Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Don't Sit on Our Couch

We bought a couch a few weeks ago, but you aren’t allowed to sit on it, so don’t ask.

When I say, “We bought a couch,” I really mean my wife told me we needed a new couch, which I disagreed with. Then she took me to Macy’s Gold-Plated Furniture Palace, which I protested. Then she told me which couch we were buying, which I balked at. Then she told me to pay the guy at the register, which I did, because I don’t want to sleep on the old couch, and $58,000 seemed like a very reasonable price.

When we arrived at Macy’s Fine and Extravagant Furnishings, Ann, our well-dressed furniture sales professional, gave us her card. She’s in the Macy’s Million Dollar Club. I’m guessing if she was a millionaire she wouldn’t be selling furniture on Saturdays, so I have to assume that means she has sold over a million dollars’ worth of furniture. At these prices, that was probably accomplished on a three-day weekend.

Ann was really big on selling us a protection plan to go with our new couch. They had structure protection plans, accident protection plans, and of course, the all-encompassing premium protection plan. I inquired about the accident protection plans, but it turns out they only cover the couch, not the kids jumping off the couch. They were, however, perfectly willing to insure my couch against all manner of stains* and breakage** for a full seven years.

* Excludes general soiling, perspiration, body oils, accumulated stains, or any stain caused by a human, animal, mineral, vegetable, sports drink, child, blood, blood relative, houseguest, or in-law.

** Excludes breakage.

The cost for this wonderful, all-encompassing insurance? A mere quarter of the price of the couch itself.

The glossy insurance brochure was very compelling. The picture on the front suggested that if I purchased the premium protection plan, I would be able to wear a tuxedo and relax at a jaunty angle on my new couch, while sipping a martini with a devil-may-care grin and perfect hair, staring into the eyes of my smokin’ hot wife/girlfriend/date/neighbor/nanny/au pair, who would perch herself shoeless, in her designer dress and diamond necklaces, on my luxurious new piece of furniture, right next to a sterling silver tray holding a shaker full of more martinis and a decorative glass bowl full of garnish olives.

I resisted that clever piece of marketing. My wife is smokin’ hot, but the only time we are on our couch is when we’re in our pajamas, I only drink beer, I don’t relax at jaunty angles, I don’t have any hair, and we don’t have a sterling silver tray, diamond necklaces, designer dresses, a tuxedo, an au pair, or large martini olives.

Be that all as it may, my wife actually wanted to buy the protection plan. That was where I put my foot down.

Seven-year couch insurance is worthless to me. I can personally attest to the fact that my wife will want to buy a new couch within a maximum of four to five years, and she will start to disparage the current couch as being “old” within three years. Why would I want to insure it four years longer than she’s going to care about it? Right around the time I’m just getting comfortable with a piece of furniture, she’s already wanted to throw it out for two years. Long-term furniture insurance just makes no financial sense for us.

“But if you don’t use the protection plan in the seven-year coverage period, the money you paid for it will become a credit at our store.”

What the hell kind of sense does that make? I’m hoping that I don’t need to use it, so you’re asking me to hope that I just parked a bunch of money with you interest-free for seven years that I only get to use to buy a replacement couch? And I don’t want to give my wife a reason to come back here! This place is expensive! Also, in order to think that was a good deal, I’d have to believe that you’ll be around in seven years. Every time I drive by this building it has a new name on it. In fact, I’m pretty sure we purchased our last couch here three years ago when this was Bob’s Furniture Barn.

Well, the couch arrived a few days ago, and it looks great in our family room. We might have to rename that room, however, since the family is no longer allowed in there.

The kids have yet to sit on it, and have been threatened with their very lives if they ever so much as look in the general direction of the new couch while holding food or drink. I am not allowed to drop onto it from a height greater than eight inches above the cushions, for fear of unwarranted structural damage, seam splittage, or cushion warpage.

My wife is usually as logical as a woman with new furniture can be, yet in this case, the existence and availability of a seven-year warranty has completely warped her mind. The fact that we didn’t buy it now means that immediate harm will come to our poor, unprotected new piece of furniture.

I have reminded her several times that we have owned approximately fifteen other couches over the last twelve years, and not one of them was ever structurally damaged or stained in any way. In fact, we would still have the first one if it was up to me, and it would still be in perfect condition, and we would be able to send the kids to college.

She just tells me to shut up and get off the new couch.

I think I’ll go have a beer on the old couch in my pajamas.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cinco de Jefferson Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day was yesterday. It’s a strange “holiday.” It’s the Cinco de Mayo of March. Both have some amount of green added to the beer, and no one from the holidays’ countries of origin celebrates them. Here in the USA, however, we embrace them like they were the Fourth of July or New Years. And much like New Years, no one knows what we’re celebrating or why. But we’re all Irish for one day in March, and we’re all Mexican for one dia in Mayo.

Actually, the only people who get to celebrate these two “holidays” with any regularity are students. Specifically, college kids and elementary schoolers. The college kids use the days as excuses to party, and the elementary schools use them as excuses to make leprechaun traps, Mexican flags, and most importantly, eat cookies.

Meanwhile, we adults have to wait until March 17th or May 5th land on a weekend before we get to party anymore. Why should the students get to have all the fun? Why shouldn’t the parents get to participate?

We used to have fun on St. Patrick’s Day. We used to drink green beer and actively look for other college kids of the opposite sex who weren’t wearing green so we could pinch them, as is the standard custom.

We used to have fun on Cinco de Mayo. We used to drink Corona with lime and eat discounted tacos by the truckload while wearing giant sombreros, and actively look for other college kids of the opposite sex who weren’t wearing green so we could pinch them, as is the standard custom.

Did we know why we did any of this? Of course not. Did we care that we didn’t know? Of course not. We cared about doing our part to uphold centuries of fake traditions. We cared about beer with the appropriate green holiday additive. We cared about pinching cute members of the opposite sex. We cared.

I’m tired of being left out. I’m tired of not caring. I want to care again. We should get to party, too. It’s only right, since we’re the ones paying for all of this anyway. Why shouldn’t we get these days off work?

Why? I’ll tell you why. Probably because someone still needs to pay for all this, that’s why. But are we going to let that stop us? Heck no! There are plenty of other days during the year we can work. Although, we do already have a lot of holidays…

OK, let’s compromise. We could combine St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo into one holiday to minimize the work stoppage but still have some fun. What do you say?

I knew you’d be on board.

Ladies and gentlemen, I officially propose a new national holiday.

We will compromise on the month and have the new holiday in April, since it has always been a travesty that we don’t get April 13th off for Thomas Jefferson’s birthday either. We will anchor it around that date but it will need to float, of course, to always fall on a Monday so this party is a three-day weekend. It’s only fitting to include Jefferson, since he really should be the patron saint of these two holidays anyway. You may not know this, but Thomas Jefferson was a prolific inventor and actually invented, among many other things, the taco, green beer, the piñata, and Ireland.

We shall call the new holiday either Dia de St. Jefferson Patrick de Mayo, or Cinco de Jefferson Patrick’s Day. We can vote on that later.

As far as logistics go, we will simply combine all the current fake holiday traditions into one big three-day weekend of awesome.

The holiday uniforms can remain mostly undefined, but should include the required holiday colors; green, white and red, with an obvious emphasis on green and large sombreros.

Mariachi bands will need to shift their focus a little and include bagpipes and plaid. Irish heel-clicking salsa dancing with be a natural follower to the new groove.

The main holiday beverage will obviously be green Corona with yellow lemon wedges instead of limes to signify lucky gold. Cuervo gold tequila will remain unchanged, since it satisfies both holiday motifs. As an alternative to Mexican tequila, Irish mojitos will be made out of crushed clover and Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Red, white, and green tortilla chips will be served with cabbage salsa, and children across the land will spend the new holiday smacking leprechaun-shaped piñatas filled with gold coin chocolates and corned beef taquitos.

We can work out the rest of the details later. I’m not really sure who’s in charge of new holiday creation over in D.C., so if one of you could forward this on to them, that’d be great.

I’m going to get back to my green Corona.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Daylight Savings Time is Hazardous to my Health

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 it 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 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 © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Fourth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

I really don’t mean to keep taking up so much of your time writing you these letters, since I know you are very busy this time of year taking and printing all those pictures no one ordered. But, since you took the time to once again capture the essence of what my three boys look like on a day when we weren’t planning to have them photographed, I thought I would give you my thoughts on this year’s “spring pictures.”

Fall pictures are a head shot, which is helpful, since at no time is it possible to keep an entire boy clean. While it would be a lot easier if the photos were of the middle of their back – the spot that tends to stay the cleanest on a young boy – I understand the importance of taking a picture of the actual face. We do what we can do, and hope for the best.

With the spring pictures, on the other hand, you went with the full-body sitting position shot. That is problematic. Now again, I don’t mean to keep harping on this point, but you took pictures of my boys even though I didn’t order any, and then you spent your time and money printing them out on photo paper and plastic trinkets, and then spent even more of your time and money delivering them to me. Since you did that, I’d like to take some of my time and some more of yours highlighting why it is really silly for you to do that.

Let’s get back to the full-body sitting position shot. I assume you have your copies of the pictures in front of you. If you will notice, all three of my boys are wearing T-shirts and soccer shorts. I think that should have been your first clue that we really meant to not order pictures. Actually, your first clue should have been that none of my kids were holding an order form, but I think I’ve beaten that one to death. Nevertheless, their casual outfits definitely should have been the clue to not go for the full-body shot.

Also, as I highlighted in my last letter, the art project chalk and glue incident that I was responsible for in Son Number Two’s class prior to pictures that day was very evident on Number Two’s shirt. And arms. And hair. And face. I think that probably should have been another obvious clue to narrow the picture area down as small as possible. Maybe an artsy shot of just his forehead and eyes?

Again, very sorry about all the chalk and glue on all those kids. That was just bad timing.

Besides my multi-colored third-grader, let’s talk about the other two for a minute. I think I told you last year in my first letter that we let our children dress themselves on normal days. If I didn’t mention that, I think it’s fairly obvious based on these pictures. Did your photographer really look at Son Number Three’s outfit and think to him or herself, “Yes. This child’s parents definitely dressed him for picture day.”?

Grab one of those highly-useful plastic rulers you printed out for me that starts at 3/8” and goes to 5-5/8” and check out that awesome picture on the front. That smiling young lad is wearing a T-shirt featuring a bear in full road leathers and gloves, riding a green motorcycle in front of a U.S. flag shaped like an outline of the United States. Where the hell did we even get that shirt?

Now, I realize that in some parts of the country that would be considered “picture day attire,” but this is not Arkansas.

The stylish red-on-maroon outfit anchored by the grass-stained Adidas sweatshirt on Son Number One also makes quite a statement. The statement is, “My parents don’t need or want you to take my picture today, and they certainly don’t need you to then print and send them the pictures they didn’t want in the first place. And by the way, what the hell is going on with the plastic rulers? What am I supposed to be measuring with this? If I bother to get out a ruler, it’s almost certainly because I want to know how long something is, which this ruler will not help with in the slightest.”

Who knew an outfit could say so much? But there it is.

I see you’re going a new route with the backgrounds this year. Last year the big special effect was a shimmering frosty edge to the pictures, but this year you went all green screen on us. I see my three boys have been magically transported to four different wonderlands in this unsolicited picture extravaganza you sent me; Pleasant grassy meadow, nice old barn, peaceful riverbank, and mysterious wooded trail.

The only problem I can see with this new approach is that in each scene they are perched on the same fake plastic rock that in all honestly, looks like a giant cow pie. As you can see, since it wasn’t picture day for our family, despite the fact that it was picture day for you, they wore shorts. (As also stated above in possible large clues that you didn’t need to take their pictures at all, let alone send them to me.) Anyhow, the jaunty cow pie pose really shows off their knees and shins, effectively cataloging about sixty-four separate bruises and scrapes between the three of them, in various stages of freshness and healing.

Not awesome.

The thing that really gets me about these spring pictures you sent me for no reason is the smiles. I mentioned our sons’ Forced Smile Disorders in previous letters. I think it’s funny, but it has plagued my wife for years. We have needed retakes for every fall school picture since the very first one, yet somehow, during this unsolicited spring picture session, you managed to get two of our three boys to smile naturally. How is that possible? Maybe they thought it was funny that you told them to sit on a giant turd? Who knows?

(By the way, I don’t blame you for Son Number One’s smile. It has become clear to us that nothing can be done about it. He has looked like a severely constipated serial killer in every posed picture ever taken of him. Don’t beat yourselves up.)

That’s about it for my thoughts on this year’s fantastic picture packets that I will neither be purchasing nor returning. I do have one new suggestion for you that should cut down on your overall budget, if that is something you’d be interested in:

Maybe instead of spending all this manpower on unwanted pictures in the spring, you could just take a few extra seconds in the fall to try and get a natural smile out of the boys. Maybe tell them a joke about giant turds. They think those are hilarious.

Just a suggestion.

Again, very sorry about the whole chalk and glue incident,

All my best,


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!