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

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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

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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

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 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

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!