comfortable driving in the snow. I was born and raised near the Sierras, one of the biggest, baddest mountain ranges known to man. I understand what chains and four-wheel-drive can and can’t do for me. I actually kind of like driving in the snow.

So when it started snowing heavily on our way from Grants Pass, Oregon to Crescent City, California on Monday afternoon, I didn’t sweat it. I just put the Suburban in 4WD, slowed down, increased my following distance, and powered through the curves. My wife was not as relaxed. She’s the smart one.

I think it was the first car that was upside down on the side of the road that made her worry. And when I say upside down, I mean literally sitting on its roof in the ditch.

How? Why? What the hell is the matter with you people?

Oh, well. Some people just can’t drive.

Hey, look. There’s a pickup truck UPSIDE DOWN in the ditch.

Hmm... two cars sitting on their roofs within a mile of each other.

Now, for some people, that might have been a warning. Not me, though. I just shrugged and said, “They were probably just going too fast.”

My only precautionary thought on the whole drive was, “I wish this was a divided highway. I know I’m not going to screw up, but what about the oncoming traffic.”

Dennis, who used to drive a black four-door Nissan sedan, was on his way home at the same time we were on our way to Crescent City. Unfortunately for us, Dennis was one of the cars in our oncoming traffic. And unfortunately for everyone involved, Dennis had successfully talked himself out of stopping to chain up, since he was only a few miles from home and had made it this far.

Then Dennis stopped making it any further and slid into our lane.

The lady in front of me in the Lexus SUV was able to avoid him by driving into the ditch. I tried the same maneuver, but didn’t have quite enough road or time to get it done. About a split second after I swore loudly under my breath, we hit the little Nissan almost head-on. The ‘almost’ was probably the key to how well things went after that.

I had started to dive off the road, so I hit him with the driver’s side headlight area of my Suburban, pretty much square in the middle of his front bumper. Thankfully, that sent us ricocheting into the ditch instead of continuing through his car. We went twenty feet down the bank and slammed into the snow, which deployed all eight airbags. It was loud.

(FYI, airbags smell like metallic gunpowder and make the inside of the car smoky, which my wife does not like in the least.)

Amazingly, the five of us, Dennis, and his passenger all walked away without so much as a scratch. Given the fact that we hit hard enough for airbags, and the entire front of Dennis’ car was missing, we all considered that nothing short of miraculous.

Now, if you’re going to crash into Dennis and then into a ditch in pretty much the middle of nowhere on US-199 in Oregon, I highly recommend mile post 19, because that’s where Dave lives. Dave was checking on us before we were all out of the car. Dave was directing traffic and setting out flares right away. Dave was on his cell phone calling the state patrol for us before the airbag smoke had settled. Dave even opened up his shop for us so my wife could sit somewhere warm. Dave rocks. Dave got beer money.

Another perk to mile post 19 is Cheryl’s Bar and Grill. Unfortunately, Cheryl wasn’t open at the time, but her bar and grill has a covered porch that is really handy in a heavy snow storm. It sure beat spending three hours standing in the forest.

When crashing near Grants Pass, I would also recommend Caveman Towing. Besides their really cool logo of a caveman dragging a car with a rope, Ron and Chuck are pros.

When getting a cheap room late at night in Grants Pass, I would also recommend the Shilo Inn. Sure, the hallways smelled like mildew, but the room didn’t, the bed was comfy, and the boys loved the make-your-own waffle machine at the complimentary continental breakfast buffet. Also, its proximity to Caveman Towing and Enterprise Rent-A-Car make it a convenient choice.

I tentatively recommend Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Grants Pass, only because of the wait. The service was excellent, but apparently everyone in Grants Pass rents cars when it snows. Who knew? The perfect Suburban in the parking lot was unfortunately reserved, but the Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn four-door pickup with the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI and 8-speed automatic transmission was up for grabs. Mine!

When shopping for a tarp to cover a Suburban’s worth of soft-sided luggage, pillows, blankets, shopping bags full crap, etc. in the back of a Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn HEMI in a snow storm, I highly recommend the Grants Pass Bi-Mart. The 10’ x 18’ medium-duty outdoor tarp is perfect for the job, and on sale right now for $9.97.

And finally, when the two coolers you thought would hold the tarp down on I-5 fail to do their job, I highly recommend the Ace Hardware in Rogue River, Oregon. They sell 40-pound bags of wood chips for $6.99 that perfectly match the woodchips under your play structure at home. Nothing does a better job of keeping your all-weather tarp snuggly protecting your luggage than two hundred and eighty pounds of mulch.

One thing I certainly won’t recommend... meeting Dennis the way we did. Stay safe out there, folks, and remember: If the little voice in the back of your head is saying “I don’t like this,” or your wife is sitting next to you saying the same thing, it pays to listen!

Adios, Suburban. We’ll miss you, but I guess it’s time to go car shopping. Maybe I can leave my wife at home this time. That HEMI really had some get up and go...

What’s that my little voice is telling me? Never mind. Probably not important.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Be Best Life!

I got the best Christmas gift EVER this year. It’s a crappy ninety-nine-cent as-seen-on-TV plastic bag sealer that is really hard to operate and works poorly. I could care less about the bag sealer. I am in love with the little cardboard box it came in.

The WORKWONDER SUPERSEALER is made in China by a Chinese company that obviously has two copywriters. One of these people has some background in using the English language. We’ll call him Bob. The other has to be the owner’s son, and after disappointing performances in many different departments, copywriter was the least harmful position his dad could think of to stick him. We’ll assume the owner’s name is Mr. Wang. Mr. Wang doesn’t know any English either. Bob is obviously terrified of Mr. Wang and won’t tell him that Son of Wang partied continuously for four years at the international university in Beijing and knows no English whatsoever.

In a few places on the box, Bob invites me to Just slide SUPERSEALER across bags to seal in freshness!

Son of Wang tells me, Relaxed onepulls, guarantees quality to retain freshness. Based on what we get from Son of Wang in his main paragraph, I guarantee Bob helped him with the last half of that sentence.

Here’s Bob’s effort on selling us on the amazing benefits of the SUPERSEALER:

Finally an inexpensive and easy way to perfectly reseal unused poutions of food. This amazing new SUPERSealer creates an airtight seal that locks in freshness.
You simply slids SUPERSealer along the edge of any bag and it’s sealed airtight. It’s that easy. You’ll not only save on storage bags, but you can save even more buying bulk at warehouse clubs. Just use your SUPERSealer to reseal any unused portions over and over again!

I never claimed that Bob was great. I just said he has some background in English. He’s not the best speller, but I do have to give him credit for using American sayings like, “locks in freshness,” and “it’s that easy.” That would suggest that he has a better than average grasp on American English than your standard WORKWONDER employee.

Here’s what Son of Wang had to offer us. I swear, I am not making any of this up, and keep in mind, folks, this is written on the SAME BOX as Bob’s paragraph.

Have sometimes been able to affect your state of mindbecause of a lot of situation such as damp , becomingmildewed , depraved , water leaking from in the dailylife, have used you feel very vexed , good under this , have had the convenient plastic bag of new model seal implement , have all have made stable , no matter howvexed your nonutility be. Collection such as all food , clothing and other articales of daily use , postage stamp, you have put plastic bag lining inside as long as with them , seal machine has taken form lightly with convenient adheaive tape of new model as soon as the fault , one have protection against the tide , mould proof, the herm etic sealing bag retaining freshness. Such is simple , the simplicity is comfortable, be best life!

After reading the box about a hundred times (and laughing out loud every single time), I have to assume this conversation took place at the WORKWONDERS office prior to printing the box:

“My dad wants you to proofread my copy, Bob. What do you think?”
“This is the most unintelligible thing anyone has ever written. What the hell, Wang?”
“My dad is the owner. I’ll have you fired.”
“Looks great. Let’s print that box!”


Thank you, Son of Wang, for giving my family our new motto for 2017.

Be best life!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Gift of Life - Repost

This year for Christmas I got my wife new non-stick cookware that I will personally use almost one hundred percent more than she will. For some reason, that made me think of Christmas three years ago when I gave my wife a new shower mirror for me.

Here’s the explanation. Enjoy!


December 25, 2013

Of all the modern-day Christmas miracles out there, the one that stands out the most to me is the female of the species. Sure, there are many miraculous things about women - childbirth, ability to multi-task, speed of emotional state changes, willingness to ask directions, and the list goes on and on. But I’m talking about a very specific skillset that women have, that gets highlighted during the holidays - The ability to wrap gifts.

Sure, anyone with opposable thumbs can wrap a box up with paper, but women possess the unique ability to do it without having it end up looking like it was done by a drugged chimpanzee with an unnatural love for Scotch tape.

I am a reasonably smart guy, insofar as I can brush my own teeth and dress myself. I can drive a car, heat up canned food without burning the house down (knock on wood), and even do algebra problems with less than two variables. I was trained by a world-class university in California to be an engineer, and they even gave me a diploma. (Although it was never signed... When I asked them about that, they said, “Just take it and go!”)

Legitimate college diploma or not, you would think that a man who can set his own alarm clock would be able to get better at gift wrapping as the years went on. Sadly, that is not the case. I seem to be getting worse, actually. I don’t even bother trying to put bows on gifts anymore. The bow was meant to increase a gift’s appeal – adding to its beauty. My attempts at bows have the exact opposite effect, making the gift look even more like it was attacked by wolverines prior to ending up under the Christmas tree.

I apparently lack every skill necessary to make a present look attractive, because I can’t even use gift bags correctly. When they first became popular I thought gift bags were my salvation, until my wife informed me that you must put tissue paper on top of the gift, and have some of it stick out of the top of the bag. Sounds simple enough, and she makes it look so easy, but try as I might I cannot even put a simple piece of tissue paper in a bag and have it protrude properly. It always ends up looking like I am giving you an unwanted bag of used tissue paper instead of an enticing and mysterious gift.

There is an upside to my total lack of skill with wrapping paper, however. I am never asked to help with the Santa gifts. We want Christmas to remain magical for as long as possible with our boys, and even my five-year-old would know something was amiss when he saw my ridiculously lopsided end folds.

I only had to wrap one present this year. I took my time, concentrated, started over a few times, and it still looks like I wrapped it with my feet. I am just never going to be good at it. While I may be horrible with the wrapping paper, I must say, I am a genius when it comes to the gift itself. This year I got my wife the gift of life. My life.

What better gift for a spouse than a gift that helps ensure her partner will be around for many more years to walk through this crazy world with her, hand in hand? What magical gift is this, you may ask? The answer is simple. I bought my wife a new shower mirror for me.

Confused? So was she. Go figure.

It’s really quite simple. We have a mirror in our shower that I use to shave. It’s a 6-inch round plastic-framed mirror that is attached to the shower wall at my face level with a suction cup. The suction cup is getting old. Twice in the last few months, the suction cup has failed to do its job of sucking, and the mirror has fallen off the wall and loudly down onto the floor of the shower. Both times this happened it was the middle of the night. When the shower mirror bangs around at the bottom of the shower in the middle of the night, the glass shower walls have an amplifying effect that makes it sound as if a truck has just driven through the wall of the bathroom and completely destroyed the shower.

When I hear a truck drive through the wall of our house and obliterate our shower in the middle of the night, I sit bolt upright in bed with my heart going approximately five thousand beats per minute. Over the roar of the blood jack-hammering in my ears I hear my wife mumble, “It’s just your shower mirror,” as she casually rolls over to go back to sleep. I have no idea how she stays so calm, but I am positive that my heart cannot take a third shower mirror suction cup failure.

So, to ensure that my wife has a live husband going forward, I bought her a new shower mirror. This time with a more permanent wall attachment than a suction cup.

Thoughtful? I thought so. All she said was, “Oh look. You gave yourself a new mirror. What a great gift for me.”

I assumed that she would have immediately understood the underlying implications of a long and happy marriage that will be given to us by this simple new mirror, but her tone of voice seemed more than a little sarcastic. Hmm…

Well, it might not have been the most well-received gift ever, but at least the wrapping job sucked.

Merry Christmas, baby.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The 2016 Do-it-Yourself Christmas Letter

Admit it. You’ve spent all your holiday energy since Cyber Monday glued to your computer screen. Amazon now gets nervous and calls you if five minutes pass without you adding something to your cart. UPS and FedEx both have a guy who’s just assigned to your house. You’re expanding your Christmas list to include people you met once on a vacation ten years ago, just so you can justify buying that amazing picnic basket wine opener that doubles as a tire iron.

You are the reigning champion of online shopping. But do you know one thing you forgot? Your Christmas letter. You fool! It’s too late now. It will never get to everyone on time. Even Amazon Prime next day express locker pick-up can’t help you now, because personalized Christmas letters are the one thing Amazon doesn’t have. They sell corn litter, car lashes, cheese logs, coconut lotion, and concrete lions, but not Christmas letters.

But never fear. You know who has Christmas letters every year? For FREE? Yep, ol’ Smidgey Claus, that’s who. Take that, Jeff Bezos.

I’ve created another handy do-it-yourself template to help you crank out your 2016 Christmas letter in no time flat. As with previous years’ templates, just fill in your last name(s) in the blank and circle the appropriate choices, and you're in business. Now back away from that Add to Cart button and get to work. You’re welcome!


Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas to (all/a select few) of our friends and family. This year was another (blessing/real winner) for all of us here at the _______________ family.

Dad can’t say (enough/anything good) about his (care team/luck) at the (hospital/track) this year. He was (injured/wiped out) by a horse (on a trail ride/named Lucky Sevens) when it spooked (from a snake/out of the gate) and threw (him/the jockey) to the (ground/third row of the stands). He busted his (hip/entire year’s salary), but he said the thing that hurt the most was his (pride/bookie’s brass knuckles). He’s been doing (physical therapy/odd jobs) and is all healed up now and ready to get back (on/to betting) the horses.

Mom is still (volunteering/incarcerated) at the women’s (shelter/prison). There seems to be no end to her (heart for service/wicked ways). She had an opportunity for (travel/early parole) this year, and (took/blew) it. She went off (to Spain/the rails) with her (girlfriends/prison gang). They (danced/fought), (sang/looted), and even (ran with the bulls/shanked a rival gang member). It seems as if they may have started a (yearly tradition/full-scale prison riot). Whatever the case, she got (the travel bug/time added to her sentence) so we won’t be seeing (as much/any) of her in the next few years!

Sister is busy with her (executive career/exotic dancing) during the (day/evening) and her (three/six) kids during the (evening/day). We don’t know (how/why) she does it! Her (loving/latest) (husband/baby daddy) is such a huge (supporter/enabler) for her. They are even thinking of (buying/renting) a (vacation home/10x12 space) at the (beach/U-Store-It) as a second home! We’re all waiting for (our invitation/the next guy).

Brother is still heavily involved in (his church/illegal street racing). He has become a (deacon/gang leader) and heads up the (children’s ministry/Flaming Nitros). He is such a (light/menace) to so many of our (youth/citizens). Even with all that, he still manages to hold down a job at (Intel/Arby’s) in the (design/horsey sauce) department, and raise (his kids/hell) with his (wonderful wife/hooker girlfriend).

As for us, things couldn’t be (better/more depressing). My (amazing/unbearable) wife is (nominated/leaving me) for a (Grammy/Walmart clerk) and she deserves (it/him) more than anything! I just received a (promotion/pink slip) at work, and I’ll be moving to a corner (office/bar) soon. The kids are all (thriving/flunking) at school, and driving to and from (sporting events/juvenile court) seems to be our main activity.

As for you, well, our wish is that you are having as (blessed/crappy) a holiday season as we are. If that’s the case, we know you’re (doing great/in the same boat), and we can rest easy with the knowledge that (life is wonderful/at least it’s not just us).

Merry Christmas!


You’re welcome! Now just sign, copy and send. You’re all set.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

HIPAA Critical

Son Number One just turned twelve years old. I have a news flash for you. Most eighteen-year-olds are idiots. What do those two things have in common? Health care, obviously.

Eighteen-year-olds are, by definition, still teenagers, and therefore some of the most irrational and irresponsible creatures on the planet. Teenagers are worse than toddlers, actually, because their brains work exactly the same, but teenagers have cars.

Why am I focusing on eighteen-year-olds? Because they shouldn’t be in charge of anything. Whomever decided that eighteen was the age to become an adult probably just couldn’t stand having the kid living in their house any longer and wanted to be legally allowed to evict them.

Since twelve-year-olds are younger than eighteen-year-olds, do you know who else shouldn’t be in charge of anything? Twelve-year-olds, that’s who. Makes sense, right? Well, not to the government, I guess. Those braniacs just put my twelve-year-old son in charge of his own health care decisions.

I was not expecting that to happen, because I am a rational adult human, so it never even occurred to me that something as asinine as that would even be possible until I tried to log into our health insurance website the other day. Son Number One was missing from my list of family members on the plan.

I just figured it was a website maintenance issue, since we had just gotten home from his doctor’s visit. After further investigation I found out that HIPAA decided that twelve was the perfect age for health care independence.

HIPAA apparently stands for HighAndMighty Idiots Parenting AllOurKidsForUs Anonymously. Who comes up with these crazy acronyms, anyway? The folks over at the government health care office have made it illegal for me to have unfettered access to my own child’s medical records.

Hmm... Well, that seems really dumb. I know my sons’ doctor had nothing to do with this, because he is a doctor, so he has an actual, working brain. Unfortunately, it’s his office that gets to deal with the aftermath of this HIPAA stupidity.

My twelve-year-old is now in charge of his own health care decisions. OK, fine. One health care decision is whether or not to pay for your health care. I’ll let you give him a call about billing for that office visit. He doesn’t have a phone, or a credit card, or any money at all, or a clue, so good luck. When you do get a hold of him somehow and ask him for money, he’s going to talk to you about Star Wars, so be ready for that conversation to not go your way. If you try to call me to get payment, I’m afraid I’ll be forced to refer you to the rigid HIPAA guidelines. Sorry.

At our recent office visit, he got the first of his HPV shots. It’s a two shot process, and he needs the next one in a year. Good luck with scheduling that. Like I said, he doesn’t have a phone, but he does have a gmail account for school, so I guess you could try sending him an email. But be warned, if you include the word ‘papilllomavirus’ you’re going to lose him. He’ll just assume it’s a language he doesn’t know and then he’ll go play kickball.

You could keep it simple and say ‘come to the doctor,’ but he has no idea where your office is. Seriously, it could be a block from our house and he still wouldn’t know. He knows where Blaze Pizza and Cold Stone Creamery are, though. Maybe you could meet him at one of those places. I’m afraid I won’t be able to drive him over to your office, because I don’t want to risk being seen as coercing him into anything under the HIPAA guidelines. Your best bet would be to actually send someone over to the middle school with the syringe and corner him at lunch.

Since I’ll need to let him schedule his next appointment, if you guys aren’t willing to track him down, you should see him back at the doctor’s office when he’s about thirty-eight years old. He probably won’t be going to a pediatrician any more by then, so you may have seen the last of him thanks to HIPAA.

Also, I’m just perusing the six-page health care instructional handout you mistakenly handed me during the office visit. I left it for him to read, but it ended up wadded up with his gum stuck to it. I guess he wasn’t all that interested in reading up on his most pressing twelve-year-old health care issues. Perhaps that’s because he’s twelve. Tough to say.

Anyway, most of the immunizations and testing page was illegible due to the Juicy Fruit, but I did notice there were sections on nutrition, screen time, and sleep. Now that my twelve-year-old is in charge of all this stuff, and since he apparently has no interest in reading your helpful tips, you might want to come over and talk to him. He’ll be the one in a twelve-year-old boy-shaped divot on the couch, catatonic in front of the TV, surviving on root beer and pita chip crumbs from the cushions.

Maybe we could get the school nurse to give him some advice. That is, if he decides to go to school at all. Am I allowed to insist that he goes to school anymore, now that he’s all grown up? I guess I should check the governmental regulations on that.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Get the LED Out

Once again, Early January Smidge has screwed over Late November Smidge. Thanks for writing me a note or something, you idiot. I honestly don’t know what I’m thinking sometimes.

If you have read this column for any length of time, you know how I feel about Christmas lights. For the uninitiated, here’s a brief summary: I hate them. And I love them. It’s complicated. I love to see them on my house when they’re all working. It’s magical. I don’t really mind the chore of putting them up and taking them down, either. I just despise them more than anything on the planet when they don’t work. The five-foot section of uncooperative lights in the middle of the string is my mortal nemesis. “Hate” doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of my feelings toward non-functional light strings.

Apparently, for me, owning and operating Christmas lights is like having a baby. Sure, lights can be expensive and uncooperative like kids, and some are brilliant and some are not so bright, just like kids, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the way that God doesn’t allow you to remember anything about what it was really like when you had the newborn, or you’d never do it again.

It’s only when you have the second kid and you’re going through all the sleepless nights of crying and wailing - some of it even from the baby - that you remember what the first one was like. It’s then that you stare at each other and say, “What were we thinking?” Then you do it a third time and start to question whether or not you are really truly sane.

Much like the first few months with a newborn, I only have a foggy memory of my struggle with the lights last year. I seem to recall a few issues with outages, but when it came time to put them up again this year, they weren’t there. All I know is when I opened up the plastic tub that was supposed to contain my icicle lights, there were no icicle lights.

Where are they? I opened up a tub marked “Extra X-mas Lights” but they weren’t there either. I picked up a random string of old mini lights and saw the black film on the inside of one of the bulbs and it all came flooding back to me. The bitter cold January day. The bitterness in my heart. The ladder. The trash can directly under the ladder receiving the light strings as they came off the eaves...

It seems I threw out all my old icicle lights last year when I took them down, and I was either so upset at all the five-foot outages, or so traumatized by the sheer amount of little incandescent bulbs that had gone completely black on the inside, never to light up again, that I must have completely blocked out the incident.

Thanks again for the heads up, Early January Smidge. You can be a real pain.

Just like with our three boys, I decided to take the lemons life had handed me and make lemonade. (The boys love to have a lemonade stand when the neighbors bring us lemons. What did you think I meant?) Late November Smidge put a smile on his face and declared, “This is the year we will upgrade to the completely hassle-free LED icicle lights! They don’t burn out.”

Then I realized I was alone in the garage talking to myself, so I went inside and declared the same thing to my wife.

“Great weekend to buy lights,” she said. “Good call, Einstein.”

Hmm...

This was, of course, happening this past weekend on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is National Husbands Put up the Christmas Lights Day.

The Thanksgiving week schedule is as follows:

Pre-Black Friday Sales Wednesday
Thanksgiving Thursday
Black Friday
Put up the Christmas Lights while your Wife goes to the Black-Friday-All-Weekend-Long Sales Saturday
Leftover Turkey and Football while your Wife Mops up at the Black-Friday-All-Weekend-Long Sales Sunday
Cyber Monday
Giving Tuesday (and Last Chance for Cyber Monday Deal Extensions Tuesday)
Look up the Credit Card Balance and Have a Mild Cardiac Incident Wednesday

There are only two things in the entire known universe not on sale the weekend after Thanksgiving: Christmas lights and extension cords. Thankfully, I also needed a new extension cord.

I pried the smoking credit card from my wife’s hand and headed to my local Home Improvement Warehouse. I knew right where to go, since the Christmas decorations section has been up since August. With six strings of amazing LED icicle light technology and one extension cord, I smiled at the checkout lady, inserted my credit card into the chip reader, then closed my eyes, stuck my fingers in my ears, and said la-la-la-la-la until the transaction was complete.

Back to the house I went, impending joy brimming in my heart at the thought of never having to chase down an icicle light bulb outage again. LED’s, after all, are magical computer-like technology, or something. Who knows what they really are, but they don’t burn out like regular light bulbs, so I’m happy.

Up they go onto the eaves, powered up by the brand new extension cord, just as dusk is falling on a brisk November evening. Brilliant electronic artificially bright white light illuminates the front of our house making all my Christmas wishes come tru... What in the actual hell is that?

Five stinkin’ feet of LED icicle light string, completely dead, right in the center of the house.

Get the trash can. I quit.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen


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