Wednesday, January 28, 2015


The internet is a wonderful invention. I’m not sure how three hundred million people all watched the same cat video within a day of each other before the internet was invented, but thank God we can do that today. Seriously, today. There’s another one. Why are you reading this? Wait… just kidding. Come back.

While watching hilarious lip-synced parody music videos, sharing cell phone videos of people dumping ice water on their heads, and posting pictures of your lunch are all very important, the single greatest use of the internet is obviously the ability to track your UPS package’s every single movement across the country.

It all starts with that glorious email from Amazon. “Your package has shipped!”

Sweet Lord in Heaven, thank you. That was an excruciating seventy-five minutes of waiting since I hit the “Place Your Order” button.

Sign in.
Go to “My Orders.”
Sign in again. Why? Oh, well, whatever.
There it is; there’s the beautiful picture of my merchandise. Look at it. I can’t wait to have it in my hands! And there’s the best button in the whole world; right there next to it in all its glorious yellow awesomeness: “Track Package”

I wonder how many miles it has traveled already? Oh, boy! *Click*

January 19, 2015, 7:42 am - A shipment label has been created. Tracking information will be available when the package arrives at the carrier facility.

I thought you said it shipped? You just sent me an email. It’s still sitting on your desk, isn’t it? Ship it already!!

January 19, 2015, 1:32 pm - Package has left seller facility and is in transit to carrier.

What the hell were you people doing for the last six hours? 

January 19, 2015, 1:23 pm, Chester, VA, US - Package received by carrier

Now we’re talking. You guys are finally using time travel. The trip from the seller’s facility to the carrier took negative nine seconds! Wait a second… If you guys have time travel, why can’t I just have my stuff three days ago? And when will this technology be available to the general public?
(note to self – see if Amazon sells time machines yet. Also, rent Hot Tub Time Machine again)

January 19, 2015, 1:30 pm, Chester, VA, US - Package has left the carrier facility

OK, a seven-minute turnaround is pretty good. Waaaay better than that six hours last time. But, again with the time travel question…

January 20, 2015, 12:49 pm, Louisville, KY, US - Package arrived at a carrier facility

An entire day to get from Virginia to Kentucky? I just looked at a map, fellas. They touch. Did the driver have to push the truck the whole way? And what do you mean “a carrier facility?” Shouldn’t that be “the carrier facility?” Did he just push the truck into the first place he found in Louisville? Do they know where my stuff is supposed to go?

January 20, 2015, 3:31 pm, Louisville, KY, US - Package has left the carrier facility

Now it’s “the carrier facility” again. I guess he got it to the right one. Seriously, though, three hours to unload a truck that a guy could push? Seems a little weak. Is it on another broken truck? Train? Plane? Give me more information, dammit. Kentucky is a long way from California! (Come to think of it, I think both states are very happy about that.)

January 20, 2015, 10:04 pm, Mather, CA, US - Package arrived at a carrier facility

Mather is an airport. OK, that means you had it on a plane. That would have been good information at 3:31 pm. I’m just sayin’. Wait a second. The time change is in our favor coming west. Why did it take nine and a half hours to fly from Kentucky to California? Was he in a WWII biplane? Did he go east and fly over Europe? It’s 10:30 pm now. Why hasn’t my package left Mather yet?

January 20, 2015, 11:28 pm, Mather, CA, US - Package has left the carrier facility

That must have been some line to taxi to the gate. Or did he have to get out and push the biplane?

January 21, 2015, 12:58 am, West Sacramento, CA, US - Package arrived at a carrier facility

OK, now seriously. An hour and a half? Mather and West Sacramento are like three miles apart. Did he walk the package over? Besides being inefficient, at that time of night, in that neighborhood, that is not smart. And again with “a carrier facility?” I guess if I was walking around down there at one in the morning with a bunch of packages, I would probably duck into the first place I found, too.

January 21, 2015, 2:17 am, West Sacramento, CA, US - Package has left the carrier facility

Why are you guys even up at this hour? And more importantly, why doesn’t this say “Out for Delivery?” You’re taking it to another “facility,” aren’t you? C’mon, I’m awake, too. Just drive it over here.

January 21, 2015, 4:54 am, Rocklin, CA, US - Package arrived at a carrier facility

All right, fine. I’m in Rocklin, so I guess bringing it to “a facility” in Rocklin makes sense. I’m ready for it any time… Hello?... Hello?...

January 21, 2015, 8:21 am, Rocklin, CA, US - Out for delivery

Seriously? You’ve had it for over three hours now. You guys have just been sitting there staring at it, haven’t you? Fine, whatever. Just get it here please.

January 21, 2015, 3:34 pm, Rocklin, CA, US - Delivered

Seven hours to drive three miles!? That took almost as much time as it did for the guy to fly the biplane from Kentucky to California. It’s about damn time, is all I can tell you. I really needed this new lint roller!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 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 21, 2015

Unorganized Sports

It’s that time of year again; my favorite time of year when I get to pretend to be a baseball coach. I am still waiting for the day when my boys’ league will finally realize that I have no idea what I’m doing, but for the time being I have slipped through the cracks again. I was even given a management position for Son Number Three’s team. Maybe they figured if I was busy managing, my coaches would do most of the work with the kids and I would be less apt to screw up their chances at a future in the majors. Who knows?

Who cares, I love coaching baseball. Maybe it’s because baseball is an organized sport. I have a very logical, organized brain, so baseball appeals to me. I love organization. My wife refuses to believe that, based on how I keep my desk, my files, my office, my workbench, my clothes, and just the house in general, but it’s true. She just can’t seem to grasp the subtleties of the system. Just because that three-day-old peanut butter and jelly sandwich is still on the kitchen counter does not mean that I don’t have its existence and location very neatly cataloged in my brain.

My love of organization is probably also the reason why soccer is so annoying to me. At the elementary school level, soccer is a chaotic mess. With baseball, each player has a spot they are supposed to be. In youth soccer, that rule doesn’t even seem to apply to the goalie.

My distain for soccer has been well-documented in the annals of this column, but I am amazed to report that I have recently been exposed to a “sport” that is even more unorganized than soccer. That would be parkour.

In case you are unfamiliar with parkour (pronounced “this is stupid”), it was invented by a French guy with no friends. He could not find anyone to play soccer with, so he decided to run through the neighborhood park and jump over things. He became so great at it that he gave it a nonsensical name, and now people in America are actually offering to teach your children how to jump over things for $180 per month.

My wife won a one-month free trial for Son Number Two at our local parkour shed. “Parkour complex” or “parkour arena” would probably be what the owners would like me to call it, but that is not accurate. They are basically running their parkour business in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse.

Not one to waste a free trial, my wife signed Son Number Two up for four days a week after school. I protested that we don’t even practice actual sports that much, but she kept saying, “It’s only for a month.”

The first time we set foot in the parkour palace of disappointment, my first thought was, “It’s only going to be for one minute, not one month.” The whole place looked like an advertisement for tetanus shots.

Apparently, the “sports equipment” used for parkour consists of boxes and walls and ramps made out of plywood, with metal pipes sticking out of various places. We watched as a group of parkour-ers monkey-ran past us on all fours. The floor was dirty. The employees were dirty. The parkour-ites were dirty. Everything was dirty.

Now, I don’t mean dirty like, “I was just out playing baseball or soccer and now I’m all dirty.” I mean, “I shower on a semi-monthly basis” dirty.

Across the way there were some parkour-enese moms who were obviously lifetime members at the parkour shack. Many of them had dreadlocks. They all had dirty, androgynous children with long, shaggy hair, running wild, doing parkour-ish movements.

I debated just leaving, but I knew I would be sleeping on the couch if Son Number Two turned on me and reported to his mother that we just left and got ice cream instead. So we stayed. I checked him in and told him not to touch anything. Off he went with his grimy “coach,” and off I went to find a spot to sit. The parkour hut offered a multitude of different comfortable spectator seating options, all of which were dirty. I’m a guy, so it’s pretty rare for me to look at a piece of furniture and have reservations about sitting on it, but the couches offered to me looked like something a homeless person who sleeps in a cardboard box might take a pass on.

Five minutes into the lesson, I realized that parkour instruction is basically cat burglar school. Run up a wall. Dive through a window. Swing on this pipe. Jump from this ledge to that ledge. They were basically teaching my kid how to be a second-story man. The running and jumping over things part seems to be the getaway maneuvers.

As soon as I realized that, I immediately asked myself, “If all these grimy instructors are so good at climbing up the side of buildings, why is this place such a dump? They could be running a pretty successful burglary syndicate and rolling in the dough. Slackers.”

Ten minutes into the lesson I realized that being a parkour coach does not require having an actual plan for the half-hour lesson. Basically you stand there and watch kids climb on stuff. Slackers is right!

Up until this point I had thought that soccer was the most annoying sport I would ever be involved in, but now, here was parkour; a bright new shining beacon of suck. Seeing this new level of lame, while standing next to the dirtiest couch in America trying not to get lice, led me to contemplate some sports comparisons.

Baseball in practiced and played in the bright sunshine on a green field.
Soccer is practiced and played in the bright sunshine on a green field that really should just be made into a baseball diamond.
Parkour is practiced in a dim, grimy warehouse with a questionable lease status, and played in YouTube videos of people hurting themselves.

Baseball requires special shoes called cleats.
Soccer requires special shoes that resemble baseball cleats, except they cost twice as much because they are neon and have the laces on the side where they shouldn’t be.
Parkour actually has special shoes only because people who do parkour really want to believe that it requires special shoes.

Baseball has uniforms that are spiffy.
Soccer has uniforms that double as advertisements for airlines and stereos.
Parkour has cat hair-covered sweatpants and stained V-neck T-Shirts.

Baseball teaches you patience, concentration, teamwork, and how to be a part of something larger than yourself.
Soccer teaches you how to run in a clump.
Parkour teaches you how to run from the police.

The half-hour B&E lesson mercifully ended before I could come up with any more comparisons, and I whisked Son Number Two out of the building and checked him for fleas.

When I asked him how it was, he reported that it was the most fun ever.

Hmm… I guess kids don’t really appreciate organization as much as adults do.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 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 14, 2015

Inconclusive Introductions

The most uncomfortable five minutes of my life? That’s easy. That time I put my pants on backward, you might ask? Not even close...

At an unspecified time in the past, I was at a function that had an icebreaker component. The deal was you were to find someone you didn’t know and chat with them for five minutes. After that time you were in charge of introducing them to the group. Due to my position in the room, my choice of fellow attendees to interview was made for me, and I ended up with a puzzle.

Normally it would not be too difficult a task to chat with someone for a while and then introduce them to a group. It becomes very difficult all of a sudden, however, if you cannot figure out whether you are talking to a man or a woman.

I am 6’-1” tall, with a beer belly and male-pattern baldness, so I assume my counterpart had me pegged as male right away. Plus, my name is Marc. I, on the other hand, was talking with Pat. Or Chris. Or Jamie. Certainly not Jennifer or Chuck.

Everything was inconclusive. Nothing was definite.
Voice was right in the middle octaves and easily attributed to either sex. A little deep for a woman. A little effeminate for a man. Too close to call.
Clothes were loose-fitting and androgynous.
Jewelry was minimal. Subdued for a woman, far too much for a man (in my opinion), but not out of the question these days.
Tall for a woman, but not too tall. Average height for a man.
Firm hand shake. That tells me nothing.
Large hands and feet for a woman, but again, not crazy.
Slim build. No specifically-identifying bulges in any of the hemispheres.
No facial hair. Close shave or actually no facial hair? Can’t tell.
Mannerisms? Womannerisms? I can’t tell.
Eighties hair, like a cross between Bruce Jenner and Cagney and Lacey, parted in the middle, feathered and inconclusive. (Either way, man or woman, not a good look in the hair department.)
No stories using the phrases “my husband,” or “my wife,” or “I am a man,” which would have been very helpful.

It is hard for me to fully describe my extreme discomfort at this point. I am having an internal conniption fit while trying to remain calm and friendly and amicable on the outside. I am trying to carry on a normal, polite conversation, all the while searching for another metric I can observe that will answer the big question, and desperately struggling to come up with a conversation-appropriate question that could land me an answer.

“Have you ever given birth?” or “Have you had your prostate checked recently?” just wouldn’t fit comfortably into the conversation. There was no time to invite them to visit the restrooms with me, and frankly, that’s awkward either way.

I thought very seriously about pulling a Crocodile Dundee and just checking, but I didn’t really want to be removed from the event in handcuffs.

Now, in most any other situation, you really wouldn’t need to know for sure if someone was male or female, but keep in mind, I needed to introduce this person to the crowd. Pronouns had suddenly become the biggest problem in my life.

“This is Pat. They are excited to be here” just doesn’t work well.

“This is Pat. Pat loves Chinese food. Pat’s favorite Chinese place is only two blocks from Pat’s house. Pat’s hometown is Kansas City, where Pat lives with Pat’s family.”

You see my problem.

Oh, holy crap, the event host just called time and asked us to wrap up our conversations. I have gone completely brain-dead. Panic has taken over. I am sweating from the top of my head.

“Who would like to start?”

Not me, I can tell you that!

A few people volunteer. I envy each and every one of them for their easily-identifiable partner. My unclassified counterpart forces the issue and volunteers us next. We stand up and he or she introduces me to the crowd, with the luxury of confidently using “he” in the long and eloquent sentences.

It is down to the wire. My turn. The bottoms of my feet are sweating. I can’t hear anything, because my blood has become very loud for some reason in my ears, which are also sweating.

I still have absolutely no idea. I can’t just guess.

I make a last-second decision to go with a verbal bullet point format.

“This is Pat.
Hometown: Kansas City.
Favorite food: Chinese.
Favorite sports team: Royals.
Dislikes: Wind and rain.”

I fell back into my chair. Pat sat back down, looking at me with an expression that suggested he or she thought I might have shortchanged their introduction. I didn’t care. Wave after wave of pure unadulterated relief washed over me. I had made it through the last five minutes of my life and lived to tell the tale.

Sure, I sounded like a category-five tool, but at least I avoided being “the guy who thought that nice lady was a dude.”

A word to the wise – If you ever end up at a function that has an introduction icebreaker activity… just leave.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 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 7, 2015

About the Author, 2015

Here at Just a Smidge, we continue to gain new readership each year. This last year alone we have documented as many as two new readers. So, for both of you just joining us, welcome! We like to start each New Year here with a little meet and greet.

I am the 42-year-old husband of one and father of three, living in the beautiful, albeit extremely parched, northern California hamlet of Rocklin. If you have any water, please send it to us. Seriously. Anyway, I am the lone staff writer here at Just a Smidge. Based on how much money I make writing this column, it would be inaccurate to call this my job, so let’s just go with hobby.

My amazing, wonderful, loving, caring, trustworthy, adorable, extremely intelligent, smokin’ hot wife teaches school all day so that I can stay home and take naps and type. Speaking of that, I should really learn to type. My beautiful, fantastic, perfect-in-every-way wife and I have been blessed with three boys. They have in turn blessed us with a marked lack of sleep and an ever-dwindling amount of patience. They are known around here as Sons Number One, Two, and Three, and we’ve been calling them that for so long now we don’t actually remember their real names. I don’t consider that to be a huge problem, however, since we know what they look like.

They are currently in fourth, third, and first grade respectively, and if they do not attend school respectively, they will be consigned to the doghouse. We don’t actually have a dog, so if they ever get out of line I usually just put them in the dryer until my wife gets home. Just kidding. Sorta.

Anyway, enough about my wife and kids. Let’s talk more about me. Here are twenty other things that you should probably know about me:

1) I am in amazing shape for 42 years old, and actually left my job as a male supermodel to do this writing thing.

2) My grandpa killed General Patton's dog. That is the single most important thing anyone in my family has done. We are high achievers.

3) Walking out into bright sunlight makes me sneeze. I inherited this trait from my grandmother. I am one of only an estimated seven people in the world with this disorder. We have a club.

4) I am related to a U.S. president, but I forget which one. I think it's either Grover Cleveland or Woodrow Wilson. I don't care. I would only be excited if it was Teddy Roosevelt, and it isn't.

5) My favorite movie is a three-way tie between Romancing the Stone, Fletch, and Caddyshack. This should tell you a lot about me.

6) Until I was in my teens, I thought that coffee really would stunt your growth, and that drinking alcohol made your beard grow faster, because in the movies, when guys woke up with a hangover, they always had a five o’clock shadow. I wasn’t too bright as a kid.

7) Now that I have kids, I cry at “proud parent” moments in movies. I think this is because based on my children’s behavioral history, I may never have any of my own.

8) I am slightly over six feet tall, I weigh “just over” 200 pounds, and I have the bladder capacity of a four-year-old.

9) My two favorite flavors are slightly burnt pepperoni and toasted sesame seeds.

10) I swam 100,000 yards in one week when I was in high school. I could not swim more than 100 yards today without needing a floatation device and a defibrillator.

11) I love bacon. See number 10.

12) I quit my day job in 2013 to become a professional writer. So far, I have only managed to become an amateur homemaker, but I hope to get this column syndicated, so if you know somebody, please introduce us. Bacon is expensive.

13) I constantly get my left and right mixed up. This makes driving directions with my wife fun.

14) My favorite joke of all time is:
A guy walks into the psychiatrist’s office wearing nothing but underwear made out of Saran wrap. The psychiatrist looks at him and says, "Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts." This should also tell you a lot about me.

15) I like writing dialogue.
“You do?” they asked in unison.
“Yes. I do,” he said solemnly.

16) I love most foods (see number 10), but I have a deep, abiding hatred for cantaloupe. If bacon is a 10, cantaloupe is a negative 3000.

17) I love to travel and I love to stay home. But I don’t want an RV. Go figure.

18) My absolute favorite thing that has ever happened on this earth – and I am including my marriage and the birth of my children – was when the Oregon State Highway Division tried to disintegrate a dead whale with a half-ton of dynamite in 1970. (Just Google “Oregon Exploding Whale.”)

19) My favorite thing ever said on television – and I am including anything ever uttered on The Newlywed Game – came from KATU Channel 2 newsman Paul Linnman in 1970 after the whale dynamite was detonated. When large chunks of whale rained down on people and cars over a quarter-mile away, Paul noted, completely deadpan, “The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.”

20) My wife is still laughing right now about number 1.

So there you have it, folks. You now know everything you need to know about me. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 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!