Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Other Tree of Death

I have a standing Google search that sends daily content from the web to my inbox. Just standard keyword searches for stuff I’m interested in, like “Nachos” and “Beer plus Nachos” and “Bacon plus Beer plus Nachos”, etc.

One of the handful of searches unrelated to nachos is “Tree of Death.”

I keep the Tree of Death search active to keep track of my book by the same title, not necessarily because I love reading the frighteningly common news stories about someone being crushed to death by the tree that they themselves were either: a) standing next to while cutting down, or b) actually standing in while cutting down. (And newsflash: It’s always men. There has never been a single story about a woman cutting a tree down on top of herself. Us males are the only ones dumb enough to do that.)

The “Tree of Death” book is named after the fruitless pear tree in my front yard. It blooms beautiful white flowers every spring that smell like rotting meat. That wouldn’t be so bad, except we live in the house that the front yard is attached to. Also, these ridiculously stinky trees are in every front yard on our street, and every other street in our entire neighborhood. So, for two weeks in the spring, our whole world smells like a decaying rat at low tide. It’s magical.

I first wrote about my Tree of Death in 2011 - which is almost six years ago by my public school math - and I started the standing Google search shortly thereafter. So, how come, Mr. and Mrs. Google, you people are just now alerting me to another tree that is apparently widely known as El Arbol de la Muerte?

We speak Spanish here in California, but in case you don’t, el arbol de la muerte translated literally is “the tree of the death.” There is another tree of death out there, and I’m just now hearing about it. I’m not sure Google really works right all the time.

Daksha Morjaria from – tagline “Fodder for young minds” (perfect for me, since my brain never really grew up) – brings us the headline, Behold, The World's Most Dangerous Tree!

With its wide canopy of leaves, the majestic 50-feet tall manchineel tree that is native to the Caribbean, Florida, the northern coast of South America, Central America, and the Bahamas, looks particularly inviting, especially on a hot summer day. But you may be wise to heed the warning signs given that the deceptively innocuous tree holds the Guinness World Record for “the world’s most dangerous tree.”

(Exactly how young are the minds that is targeting if they are throwing out “deceptively innocuous” in the first paragraph? Even I had to look that up. Also, how many trees were in the running for the Guinness “most dangerous foliage” category? Anyway...)

The deadliness begins with the sweet-smelling fruit that is often found strewn on the sandy beaches where the trees grow.

Apparently, if you even take a single bite of the fruit, your throat tightens up to the point of you almost dying, and you stay that way for about eight hours, as long as you don’t die. If you die, you stay that way a little longer.

David Nellis, author of “Poisonous Plants and Animals of Florida and the Caribbean,” says the manchineel fruit, aka "beach apple," can also result in abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding, and digestive tract damage. However, the expert says the symptoms are temporary, and rarely result in death.

Bleeding? From where? And “temporary” digestive tract damage? Hmm... That all sounds great and everything, but I’ll just have a regular non-beach apple instead. Those rarely result in death either, and have none of the other fun side effects.

The tree’s thick and milky white sap that oozes out of its leaves and bark is equally dangerous. According to Nellis, contact with the skin can lead to symptoms that range from blisters to rash, headaches, and respiratory problems. The researcher says exposure to the eye can even cause "temporary painful blindness." Given that the sap’s most dangerous toxin, phorbol, is highly water soluble, experts advise not using the tree for shade during a rain shower, as raindrops carrying the diluted sap could easily scald your skin.

Blinding and skin-scalding sap. Yowza. (Side note: “Blinding Sap” would be a great name for a rock band.)

And can we talk for a minute about the fact that there are apparently enough poisonous plants and animals in this region to fill a four hundred and sixteen-page book? I don’t care how nice your weather is, Miami. You can keep it, along with your poisonous, scalding, blinding trees. And your alligators, which are not poisonous, so they’re not even in the book!

Novices planning to chop down the tree and use the wood for a beach bonfire should be aware that just inhaling the sawdust and smoke could burn their skin, eyes, and lungs! It is no wonder that Spanish-speaking cultures refer to the manchineel as arbol de la muerte, or tree of death.

The tree of death. Six years! Where were you on that one, Google?

And, unless we’re talking about castaways here, who goes to the beach and chops down one of the beach trees for a bonfire?

Beach cop: Where’d you get that tree in your fire?
You (standing on stump holding axe): Uh... we brought it from home.
Beach cop: Hmm... OK, good luck. Make sure you stand in the smoke. It’s great for your skin.

The tree’s sturdy wood is very popular with Caribbean carpenters who have learned to neutralize its poisonous sap by drying the bark in the sun. In Central and South America, the locals use the bark to treat body swelling caused by injury and inflammation and the dried fruit as a diuretic.

This tree grows on the beach. It’s already in the sun. How do these wily Caribbean carpenters cut el arbol de la muerte down without getting their skin and lungs scalded by the vicious, blinding sap and sawdust? And as far as using the tree of death for medical purposes – two words, Central and South Americans: Rite Aid.

This manchineel tree sounds downright scary, but do you know what the article didn’t mention about it? The smell. If it smelled awful, they would have said that. In fact, the poisonous fruit is described as “sweet-smelling.” Dead rat is not sweet-smelling.

And I never hang out under my tree in the front yard. I have a patio in the backyard, where I can still smell my nasty tree, but my patio cover never drips scalding sap on me, so I’m good there.

If I must have a Tree of Death in my front yard, the Caribbean Arbol de la Muerte is actually sounding a lot better than the one I currently have, as long as I don’t eat the fruit and I don’t hang out under it.

Shouldn’t be an issue. I think I’ll make the switch.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go gas up the chainsaw. Does anyone know the phone number for Florida?

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Daylight Savings Time is Hazardous to my Health - Repost

Every year there is an obligatory news story about how some state legislator has a bill ready to end the ridiculous time change. I am still here holding my breath. I guess maybe it’s the same guy who's in charge of balancing the budget and managing our water supply and fixing the roads and stuff. He’s probably busy not getting any of that done either. Anyway, here’s what I had to say about the time change a few years ago:

Dear People in Charge of Daylight Savings Time,
Stop it. (Oh, and bite me.)

I would actually print and mail that letter if I had any idea where to send it, but it still wouldn’t do any good. Not because of its surly and abrupt tone, but because even if you put it directly into the hands of the person in charge, they still work for the government. They either don’t know they are in charge of it, or they will say, “We have to take that to committee.” Nothing ever gets decided in committee, because “committee” is an old English Parliament word meaning “cocktail party.”

Since Arizona and Hawaii and half of Indiana don’t change to Daylight Savings Time, I assume having us mess with our clocks and sleep patterns twice a year is the responsibility of state governments. I live in California, and our state government has been successfully making the federal government look efficient and trustworthy by comparison for years.

I would move to Arizona, Hawaii, or the correct half of Indiana, but sadly, all three of those places are uninhabitable. (You may be arguing that point concerning Hawaii, but never forget: it might be a nice place to visit, but the entire state is the size of your living room, and the whole thing is literally floating on molten lava.)

I have railed against messing with the clocks on numerous occasions in this column and in person. (I’m sorry if you were ever unlucky enough to be around me at the beginning of March or November.) Mind you, I don’t care about it for myself. It never affects my body. It does affect my head, though, in the form of giving me headaches dealing with my children and my wife.

I have discussed this as far as the children go. I think we have all experienced the dread as we changed the clocks, knowing what is to come on Monday morning. In November, they will be knocking on your door at five A.M., and in March you will need to use a pneumatic jackhammer to dislodge them from their beds in time for school.

I have never discussed how Daylight Savings Time affects my wife, however. It’s far more insidious than the problems with the kids.

First, here’s a general outline of my typical day:
Alarm goes off.
I get out of bed and do things.
I am awake and functional all day.
I go to bed when all the things are done.

Here is how my wife’s perfect day would go:
No alarms exist in the city in which she sleeps.
Darkness, silence, and sleep prevail until at least ten A.M.
A slight head nod shall be given when it is acceptable to give gentle hugs.
No speaking aloud until two P.M.
Wide awake and productive from three P.M. until eight.
Total brain shutdown begins promptly at nine.
In bed at ten o’clock.

We have been running into quite a few snags in her perfect day schedule ever since we had children, and things got really bad when I quit my real job to become a professional writer. Since we all enjoy eating, it is very important that my wife gets out of bed and goes to work every day now.

Under normal circumstances, the six A.M. alarm is met with severe groaning and scowling disapproval directed at me, but the weeks surrounding the Daylight Savings Time changes are just downright scary.

We really need her to keep getting out of bed each morning, and you Daylight Savings Time idiots over in Sacramento are not helping. You have made me the bad guy. With the kids, I can just yank the covers and roll them onto the floor. But with my wife I have to lovingly remind her that it really is six o’clock even though it should obviously still be five, and even though it’s obviously way too early to get up, it’s still time to get up, and it’s not my fault, and please put down the knife.

I hate you, Daylight Savings Time.

Or is it Daylight Saving Time? Is it plural or singular? Dammit. Hang on, let me Google it.

Oh, great. There’s even a debate about that. I just found one more reason to hate you, Daylight Whateverthehell Time.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Whale Will Not be Exploded

“The whale will not be exploded.”

That’s not something most state agencies would need to announce when a thirty-six-foot sperm whale washes up on one of their beaches, but most states are not Oregon when it comes to exploding whales.

The headline in the Oregonian’s Twitter feed this week: Very dead sperm whale washes up on Oregon coast, will not be exploded. (The Oregonian is the state’s only surviving newspaper, and when I say ‘newspaper,’ I of course mean two part-time employees, one IT manager/pizza delivery guy, a laptop, and a smartphone.) (And when I say ‘surviving,’ I mean dying.)

“Why would they be mentioning anything about a whale exploding?”, you may be asking yourself, if you’re a rational adult human from any other state besides Oregon. To answer that question, we must go back all the way to 1970, two full years before I was even born, to the best thing anyone ever did on planet Earth in the 1900s, bar none. (And note, I am including the moon landing and the conception and birth of Clint Eastwood in there.)

In 1970, a forty-five-foot, eight-ton Pacific Gray whale washed ashore near Florence, OR. Oregon’s own KATU Channel 2 newsman Paul Linnman and his faithful crew were there to document all the action for posterity.

What action is involved in a dead whale, you ask? Well, normally not much, but that answer changes dramatically if you bring in the Oregon State Highway Division, because apparently, they have dynamite.

In 1970, the highway guys were brought in to help get rid of the rotting whale carcass that was beginning to stink up the coast. What to do with it was the question of the day.

Bury it?
Naw, it might just resurface.

Cut it up?
We don’t have enough gas masks.

Hmm... You know... we could blow it up with dynamite.
Yes! We’re guys who have access to a lot of dynamite. Why didn’t we think of that earlier?

Let’s put on our hard hats to look official, and then we’ll start packing dynamite under this thing.

How much should we put under it?

Hmm... Well, the dead whale weighs approximately eight tons, so calculating for explosive yield minus target weight and density, I’d say we need about a quarter-ton of dynamite.

But we have a half-ton of dynamite.

Cool! Let’s just put it all under there.

How far should we move all these people back?

I dunno. Maybe to the road?

Hmm... this is a thousand pounds of dynamite we’re talking about. Why don’t we move them all to the next beach parking lot down the road. That’s like a quarter-mile away.

Great. That’s pretty far away, though. I hope they’re able to see and hear the awesome explosion from there!

The general idea was to use high explosives to blow the offensive-smelling animal into bite-size chunks for seagulls and crabs to feast on. And if you were to pack the boxes of dynamite just right, you’d be sure to blow most of it straight back into the ocean.

I’m not sure what was going through the trigger man’s head as he detonated that half-ton of dynamite under that wayward Oregon gray whale, but I do know what happened next, and it is fantastic!

As the KATU cameras rolled from the “safe zone,” we were initially ecstatic about the size and relative loudness of the explosion. It was amazing. The explosion created a sand cloud so huge that nothing could be seen down on the beach. Was the whale gone? Who can tell with that giant dust cloud, but wasn’t that explosion awesome?... uh, what was that?

Umm... whale parts, I think... Raining down on us from the explosion.

Whale parts? How can that be... Holy Crap! Look out!

As the crowd from the not-so-safe-zone started to duck and cover, it became clear what was going on. Whale blubber is strangely resistant to dynamite, but it does act as a large floppy projectile when properly motivated.

As people in polyester clothing ran for their actual lives, a chunk of whale so large it could total a car landed on top of someone’s Oldsmobile, completely totaling the car, as advertised.

Amazingly, no one was seriously injured in the hail storm of whale parts, so Paul was free to make light of the event in his voiceover for the evening news.

Completely deadpan, he noted, “The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.”

When the sand and dust and whale parts had cleared, it turned out that a half-ton of dynamite just doesn’t cut it against an eight-ton whale. Almost the entire stinky mammal was still on the beach, right where it had been sitting before some of it was rudely interrupted by a bang.

As night closed in, the highway division’s tractors could be seen burying the remaining parts of the whale. Just like they probably should have done in the first place.

And, that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Oregon news outlets need to say that we won’t be exploding this new whale.

(Don’t believe me? Just Google “Oregon Exploding Whale.” You won’t be disappointed.)


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hands-Free CB

Here in California, our legislators have recently made the roads safer by passing a new law, which always works. We have been required to be “hands-free” with our cell phones in the car since 2008, but now they really mean it. No, really this time.

In 2008, we could still touch our phones while driving, and we could make a phone call while driving, but we weren’t allowed to hold the phone up to our ears. So what that meant was if you were on the phone and held it up to your ear during the conversation, you were breaking the law. But if you were on speaker phone and held a banana up to your ear during the conversation, you were well within your rights as a California motorist.

Also, if you simply held a banana up to your ear while not on the phone, that was OK, too. And presumably, if your phone was turned off and you held it up to your ear while driving, that would have been OK, since at that point your phone is really just an expensive plastic and glass banana, communication-wise.

Since January, however, we are now no longer even allowed to touch our phones in the car. We are still allowed to have a conversation on the phone, but the call has to be initiated without ever touching the phone. We can touch buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard of our space-age cars that will make our phones call someone, but we can’t touch the actual phone itself. It is now required to be duct taped to the roof of the car at all times. There has been no official word on where the bananas need to be.

We are also still allowed to talk directly to the other people in the car, but they will not respond, because they’re all texting each other.

omg. lol.

So here’s my question, oh-so benevolent leaders of this great state: What’s up with CB’s? I saw a trucker the other day just chatting away with someone (presumably another trucker, or possibly a truck stop hooker), holding the CB microphone right there in his hand, which was not even on the wheel of the enormous eighteen-wheeler he was piloting down the freeway. What’s up with that?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but a CB is exactly the same thing as a phone, only with less dropped calls. I realize that you only have to hold the CB microphone up to your mouth, instead of the entire side of your head, as with a phone or a banana, but something tells me lack of peripheral vision is not what you guys are trying to legislate. So why can’t I hold my phone in my hand and talk on speaker phone, but I’m perfectly welcome to hold a CB microphone and do the same thing?

Although, if I got a CB, I’d have to learn an entirely different language, so that may not be the best option. I’ll constantly be having to ask if other truckers have their ears on, and alert them to my 20. I’ll need to let them know if they have Smokey the bear knocking on their back door, and whether it’s Evel Knievel, a gumball machine, a county Mountie, or a plain brown wrapper. Or maybe it’s a Kojak with a Kodak, in which case they’d better listen to their bird dog and slide off the hammer.

That sounds like too much work, especially since most of my car trips are just taking the kids to and from school. I barely remember when to do that, so I can’t be keeping track of all the bears as well. Plus, I’m not sure I could fit an eighteen-wheeler into the school parking lot. And besides, I like my phone and I want to keep it. So I’ve come up with a plan.

Here’s the next big new idea that someone else can make millions on, since I’m too lazy to do it myself. We need CB radio microphones that plug into the headphone jack on our smartphones. That way we can all talk to each other on speaker phone, just as before, but now we’re perfectly legal again, since it’s a CB microphone and all. Sorry iPhone 7 users. You guys are out of luck on this one. You won’t get to have a cool trucker handle, or say ‘over’ after every sentence like we will.

So, anyway, I’m thinking we need those, or as an alternative, phones cleverly disguised to look like bananas.

Either way will be fine with me. Just let me know when they’re available on Amazon.

See you soon, I’m 10-7. Y'all keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down. Tome Raider over and out.


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

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.


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,


Copyright © 2017 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, 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,


Copyright © 2017 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, 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,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s 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,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s 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?”
“Your user name. Right here. What do you want it to say?”
“I get to choose??”
“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.”
“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,


Copyright © 2017 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, 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!


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,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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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,


Copyright © 2017 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, 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,


Copyright © 2017 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, 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,


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!