Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ten-Year Warranty

Ten years isn’t as long as it used to be. When I was a kid, ten years was a lifetime. That’s probably because when you’re ten years old, ten years is literally a lifetime. When you get to twenty, ten years still seems like a pretty long time, and thirty seems really old. When you finally get to thirty, you don’t feel old at all, and you are starting to have an appreciation for how much time seems to be speeding up, but forty still seems like a long way off. Well, I’m almost forty now, and I can assure those of you who are still in your twenties, I only turned thirty about six months ago. At least, it sure seems that way.

A lot has happened since I turned thirty. I got married and had three kids, for starters. I was a carefree youngster ten years ago. Now I’m a really responsible guy known around the house as, “Daddy.” Our oldest son is six, but that’s impossible, because there is no way I’ve been a dad for over six years. We only had him a couple of years ago, max. At least, it sure seems that way.

The passage of time has a way of accelerating as you grow older, and apparently it really kicks into gear around age forty.

I noticed the other day that almost everything we bought or received right around the time we got married seems to be falling apart. The waffle maker is shooting craps, the gift-registry china is all chipped, the blender leaks, the ridiculously expensive duvet cover (that’s fancy-talk for blanket) is showing signs of wear, and don’t even get me started on the bed itself. Our California king now has two deep sleep-valleys on either side and a large mountain range that resides directly between us. If I want to visit my wife on her side of the bed, I have to get climbing gear and mount an expedition over the king-sized continental divide.

As I’m noticing all these heavily used items recently, I keep thinking, “This thing can’t possibly be worn out yet! We’ve only had it for a year or two.” That’s the problem with this time acceleration phenomenon we all face. If I stop and think about when we got the item in question, I realize it’s almost a decade old. But it still tends to be really aggravating, because it doesn’t seem at all possible that it could have been that long.

However, the things in the house wearing out are, unfortunately, not the biggest concern I’m facing right now. It’s the who in the house that is wearing out that has me really worried. Namely, me. I, myself, happen to be deteriorating at an alarming rate, and that is much more concerning to me than what has happened to the duvet cover.

When I was twenty I was damn-near bullet-proof. I could see like an eagle and run like a cheetah. My hair looked cool, my waist was slim, and my muscles were like steel springs. If I broke my leg at 4:00 pm it would be healed by 8:00 the next morning, and I bounced out of bed every day ready to tackle the world. I was poor and stupid, but I was quick and tough.

When I was thirty, not much had changed from that. I wasn’t quite as poor, and I was a whole lot smarter, but I was still virtually bullet-proof. Actually, I was probably only bullet-resistant at that point, but I still felt great every day.

Now, not even a full ten years later, I am a train wreck. My belly has become quite a bit fatter, while my butt seems to be disappearing. The vast majority of the hair on my head has left for good, and much of it seems to have migrated onto my neck and upper back. I have intermittent neck pain that can be temporarily relieved by cracking the vertebrae in my neck so loudly that it makes my wife jump. I’ve got a calcium deposit on one of my elbows that you could chalk like a pool cue, and my knees hurt when I go up and down stairs. I have a form of arthritis in one of my big toes that prevents it from bending backward properly, and my podiatrist tells me it will require surgery to fix. My good cholesterol is low, my bad cholesterol is high, and if I sit on the floor for more than three minutes I will be sore for the next three days. My lower back is completely shot, and I now actually wake up more sore than when I went to bed. I can throw my back out while sleeping. One of my shoulders pops in and out when I swing my arm, and I can now only sleep on my back because my arms go totally dead when I try to sleep on my sides. My night vision has noticeably deteriorated, and my hearing is going, evidenced by the volume of the TV these days. My teeth are slowly falling apart, my brain is rapidly slowing down, my taste buds are dulling, and I have developed some really wicked seasonal allergies that if I fail to treat with prescription drugs, can make me wish for the sweet release of death.

When I turned thirty, I had an ingrown toenail. That was the full extent of my medical problems.

I’m not complaining, mind you, just marveling at how fast things can change. I know all you sixty-year-olds are laughing at me right now, saying, “Just wait, buddy. It gets worse.” At this point, I just hope I make it that long to find out!

The upside is, the way time seems to be accelerating, it will only be three or four years until I’m sixty. At least, it sure seems that way.

See you soon,

Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Shotgun Wedding?

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would regale you with the heartwarming tale about the night I met my wife. Unfortunately, the night I met my wife was pretty un-eventful, besides the fact that I met the love of my life. So instead, I will regale you with the shocking, explosive, frightening, and downright weird tale about the night after the night I met my wife. It’s a tale of a bar, a truck, a barefoot man, a policeman, a bathrobe, and a shotgun.

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

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

After the last-call light came on at 2 am – this was back when we could stay up until 2 am – we walked back to the pizza place where my truck was parked, and carried on our conversation in the cab of my Ford F150. By about 3am I had convinced her that kissing me wouldn’t be so bad, and just when I was about to plant one on her, a sonic boom came rolling down the street. It would have been much cooler if we had heard the explosion as we kissed, but you just can’t plan for these kinds of things.

She said, and I quote, “That sounded like a 12 gauge!”
I replied, scoffing-ly, “There is no way that was a 12 gauge shotgun. It was probably just a car backfiring.” In my head I was thinking, “Cool. She knows her shotguns. But that couldn’t have been a shotgun.”

Roughly four minutes later a barefoot man in a bathrobe came walking down the street carrying a 12-gauge shotgun.

Now, if I can paint the scene for you. It is past 3:00 in the morning, and the town has completely shut down. We are the only car parked on the street, directly across from the pizza parlor. The only other car that we can see belongs to a police officer who is parked in a parking lot across the intersection from the pizza place. The police officer is standing outside of his car, chatting with a man on a bicycle. They have apparently not heard the big bang, and seem very relaxed. The pizza place is located on the corner of the intersection, and the man in the bathrobe with the heavy artillery is walking past the pizza place, toward the cop, but neither one of them can see the other yet. We are parked across the street and have a clear view of both of them, and a pretty good idea of what is about to happen. Between the five of us, we are the only people still awake in the whole town, and two of us are a whole lot more awake than we were a minute ago.

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

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

Well, the nice man with the 12-gauge didn’t drop his gun right away. He just sort of stood there, trying to have a conversation with the cop. He was holding the gun at a 45 degree angle toward the ground, not exactly pointing it at the cop, but not exactly pointing it away from him, either. As the police officer walked closer and closer to the man, yelling commands louder and louder, I was sure we were about to witness something very unpleasant on what had, otherwise, been a really nice night.

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

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

We graduated and parted ways, and met again six years later at a mutual college friend’s housewarming party. We have been together ever since. After meeting her father, I finally understood her knowledge of shotguns. And after getting to know my father-in-law, I have a strong suspicion that he and my wife might know more about that night than they are letting on. I know he owns a 12-gauge, and I’m pretty sure he owns a bathrobe.

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

See you soon,

Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Event Planning Calendar

My mother-in-law recently threw a party for her father – my wife’s grandpa – for his 93rd birthday. Between friends and family, more than 60 people were invited to what was surely one of the biggest and most important family events of the year. She threw this party on Saturday, February 5th.

In late January I had been wandering through our kitchen and happened to peruse the calendar for upcoming events. When I noticed that we were scheduled to be at my wife’s folk’s house on Saturday the 5th, I immediately questioned my wife.

“Why does this say we will be in Morro Bay next weekend?”
“It’s my grandpa’s birthday party on Saturday.”
“Excuse me?”
“IT’S MY GRANDPA’S BIRTHDAY PARTY!” (Sometimes she mistakes my incredulous voice for me being hard of hearing.)
“I heard you the first time. I just don’t believe it.”
“Why?!? The 6th is Superbowl Sunday!”

Oh? That’s all I get? I couldn’t believe it. Allow me to explain… The birthday party was being held 317 miles away from our house. It takes us five hours to get there if there is no traffic and no pee breaks. This is California, so there is always traffic, and we have three kids, so instead of no pee breaks, we have about thirty pee breaks every 100 miles. (To be fair to the kids, more than a few of the pee breaks are instigated by their soda-drinking parents.)

I stared at my wife, and she just stared right back. It was obvious I would get no help from her in rectifying this mess.

I called my mother-in-law.

“Is your dad’s birthday party really on the 5th?
“Yes, why?”
“Because the 6th is the Superbowl!”
“Oh, whoops.”

Whoops?!? Again, not the satisfying solution to the problem that I was looking for. I realize that she had more logistics to worry about than just my schedule, but come on. Who throws a party for out-of-town guests on Superbowl weekend? It became clear to me that I would be waking up on Superbowl Sunday six to seven hours away from my television. I had already invited people over to our house to watch the game. I could cancel that plan and stay in Morro Bay to watch the game with my wife’s family, which would be fun, but I would have to take a day off work to do it. I like to use my sick days for when I’m really sick, or when there is a meeting I need to avoid, so I didn’t want to burn one on this.

This event scheduling debacle really highlighted for me the need for a universal nationwide calendar of blackout dates for party and event planners. I mean, come on, ladies! The Superbowl is only the single-largest and most watched sporting event of the year. I would have thought you might have heard it was coming up.

We obviously need: The Universal Event Planning Calendar of No-Go Dates Due to Sporting Events and Other Guy Stuff.

The calendar would include the obvious sports that every American party planner should already be aware of; namely, NFL and college football, NBA and college basketball, major league baseball, golf, hockey, and Nascar. It would also include the lesser-known but still relevant sports, such as the Olympics (both summer and winter), pro rodeo, soccer, minor league baseball, Indy cars, tennis, curling, rugby, logging competitions, boxing, Scottish highland games, lacrosse, and the Tour de France.

We will need to include hunting and fishing seasons on the calendar as well. Nothing spoils a wedding faster than an absent groom who’s off in a duck blind because his fiancĂ© forgot to check the calendar. Seasons that should be included are deer, elk, moose, duck, pheasant, salmon, and steelhead. Again, the calendar will need to include the slightly lesser-known, but equally important seasons for dove, quail, snipe, ground squirrel, mockingbird, catfish, opossum, mongoose, tree squirrel, and tiger shark.

In addition to the obvious sports and hunting categories listed above, the calendar will also need to include major non-sporting events. Whether us guys choose to attend personally, or catch all the action on TV, these events cannot be missed. They include Octoberfest, all three of the triple crown horse races, any major WWF, WWE or MMA fight, the world series of poker, and the running of the bulls. A few lesser-known events will, again, need to be included if this calendar is to be deemed at all credible. These include Novemberfest, the all-Mexico bull fighting series, the inter-Irish pub darts championships, Septemberfest, the world series of canasta, and Decemberfest.

Basically, if you want to throw a party or have a wedding, you need to do it on Saturday, July 23rd. That’s our only open date.

If the birthday party had been on July 23rd, I wouldn’t have had to haul my kids out of bed at 3:30 in the morning to be home in time for the pregame show! Could someone get started putting that calendar together?

See you soon,

Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


My wife has been couponing. This is a new sport for shoppers involving laying out thousands of dollars on ranch dressing and ketchup, because the price was so low, “it was practically free,” and then giving them away to friends and family because you ended up with five hundred bottles of each. She swears to me that we are saving money by stocking up on things we don’t need, but I remain skeptical.

One item in particular became a point of contention recently. She came home with six big squeeze bottles of “Men’s Hair and Body Wash.” I asked her why in the world she had bought me liquid body wash, to which she answered the typical coupon addict’s response of, “It was so cheap, they were practically giving it away.”

My main problem with that recurring answer is that there is a certain amount of money between “actually” and “practically” when it comes to giving things away at the store.

She then told me that she planned to stop buying bar soap for the shower. I was to immediately begin washing myself with liquid “Energy Wash” that would “Recharge and Energize without Drying.” (With mint extracts!). I politely explained that that was not going to happen, and she should return the bushel of body wash to the store. She calmly informed me about the coupon return policy restrictions, and politely inquired as to why I was such a stubborn jackass. I told her that my bar soap worked just fine, and then went on to state my case about how I don’t think we’re actually saving money when she buys things we don’t need, just because they are on sale. She didn’t see it my way.

After a few days and approximately three hundred requests from my wife for me to “try the damn body wash,” I gave in.

One of my main objections to using body wash was that I didn’t want to have to use her weird looking, pink, loofa-like, spongy, spidery, half-sandpaper/half-shammy-cloth thing-a-ma-jig that hangs on a rope from our shower handle. It looks like someone tied a pink fishnet into a knot the size of a grapefruit, and the only thing it does is collect shockingly cold water and dead skin cells. Besides being disgusting, it is a tool that I just don’t want to have to use.

I like bar soap. Bar soap is ingenious. You pick it up and use it, and when it disappears you know it’s time for a new one. It is self-cleaning, and there are no appurtenances, tools, holders, delivery containers, devices, or spongy loofa things. It’s just you and the soap. Simple.

She listened calmly to my hesitations about using her squishy pink bacteria farm-on-a-rope, then she rolled her eyes and explained - in the same voice she uses when she is helping one of our children figure out a ridiculously simple problem - that I obviously did not need to use her bath sponge. I could just squirt the body wash into my hand, and proceed to soap myself up. Since the body wash was apparently un-returnable, I gave in and told her I would give it a try. She thanked me profusely in the same voice she uses to thank police officers for speeding tickets.

The next morning, it was go time. I hopped into the shower, strangely enthusiastic about my new cleansing adventure. Maybe I would love the body wash. Maybe I would discover a whole new world of instant morning refreshment. It was, after all, “energy” wash that promised to “recharge and energize” me through the deft and patented use of non-drying mint extracts.

Here’s how my body wash experience went:
1) Grabbed bottle of energizing body wash from shower caddy.
2) Unscrewed the large blue bottle top on the squeeze bottle and stared down into the ¾” diameter opening.
3) Thought to myself, “How does this work? This stuff is going to come out of here fast.”
4) Smelled the energy wash. Mmmm. Minty.
5) Further pondered the large opening.
6) Examined the large blue bottle top in my other hand and finally noticed the flip-top cap on top.
7) Screwed large blue bottle top back onto bottle and flipped flip-top open.
8) Looked at much, much smaller squeeze-bottle delivery hole and decided that was the way to go.
9) Squeezed large handful of bright-blue minty energy wash into my right hand.
10) Flipped flip-top closed and set bottle of energy wash back in shower caddy.
11) Washed top of left forearm.
12) Ran out of minty energy wash.
13) Did some quick math in my head.
14) Decided that if I needed to keep opening the bottle and getting more minty energy wash every three seconds, I would be 2-1/2 hours late to work.
15) Left minty energy body wash in shower caddy.
16) Picked up bar of soap.
17) Washed myself.
18) Put soap back in soap tray.
19) Turned off water.
20) Toweled off.
21) Threw bottle of super-minty energy-style hair and body wash into trash can.

I informed my wife that the experiment had failed, and as a side note, that it did nothing to energize me at all, mint extracts or not.

She informed me that I was a Neanderthal and just simply did not know how to use body wash properly.

I’m a pretty smart guy. What am I missing, here? How is body wash supposed to be even remotely as convenient or useful as bar soap? I asked my wife that question, which she refused to answer. She just mumbled something about how cheap it was. I guess in the couponer’s mind, price goes a long way toward necessity and usefulness.

As far as the “recharge and energize” claim, I still haven’t figured that one out. Maybe it’s caffeinated and I was really supposed to drink it.

See you soon,

Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!