Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Caught in a Marketing Trap

They got me. I'm the sucker.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." I am a fan of his, because I went to Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School in the ‘80s, where I also learned he coined the phrases, "Gag me with a spoon,” “Take a chill pill,” “Bros before hoes," and “Party hearty with Bacardi.” If you don’t believe me, you can check my yearbooks.

Anyway, back to me being a sucker. There I was one day, about three weeks ago, mindlessly spiraling down the Facebook rabbit hole when I saw it. A better mousetrap.

Literally. It was an ad for an actual mousetrap.

The design was brilliant. Just a simple plastic lid that you pop onto the top of a five-gallon bucket. The lid came with a little plastic ramp the mice would happily climb to get to the delicious peanut butter I would spread liberally on the underside of the little raised roof in the middle of the lid. They would scamper toward the free meal only to find… what’s this? I foolishly walked out onto an ingenious trap door that was cleverly hidden under the little raised roof, and now I find myself in the bottom of this five-gallon bucket, unable to get out. Woe is me!

The real-life footage in the ad was amazing. A black and white time-lapse video from inside a barn showing mouse after hungry mouse falling victim to the trap door prank. I saw so many mice fall into the bucket in the short video that I was amazed they hadn’t figured out how to make a mouse cheerleader pyramid to get back out.

It was incredible! And so simple.

I immediately beat an internet path to their virtual door and bought one from the random Chinese website linked in the ad. It was a little over $20, and I waited patiently for it for about an hour before I went to Amazon and found the same ones from a different Chinese mousetrap conglomerate that were two for $20 and would arrive tomorrow.

I bought those, too. I mean, I have three buckets, and if one amazing new mousetrap is good, three will be phenomenal.

Well… three weeks, $40, and two operational, peanut butter-baited mousetraps later, I have captured exactly zero rodents of any kind. I have one in the garage and one in the backyard by the shed, and I can honestly tell you, they work as well indoors as they do outdoors.

Someone (not P.T. Barnum) once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I have proven that to be true recently.

And speaking of that old phrase, I just happen to be having a special right now on the most amazing new trap door-style mousetraps. Check out the video! They’re ingenious! Hurry though, because they’re moving fast. I only have three left in stock.

They’re only $40 each!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Celebration Injury

I celebrated too early, and my feelings have been hurt. Along with my gas budget and my will to live.

Seventeen months ago, I thought I was a free man. In my column on April 27, 2022, I was giddy with anticipation. Son Number Two was getting his license the next week and I was beside myself with joy because I was about to be liberated forever from the shackles and chains of carpool. Damn the insane insurance costs, it was going to be worth it.

I did the simple math. At the time, Son Number Two was a junior and Son Number Three was a freshman. That meant that this current school year, if the final exams went reasonably well, they would be a senior and a sophomore. They did, and they are.

Seventeen months ago, it was all so clear. They would be going to the same high school and even playing the same sport. They would attend both school and lacrosse practice together. Son Number Three wouldn’t have his driver’s license yet, but that wouldn’t matter, because Number Two could take him everywhere.

That meant I was officially done with carpool. Forever. I celebrated by not driving anywhere. It was glorious.

Well, I may have done the simple math, but the calculus caught up to me and smacked me across the face in August. (I realize it’s almost the end of September, but it’s taken me this long to be ready to talk about it.) Seventeen months ago I was thinking only about their school days. I never stopped to consider their school day schedules.

Things were great for the entire month of May last year, when Son Number Two was a junior. My plan worked perfectly. Number Three caught a ride with him every day, to and from school. Well, turns out that’s because juniors still have to take lots of classes. Seniors, on the other hand, do not.

Seniors like Son Number Two, who handled all their core class graduation requirements in the first three years of high school, hardly even have to take any classes that have homework or tests. I think on one of his days he has two periods of woodshop, weightlifting, and creative writing. C’mon!

What’s the problem with all this? His ridiculous schedule gets him out of school two and a half hours before his younger brother. By the time I need him to drive everyone home, he’s already been home, eaten two meals, watched a movie, and is at the gym.

That leaves me and the other neighborhood parents still needing to pick up the sophomores. Damn you, schedule calculus! I guess one thin silver lining in my carpool cloud of despair is that we only have to pick them up from school. Number Two still takes them in the morning. But anyone who has ever done carpool knows that is small consolation. Pickup is waaaay worse than drop off.

So, I’ll have to wait another seven months before I get to celebrate for good without injury. Number Three doesn’t turn sixteen until the end of April.

And I’m celebrating no matter what. You can Marc my words, if he doesn’t pass his driver’s test, he’ll be walking home from school in May.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Right, Left, Right, but Circularly

I’m not a big fan of roundabouts. They are a lot like the metric system. Both, when studied objectively, are a much better ways to do things, but I still don’t like them..

The metric system makes complete logical sense. Everything is based on factors of ten. Take the millimeter, keep multiplying by ten and eventually you end up with the kilometer. Multiply the kilometer by five and you have the most grueling thirty-five to forty-five minutes of my year every April at the Run Rocklin.

Whereas with our imperial system, there is no length unit smaller than an inch, there are twelve of those in a foot, three feet (foots) in a yard, and 1,760 yards in a mile. Great. We also have ounces that can be volume or weight, and neither has anything to do with the other. It’s stupid.

What’s even more stupid is buying beer at a bar by the yard, because “three feet of beer” can be any amount of volume ounces they want based on the inner diameter of the long tube, you have to drink it like some idiot blowing a glass trumpet, and you lose most of it to the classic yard slosh down the front of your shirt. But enough about last Saturday.

Roundabouts make complete logical sense, from a traffic flow perspective. Four-way stops are dumb. Why do I need to completely stop my car at an intersection if I’m the only one there? Why do three of us need to wait next to each other at a red light when no one else in any other direction is there to use the same intersection? It’s dumb. Roundabouts solve those problems with a continuous flow pattern that only requires yielding when someone else happens to be there.

But here’s the thing. No one knows how to use either of them. The metric system is complete nonsense when put into context in everyday American life.

“How far away is the movie theater?”

“One and three-quarter kilometers.”

“Never speak to me like that again.”

“How much gas did the car take?”

“Thirty-seven and a half liters.”

“I hate you.”

And just like the ridiculous metric system, no one knows how to use roundabouts. Everyone seems to know what to do at a stoplight, and about half the people seem to be able to operate successfully at a four-way stop sign. The other half have no clue how or when to turn left, but it’s just become a part of our daily routine to swear at those people and then move on with our lives.

Roundabouts, on the other hand, will always have at least one person who can’t figure it out. If they’re not in it yet, chances are good that they will not yield to those who are. And if they are in it, there’s a better-than-average possibility that they’ll stop in the circle to let someone in.

And that’s just the single-lane roundabouts. Don’t even get me started on when there’s an inside lane and an outside. Why the hell do they even build them like that? What could I possibly want to use the inside lane of a roundabout for? I just love turning left and want to do it all day?

We have a new roundabout in my town that has two right turn options for one of the streets. When approaching the intersection, you can stay in the far right lane and bypass the roundabout to make a right onto the street, or you can enter the roundabout and drive 480 degrees around to the left to end up on the same street. For the love of God.

The police don’t even seem to understand them. At least the police in Alaska. OK, to be fair, it was a campus cop at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks who pulled me over when we were on our way to their natural history museum. Their museum comes with my highest recommendation. Their roundabouts do not.

I had just gone through one of their roundabouts when he lit me up. I pulled over and he told me he had stopped me because I failed to use my turn signal in the roundabout.


I was not aware that turn signals were a thing in roundabouts. How does that work, exactly? I would need to approach the entrance to the roundabout with my right blinker on? Once inside, immediately switch to my left blinker for the trip around until I come to my exit point, where I will quickly swap back to my right blinker as I leave the circle? That’s as dumb as getting a yard of beer.

The cop didn’t offer any advice on the matter, immediately switching the subject to my town of Rocklin, California where he had once visited family. We were on his campus in the summertime, and I think he might just have been bored. I didn’t press the roundabout blinker question because it was clear he wasn’t going to ticket me. I think he just wanted someone to talk to.

So, the moral here is clear. If you are going to use a roundabout, do it in a high-crime area where traffic is minimal, yield only when appropriate and necessary, or whenever you feel it would also be the polite thing to do, and just flip your blinker back and forth at random while you are in or near the circle.

And stay out of that ridiculous inner lane.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 6, 2023


As you may have heard, Jimmy Buffett passed away on Friday. He was a legendary singer-songwriter, undoubtedly most famous for the song, “Margaritaville.”

I knew he was a very successful individual, financially speaking, but I didn’t know until this week that his net worth was estimated to be a billion dollars. That’s a lot of dollars.

He parlayed the song, “Margaritaville,” into an absolute empire of a lifestyle brand, which now includes tortilla chips, cookbooks, RV parks, blenders, pool floats, casinos, slip-on shoes, pickleball paddles, drink mixes, retirement communities, patio furniture, hotels, salsa, various frozen shrimp meals, at least one cruise ship, and of course, the Margaritaville restaurant chain that spans the globe. I mean, my goodness, the word “Margaritaville” doesn’t even flag your spell check!

In case there is some scenario involving a time machine or interstellar space travel you’ve endured that has prevented you from ever hearing the song, “Margaritaville,” it’s a heartwarming tale about a man who has been spending some quality time away from home, drinking delicious frozen cocktails, playing his guitar, eating delicious shrimp, every once in a while discovering that he has gotten a new tattoo after a few too many of the frozen drinks, and slowly coming to the realization that he is the one to blame for his failed relationship.

It's a great song with a catchy tune and it’s fun to sing along to with your friends. I never thought too much about it past that until I heard a stand-up comedian describe it as the most depressing song ever written.

Now, obviously, you might argue that there are far more depressing songs out there. Anything from an opera where everyone dies would be a natural trump card to the relatively tame, “Margaritaville.” Or anything by the Doors. There’s a lot of material to counter the claim. That is, until you put it into context with Jimmy’s empire.

In the song, we are led to believe that our boozy hero is somewhere tropical, or south of the border. The refrain that we all love to sing along with is, “Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville, searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt…”

On the surface, it seems to be an almost enviable situation. Leaving all your worries behind on some tropical beach somewhere. When Jimmy Buffett wrote the song, Margaritaville was just an idea. An unknown destination. A far-off paradise.

But that’s not where Margaritaville really is today. Thanks to his incredible marketing efforts over the years, the destination is no longer unknown, and the stand-up comedian might just have a point. “Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville” takes on an entirely different tone when the lyrical scenario is playing out in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

RIP, Mr. Buffett. Thanks for all the great songs.

And this sweet pickleball racket with the parrot on it.




Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 30, 2023

An Eighteenth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

You guys over there continue to crack me up. You sent me a survey the other day, asking about my most recent Lifetouch experience, and you referred to me as “a valued customer.”

Really? Have you not read any of the letters I’ve sent you over the years? If I’m considered a valued customer, your business is circling the drain a lot faster than I thought it was.

Your survey email read as follows:

As a valued customer, we would love to get your feedback about your most recent school photography experience with Lifetouch.

If you already completed a survey, we thank you! If you have not, and have a moment, please take this brief survey and register for a chance to win a $100 gift card.

Thank you for providing your feedback.


My immediate reaction, besides, of course, uncontrollable laughter, was “Wow, a $100 gift card? Why don’t you just offer a free 5x7 image with my next order. That’s an equivalent prize based on your pricing, and seems like it would be less paperwork on your end.”

My most recent school photography experience with Lifetouch consisted of the following: I was driving Son Number Three to his sophomore check-in day a few weeks ago, and halfway to the high school I remembered that you would have employees taking pictures that day. (I still cannot, in good conscience, refer to them as “photographers.”)

I said, “Oh, yeah, by the way, school pictures are today, too.”

He was in a semi-presentable T-shirt, but his hair was a little on the “I don’t really care about my hair today” side.

He said, “Great. Thanks for the heads up.”

Then both of us continued to not care that school pictures were happening that day. I only assume you took his picture. That’s how my most recent school photography experience with Lifetouch went.

I may not care about picture day anymore because of you, but since I do care so much about helping you improve your business model, I figured I would click on the survey link and help you out. At a minimum, I was going to hunt around for the button labeled “See any one of my previous seventeen letters.”

I couldn’t find that button. I couldn’t even find the survey. You see, Lifetouch, this is why you are so loveable, and at the same time, such an absolute bane of so many parents’ existence.

I mean, we’ve all been aware for many years now that you refuse to hire actual photographers for your photography business. But apparently, you use that same unorthodox rebellious model in every aspect of your organization, including your web team.

I clicked on the link, told you that my child was in 10th grade, hit the “next” button, and was greeted with this:  

This page can’t be found

No webpage was found for the web address: HTTP ERROR 404


You’re a school picture company that can’t figure out how to take school pictures, so I don’t know why I expected you to be able to take survey answers either.

Stay adorable!

Yours always,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Difference in College

We moved Son Number One into the dorms at the University of Nevada, Reno this past weekend, and I have to tell you, college is much different than I remember. Here’s my top ten.

1.  They have Starbucks, Panda Express, Panera, and other national chains on campus. In the student union! Do you know what we had at our student union? A vending machine, and it didn’t even have sandwiches.

2.  They can use their meal plan to get food at Panda Express, Panera, etc. Do you know where I could use my meal plan? The cafeteria, and the “fancy place” next to the dorms, that looking back on it, served the exact same food as the cafeteria.

3.  The dorms are co-ed. Ours were too, but the building was divided in half, with doors and a lounge between the men’s side and the woman’s side. My son has female neighbors one door down. Dad me is a little concerned about that. College me is a little jealous about that.

4.  The on-campus parking in my day was one low price and every spot, no matter where it was, was first come, first served. His parking passes are color-coded with tiered pricing. The lowest cost one, which he has, allows him to only park his car at the far corners of campus, which appear to be in a different time zone than his dorm. We could have purchased a pass that would allow him to park in the nice parking garage twenty feet from his dorm, but then he wouldn’t be able to have a meal plan. Or tuition.

5.  They gave him an iPad. They gave every single student an iPad! Do you know what they did not give us? Our books. We had to buy those, and they were incredibly overpriced. And heavy. As far as computers went, we had floppy disks that were actually floppy, and we had to buy them ourselves. The only computers were at the library, and they were NOT portable.

6.  They had a welcome event at the football stadium and it had food trucks. Food trucks! On campus! Do you know when we had food trucks on campus? Never, because they hadn’t been invented yet.

7.  The dorm move-in was well scheduled and organized with day and time slots by floor and room number. Our dorms didn’t have a move-in schedule. They just told us to be there before classes started. I’m not even sure they told us where the dorms were. I think we just had to figure it out.

8.  They are actually teaching them things during orientation week, like good money management principles and study habits. Our “week of welcome” consisted of playing tag and capture the flag.

9.  Did I mention the delicious chain restaurants included in the meal plan and the co-ed dorms?

10.  The biggest difference between college then and college now, however, is that I’m paying for it this time! Yowza.

Have a great time, kid. I know I did.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 16, 2023


It has recently come to my attention that the DMV does not, under any circumstances, want you to call them. I mean sure, when you go into a DMV branch, they don’t want to talk to you either, but they really don’t want you to call.

Recently, a friend of mine bought a new car. He quickly found an eager buyer for his old car and set up the meeting for the sale. The only issue was that he didn’t have the title document (or “pink slip” if you’re a Beach Boys fan). It had been electronically sent to the DMV, but he didn’t have it in his hand.

Fortunately, in California, anyway, you don’t have to have it in your hand to sell your car. We were 95% sure that he just needed the transfer of title form and a bill of sale form. I was helping him gather up the paperwork, and the 5% doubt is what had me calling the DMV.

I was immediately connected to the DMV’s “automated assistant” (read: scary AI robot that is no doubt communicating with Skynet). His name was Miles. (I see what you did there, DMV. Cute.)

Miles: What can I assist you with today?

Me: I want to speak to a live person.

Miles: OK, due to high call volumes, the DMV offers a call back service. What is it you would like to speak to an agent about?

Me: [speaking very clear English] Forms needed to sell a car without the title.

Miles: OK, you want to know how long a DUI stays on your record. DUI's come with two different points. A one-point DUI stays on your record for...

(I am not making this up.)

Miles: We will call you back at 3:20pm.

(It was 12:20pm)

Miles: If you would like us to call you back on this number, press 1. To use a different number, press 2.

Me, thinking: Umm, I don't want you to call me about DUI's. I also don't want questions about DUI’s associated with my phone number. God only knows what Skynet will do with that info...

Me: [presses 2]

Miles: Please enter the number you would like us to call.

Me: [presses 0000000000]

Miles: Hmm… That doesn't seem to be a valid phone number. Please enter the number again.

Me: Click.

Me, thinking and redialing: OK, let’s start over and pray that they don’t store the canceled calls…

Miles: What can I assist you with today?

Me: [speaking even more very clear English] How do I sell a car with no physical title document?

Miles: Bien. Le gustaría saber qué formularios se necesitan para vender su automóvil. ¿Se lo venderá a una fiesta privada oa un negocio?


Again, I am not making this up. Not only did Miles start speaking Spanish, but he was doing it in the most non-Spanish-speaking American accent imaginable. As if the AI was set to "Ted Lasso using Google translate."


It was at that moment that I started looking around for the hidden cameras and Ashton Kutcher hiding behind the ficus. Am I being punked?


OK, hang up and start over…

Miles: Due to high call volumes, we cannot take your call today. Please call back tomorrow morning.

(It was 12:30pm)

Wow, OK. I guess I’ll try the DMV website for the live chat that Miles was advertising. I got back on my computer and clicked on the yellow “Ask DMV” button at the bottom of the screen and was connected to an actual human in less than four minutes... OK, so the DMV is abandoning the phone lines. Cool. Good to know.

Me: Types in question…

DMV Chat Employee, presumably in India: You need Form 277 and Form 262.

Me: OK, we have Form 277. What is Form 262?

DMVCEPII: Form 262 is the Bill of Sale.

Me: OK, we already have Form 135 which says Bill of Sale. Is that a substitute for Form 262?

DMVCEPII: Let me check... Does your Form 135 have an odometer section?

Me: No.

DMVCEPII: OK, then you will need Form 262. It has the odometer statement section that you will sign. Form 277 is available for download, but Form 262 has to be picked up in person.

Me: I have to go to an actual DMV branch to get Form 262?


Me: It’s not available anywhere in your online forms on the website?


I didn't even bother asking why.

So, our takeaways from this are as follows:

1) The DMV has two phone operators and they are on break together.

2) Miles is an AIdiot.

3) The DMV is sneaking up on almost achieving a reasonable level of customer service with their online “Ask DMV” chat function.

4) However, the DMV will never not be the DMV.


See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Stop the Water Shaming

I want to bring up an important and sensitive topic that affects millions of us. Or maybe thousands of us. Actually, possibly only hundreds of us? Tens of us?

Anyway, it’s an important and sensitive topic for me.

I am, of course, talking about LaCroix shaming. Has it happened to you? If so, please know you’re not alone. I’m here standing right beside you. With a cold, refreshing, naturally essenced passionfruit sparkling water in my hand. Cheers, my friend.

I’m not going to lie to you. I drink a lot of sparkling water. It’s basically the only beverage I drink besides coffee. I drink so much of it that the giant cruise ship we were recently on – The Carnival Celebration that holds 6500 passengers – was not prepared for me. I bought the “unlimited bubbles package” that included canned Bubly sparkling water, and they couldn’t keep up with me.

When I went to customer service to talk about how the bubbles package didn’t really perform as advertised with regard to the term “unlimited,” the customer service girl pulled up my account and actually exclaimed, “Oh, wow! You ordered so many of them!”

This is what I’m talking about. This rampant sparkling water shaming that our society just looks the other way on so often. I mean sure, there are definitely different ideas about acceptable behavior at sea, but the shaming happens on dry land just as often. Most notably at my grocery store.

Most checkers will make some sort of comment when they see the number of twelve-packs of LaCroix I buy on a weekly basis. One nice young lady actually asked, “Do you own a restaurant or something?” Now, in all fairness, she might have been thrown off by how much food I was buying, since we have three teenage boys. I mean, we do go through two to three chickens a day around here. But when I laughed and said no, she explained that she asked because of how much LaCroix I was buying.

The checkers also can’t seem to agree on the proper way to ring up the twelve-packs. For the sake of this example, let’s use a low, easy number and say I have a quantity of eight twelve-packs on the bottom of my cart.

In the past I have put them all on the belt, only to have half the checkers tell me not to do that because they don’t want to have to lift them all. But the first time I just put one of each flavor on the belt and told the checker how many of each I had under my cart, she looked at me sternly and said, “Well, I need to see them all!”

I thought the store had finally solved the inconsistent checker issue by installing hand-held scanners at each register recently. I was hopeful when the first checker told me it was there for me to use to help scan heavy items so they didn’t need to come out of the cart. Great, I thought.

The next time I used one of the new scanners, it went like this:

Me: OK, I’m going to grab the scanner and get my LaCroixs.

Checker: OK, great.

Me: [Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep…]

Checker: Whoa! Stop, stop! You scanned it too many times!

Me: No I didn’t. And I’m not done yet.

Checker: You have to be. There’s no way you have that many under there.

Me: Um, yes I do…

Today when I used the scanner, it went like this:

Me: OK, I’m going to grab the scanner and get my LaCroixs.

Checker: OK.

Me: [Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep]

Checker: Wow. Do you think you got enough?


It’s time to stop the sparkling water shaming, people! We have feelings, too, you know. We need love and understanding, not labels.

“Addict” is such an ugly word. I prefer “enthusiast.”

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Power Mega Super Smidge Lotto Ball Bucks - Repost

I originally posted this column in January of 2021, back when we were having another super-convergence of lottery windfalls. Well, the Mega Millions is at an estimated $1.25 billion this Friday, so here I am again with a likely-useless ticket in my hand. We can do better! It’s time for us to finally get going on my better lottery plan for America. Refamiliarize yourself with it below:

I like keeping my money, so I don’t normally spend much of it at all on the lottery. My mother-in-law and I split a California Super Lotto Plus ticket for two dollars each week, just simply because winning $15 million would be neat, and if you don’t buy a ticket, you won’t have a 1 in 438,000,000 chance of winning. I also stand outside in thunderstorms trying to get hit by lightning, just to increase my chances.

Recently, however, I have been laying down four whole additional dollars at a time each week, buying tickets for both the Powerball and the Mega Millions games. That’s because the Powerball jackpot is estimated to be $730 million and the Mega Millions jackpot is up to $970 million.

That’s almost a billion just on the Mega Millions, which is also probably your odds of winning it. Still, mathematicians will tell you your odds drop infinitely if you don’t buy a ticket. (Mathematicians are theoretical number geeks, however, and this is real life, so in this case when they say “drop infinitely” they mean “stay exactly the same.”)

But here’s the really amazing thing about when these jackpots get so high – the next jackpot grows at a massive rate because so many new people like me start playing. For instance, the Mega Millions jackpot that myself and every other living soul in forty-seven states failed to win in yesterday’s draw was $865 million. The projected jackpot for the Friday draw – just three days later – is $970 million. People are going to spend $105 million in three days on tickets, just for this one lottery game.

No one won the Powerball jackpot on Saturday either, and we all spent $90 million on new tickets for tonight’s draw.

Just between those two games, we, as a nation (minus the three loser states that refuse to participate like a bunch of money-saving nerds), have raised $200 million in ticket sales.

I have a proposition for you. Let’s increase our odds dramatically.

Why let the state governments rake in all that money just to tell us that nobody won again?

“But, Smidge, the money goes to benefit the schools,” you might say.

Yeah, right. Let’s not kid ourselves, here. You just know that money, like every other dollar going to the government, gets funneled through someone’s brother-in-law’s law firm first for the “environmental impact study and resources report” on school spending allocation and inclusiveness, only to come out the other end in the form of a huge yacht for their mistress.

Let’s not let that happen again. She already has a fleet of yachts. And his other mistresses do too. They could start their own navy, for Pete’s sake. Let’s keep that money with us, shall we?

Here’s my plan: When no one wins those two games again, roughly one million of us are going to go out and spend two dollars on new tickets. Instead of doing that, I propose that you one million nice folks send me your two dollars. I will put those one million names in a, presumably, very large hat, and draw the name of the winner.

No complicated numbers to pick in a heavily-weighted scheme that is essentially impossible to win. We’ll have a guaranteed winner of $200 million. And your odds of winning skyrocket. (They skyrocket from non-existent to virtually none, but still, they skyrocket.) And we will all go to bed the night before the drawing knowing for sure that one of us is going to win a butt-ton of money.

And if you’d like to fool yourself into thinking that you are “doubling” your chances of winning by buying two tickets, feel free to send me four dollars. Just be aware that the mathematicians are laughing at you. (More than they were before.)

So, what do you say, intrepid gamblers of the forty-seven cool states? Let’s do this! Venmo me your two dollars and we’ll get this thing going.

One of us is about to be filthy, stinking rich!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Speaking of Barbie...

It’s an amazing time to be a kid! Back when I was young, Barbie was only a doll with a pink house, and a pink Corvette, a pink-accented boyfriend, and later, a pink RV.

I personally didn’t care about any of the Barbie stuff when I was a kid because she didn’t come with explosives, projectiles, or slime, but I knew plenty of girls who loved to brush her hair and push her around in her dream car on dates with Ken. Barbie always drove, presumably because Ken was an alcoholic lush.

Kids today have access to a much larger Barbie franchise, including her new diverse friend group of dolls, waaay more accessories, rehabbed Ken, and a new movie. They even have a real live woman, Valeria Lukyanova, who has undergone hundreds of thousands of dollars in plastic surgery to become a human Barbie. Regrettably, she will never be able to blink again, and will no doubt need to spend thousands more on therapy, in addition to her staggeringly large Amazon subscription for Refresh Tears eye drops.

But the most amazing part about the current Barbie experience? It’s not any of those things. It’s the Fisher Price Power Wheels Barbie Corvette for kids. That sweet pink one-seater about the size of a coffee table that no family in the world has a good place to park when their kids are not driving it dangerously into oncoming street traffic.

I don’t think those came out until I was in my teens or twenties, but the first models were nothing to write home about. The tires were hard plastic with absolutely no grip, the steering was sketchy at best, and the whole thing was powered by what looked like one of those square 12-volt lantern batteries. You had a max payload of nine pounds, a run time of forty-five seconds, and a recharge time of two days.

Well, kids, welcome to 2023, where unregulated e-bike technology is running rampant! Children’s bikes at this point have basically become Tesla motorcycles with skinnier tires. I saw a kid on a BMX-style bike yesterday, in traffic, chasing a Prius and keeping up with it at probably thirty or forty miles per hour, while never pedaling once. Like I said, it’s an amazing time to be a kid!

I saw this coming the minute they started putting electric motors on kid’s Razor scooters, years ago. Apparently, not a single soul at the Department of Transportation did, though, so now we have unlicensed, untrained, unskilled, and unbelievably reckless kids riding e-powered contraptions that have torque profiles and top speeds Harley and/or Davidson would have killed someone for when they were building their first motorcycle.  

What does this mean for Barbie’s personal Power Wheels dream car? It means it’s no longer really a toy. It’s now a miniature unlicensed e-Corvette that can do 50 in a 25. Now’s the time, kids. At some point people are going to wake up and realize that children’s toys have become electrically weaponized, so don’t delay.

Beg and plead with your parents. Tell them you’ll do the grocery store runs now. Offer to take over elementary school carpool. You’ll have the horsepower. Steal an adult’s social security number and apply for a Barbie car loan online. Whatever it takes to get that wind in your hair. These are amazing times. Take advantage!

And Ken, if you happen to fall off the wagon and get sauced at the Malibu Barbie Beach Bar and Grill, have no fear. You don’t have to call Barbie and confess, or waste good drinkin’ money on an Uber. Just get yourself a little pink Power Wheels Corvette. You can swerve that bad boy home in the same amount of time it would take you in your F150, and what are the cops going to charge you with? Operating a toy under the influence?

That’s not illegal, buddy. Rock on!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Who Needs a Doctor?

It’s that time of year again at Casa de Smidge, when we get new health insurance cards along with a warm, heartfelt letter from Sutter Health, welcoming us into their community of doctors, nurses, and happy patients, as if we haven’t been with Sutter Health for the past twenty years.

All three of our kids were born at Sutter, yet somehow, they see fit to welcome us in every year. Son Number One is going off to college in a month, for goodness sake. We’ve been with you for a while now!

Anyhow, my wife and I share (or shared) a PCP, which is insider medical lingo for Pretty Cool Physician, if I’m not mistaken. I say “shared” because we just found out she is retiring, or just leaving Sutter, or possibly both. I don’t remember.

So, along with our annual welcome letter, we need to find a new doctor (or doctors if we can’t agree again). I was happy to see that the boys’ pediatrician was still the same. Dr. Wong is the best! However, sitting at my desk, seeing his name on their health insurance cards got me thinking.

Not only is Son Number One eighteen years old now, but he’s also heading off to Nevada for college. Eighteen seems like the logical age to stop seeing a pediatrician, because “pediatrician” is literally Latin for “pediatric physician.” Also, I don’t think Dr. Wong makes house or dorm calls in other states.

That got me thinking, how do I go about finding a new doctor for my son in another state? And that got me thinking about when I went off to college, hundreds of miles away from my former pediatrician. Who was my doctor? I couldn’t remember.

And then it finally dawned on me why I couldn’t remember. Because I went off to college and never went to another doctor for an annual physical until I was thirty-five. Sure, I went to the hospital emergency room a few times, but who didn’t, am I right? But I never had an actual doctor.

Generally, men ages eighteen to thirty-ish never even think about the doctor. Or checkups. Or health. Or much of anything, actually. We’re just sort of there, participating in the moment’s current activity and otherwise not having a whole ton of deep thoughts or planning.

When I finally realized that, I relaxed a little and decided I didn’t need to worry about Son Number One. I stood up from my desk and stretched, and was immediately reminded of my real priority.

The stretch reminded me that I tweaked my back a little last night.


I’m fifty-one and I literally hurt my back coughing. So, yeah, I’m worrying about the wrong Schmatjen male here. Son Number One will be just fine, but I need to find a new doctor, stat.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, July 12, 2023

A Second Open Letter to the Student Loan Department

Dear whomever is in charge of the student loan forgiveness program,

I wrote to you a little under a year ago regarding getting the ball rolling on forgiving our past and existing student loans. Since Son Number One was still in high school at the time, we were mainly discussing you guys paying back all of our costs to date, with the housing, food, and transportation of our three students, from preschool through twelfth grade.

I haven’t heard from you guys yet on all of that. Those costs are still piling up over here with his younger brothers, so the sooner the better!

In addition to following up on that enormous bill, I’m writing today about forgiveness of a new student loan I just received. I realize the whole forgiveness program has been in a bit of a start/stop turmoil lately, but I’m confident that when you hear my tale of woe, you’ll be persuaded to do the right thing.

Here’s the situation: Son Number One is starting his freshman year at the University of Nevada, Reno this fall, and his first tuition installment was due this week. I logged into his school account last night to figure out how to make that happen. Imagine my surprise when I was presented with two options to pay – via electronic check, or with my credit card.

“You can pay for college with a credit card?” I asked out loud to no one in particular. Again, imagine my surprise when I investigated further and discovered that not only could I pay with a credit card, but there were no service fees, or convenience fees, or fees of any kind attached to that option.

“You can pay for college with a credit card!” I exclaimed out loud, again to no one in particular, although at that point I actually wished more people were around to share in my happy discovery.

So, guess what I did last night, student loan folks? Yep, I racked up a butt-ton of credit card rewards points when I paid my son’s first college tuition payment with my credit card. Boo-yah!

So, here’s where you guys come in. I now have a relatively small student loan, by national standards, but with an enormously large interest rate. Come next month, those credit card vultures are going to be coming after me for as much as 30.90% APR. Now, I’m not completely up to date on the student loan rules and regulations, but that interest rate seems like it should be criminal.

You can now see my obvious and immediate need for swift student loan forgiveness before this predatory compounding interest, being perpetrated on our nation’s poor, defenseless youth, gets out of hand.

You will be saving this great nation more than 30% per year (compounding!) by jumping on this right away, before my next billing cycle. I know you’ll do the right thing.

And remember, UNR is on the semester system, so we’re going to need swift credit card student loan forgiveness a minimum of twice a year for the next four years.

Thanks in advance!

Yours in forgiveness,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, July 5, 2023

An Open Letter to Carnival Cruise Lines

Dear Carnival Cruise Lines,

I have recently returned from my first cruise ship experience, which was on your gigantic new boat, the Celebration. I have some thoughts…

Since this was my first cruise, I had no previous experience with how people normally get on the ship to begin their cruise, and I still don’t, because we did not get on the ship normally. We didn’t even get on the ship safely.

As you are aware, an overnight boating accident with fatalities closed the entrance to the Port of Miami for a majority of the day that we were supposed to be getting on the boat. While the Celebration waited offshore, we waited on Miami Beach and at our hotel.

There was obviously nothing you could do about the 32-foot Scorpion high performance speed boat slamming into the 146-foot ferry at 3:30 in the morning. I mean, we get it. It’s Miami, and the cocaine doesn’t just move itself around. We understand that you have to have guys hauling ass in blacked-out boats at night all jacked up on Mezcal and Columbian blow. It’s just how it works, and sometimes they don’t see the enormous, well-lit, massive, literally bigger than a house, ferry boat. Whatcha gonna do?

You had no control over Captain Coke’s ability to navigate, or the Coast Guard’s ability to recover his boat and its precious cargo, but what you did have control over was your own ship and the instructions you gave to us, the people waiting to get on.

Now as you know, a long time ago we were all required to log on and choose our embarkation time slot. You use time slots to make sure the embarkation processes is smooth and controlled, and you use words like “embarkation” because boat language is weird. Right before they closed down the port entrance for a whole day, the cocaine mules probably yelled, “Oh, no, we are about to strike the starboard aft hull of that enormous, well-lit, house-sized transport vessel, with the forward quarter of our pleasure craft. The purser will keelhaul us for losing the cargo we stowed in the forward bulkheads!”

Anyway, you wisely gave us timeslots in which to board. Those timeslots obviously came and went with no ship to board, but once you were able to get into port late in the day, you needed to let us know how to proceed.

I’ll pause here. Since this is an open letter, I’ll let the readers that aren’t affiliated with Carnival give answers as to how this could be handled, knowing that all passengers have already been divided up into boarding groups.

But wait, I don’t want you, the reader, to come up with the answer. I want you to go outside and find a four-year-old and ask them for the answer.

We’ll wait.

OK, you’re back. What did the four-year-old come up with? Yes, that’s correct. A simple chart emailed to us that said, “If your original boarding time was X, your new boarding time is now Y.”

Now Carnival, I really want you to let that sink in (boat humor). Every four-year-old polled came up with the same simple, logical answer. The simple, logical solution that escaped you.

What did you do?

You said, “The ship is here. Be at the port between 8:00 pm and 11:00 pm to embark. Everyone must be on the ship by 11:00 pm.”

Keep in mind, the original boarding time slots were spread out over six hours. Also keep in mind the Celebration holds 6500 passengers. You read that correctly, in case you forgot. Six thousand, five hundred people.

Folks, don’t bother trying to find your four-year-old to get their opinion on this boarding plan. They will just tell you it’s the dumbest, most irresponsible, and possibly criminally actionable in a court of law plan that anyone could have come up with.

Carnival Cruise Lines, by definition, you know “cruise people.” (Readers, if you have been on a cruise, you know what I’m talking about. And if you’ve been on a cruise and don’t know what I mean by “cruise people,” then you are one. If you haven’t been on a cruise, think: Loud amusement park family of twelve, wearing all the amusement park clothing and souvenirs, dripping amusement park food and drinks all over themselves and passersby, and no one can find Bobby anywhere.)

Carnival, you have met millions of cruise people over the years. They are literally the only people you deal with. And that being the case, you actually made it sound like the ship would leave without them at 11:00 pm.

There is no possible scenario that exists in the cruise people universe where that doesn’t become a train wreck. There was no better way to make sure 6500 people all showed up at the same time than what you did. But you weren’t satisfied with handling it only that poorly. You had more bad decisions to make and you nailed every one of them.

You abandoned the time slot system, so it must have also made sense to you to abandon any form of crowd control in front of the cruise terminal building. In the stifling Miami heat and humidity, among the literally thousands of people bunched up in a wad in front of the building, I watched multiple fire trucks and emergency vehicles arrive to cart out older cruise people from the center of the mob who had been overcome by the collective heat.

I watched pizzas being delivered through the crowd to cruise people who had been at the terminal building all day, instead of waiting somewhere else in Miami, foolishly assuming they would be the first to board.

Lack of line ropes to form any type of entrance pathway or order? Check.

Lack of police or security guards or even uniformed Carnival personnel to provide direction and crowd control of any kind for 6500 people? Check.

Lack of signs or loudspeaker announcements to even tell people what to do, where to go, or even what was going on? Check.

Expecting 6500 people with their luggage to magically and orderly file one by one through the SINGLE DOORWAY into the cruise terminal. Check.

I’m not making that up.

Carnival Cruise Lines, you are a mystery to me. The sheer logistics of running even one of your ships must be mind boggling, yet you do it all the time. But with this one tiny hiccup that could have so easily been managed in a minute on the back of a cocktail napkin, you chose the worst and most dangerous option available.

It was, quite simply, one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen, and that’s really saying something, because I’m raising teenage boys.

Your Captain should be keelhauled.

Do better,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, June 28, 2023

I'm on a Boat!

We are on a cruise ship right now. I mean, if everything went as planned, we’re on a cruise ship right now. I purposely didn’t bring my laptop on the cruise, due to obvious moisture concerns (many of our cruise group spill their drinks regularly), so I wrote this column before we left.

We should be in the Caribbean by now, and rest assured, I am disappointed if we haven’t seen pirates yet. I will report on my findings when I retrieve my laptop from the desk at Miami International Gate J15, where I left it for safekeeping. I’ll just grab it on my way back through later this week.

This is my first cruise, so I was on a steep learning curve as far as preparations went. There was a lot to learn. Since it’s cruise season (they tell me), I want to impart some of the knowledge I’ve gleaned in this process so any other rookie cruisers can benefit from my experience.

There are some things you’ll need ahead of time.

First and foremost is a cool cruise group name. Chances are, you’ll be cruising with friends, and apparently you can’t show up to the ship without a group name. Prior to sailing, we hadn’t picked a winner, but our tentative list of choices was:

Feeling Nauti

On Cruise Control

All Hands On Derek (This one really only works for us since one of our cruise group is named Derek. Otherwise, you’d have to find a Derek in Miami, and that can get dicey.)

Tropic Like It’s Hot

I’d Sailor

The Prostates of the Caribbean

Nauti Beaches

I Like Big Boats and I Cannot Lie

The Caribbean Wine Mixer (Only funny to Step Brothers fans. So, obviously, really funny!)

We Shore Did

Oh, Ship!


Vitamin Sea

You can all vote for your favorite and I’ll let you know what we landed on later when I get back to Gate J15 and the nice man who offered to watch my computer for me.

The second important thing you’ll need to bring is all of your money. You’ll spend most of it up front, of course, but you’ll need to bring the rest for tips and “incidentals.” Incidentals are defined as half the things to do or eat on the boat that conveniently are not included in the exorbitant base price.

The third thing you’ll need, about a month before departure, is an Amazon account, a full tank of gas in your wife’s car, and a clear path to the Amazon returns counter at Kohl’s. I wasn’t aware of this, but apparently, it’s illegal for women to bring any previously worn or even previously owned clothes onto a cruise ship. This law resulted in Amazon corporate deciding to just dedicate one driver solely to our home address. His name is Steve. Great guy. I’m his kids’ godfather now.

The fourth thing you’re going to want for your cruise is non-hurricane-y weather. As I write this, Tropical Storm Bret is making its way through the Caribbean, with Tropical Storm Cindy right behind it, preparing to wreak havoc on our cruising path. Now, it will be what it will be, and I’m sure we’ll have a fun time no matter what, but news reports about tropical storms can lead your wife, as it did mine, to some late panic shopping on Amazon.

Panic shopping isn’t good for anyone. Especially Steve. He looked tired when he dropped us off at the airport in his Amazon van.




Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

We Need the EurApp

Son Number One is in Paris as we speak.

Paris, France. Not the one in the God forsaken middle of nowhere California desert, although I think that one is spelled differently now so people stopped confusing the two and ending up on the wrong continent.

He’s on an amazing Europe trip with his former high school physics teacher – a seasoned traveler who has been running an awesome summer travel program for the past twenty years.

Tomorrow morning they take a train to Burgundy. Or Bordeaux. Or Boone’s Farm. One of the towns named after a fine wine, anyway. After that, they head for Spain and then Portugal.

We think he’s been having a good time and seeing the sights, because we can watch him move around on Life360, but it’s proving hard to get information out of him. We’re not sure if we’re seeing where he’s going, or where the pickpocket who has his phone is going.

Here’s an actual text exchange between us and him:

Son Number One: [Arrives in Paris]

Son Number One:

Son Number One:

Mom: Did you make it? Are you at the hotel? How was the flight?

Number One: ya

Number One:

Me: Good to hear you made it. Have fun and send us some selfies from the cool stuff.

Number One: ok

Number One:

Number One:

Number One:

Mom: OK, I’m going to need a proof of life photo, please.

Number One: [Sends picture of crappy side street his hotel is on. No humans in photo]

Mom: OK, thanks…

Number One: ya

Number One:

Number One:

Number One:

Me: [Seeing that he is at the Eiffel Tower] Hey, how is the Eiffel Tower?

Number One: cool

Number One: [sends picture looking up the tower from the ground]

Me: Cool!

Number One: ya


Later that evening we told Sons Two and Three that he had been to the Eiffel Tower.

“Yeah,” said Number Two. “Cool that he got to go up to the top.”


“Yeah, he sent me a video. And also one from the crypt.”


“Yeah, he’s doing a lot of cool stuff. He’s sending me tons of pictures and videos.”

“Umm… can we see them, please?”

“Sure. Here you go. They’re all on Snapchat.”

[Videos of amazing sweeping panoramic views from the top of the tower, videos of him and his buddies on an ancient tunnel and crypt tour, picture of his buddy holing the Eiffel Tower in the palm of his hand, pictures of his amazing dinners, etc., etc., etc.]

OK, wow.

Apparently, it’s not that he can’t be bothered to share his experiences with his lame parents. It’s that his lame parents were lame enough to ask him to share his experiences on a lame app like regular old stupid text messaging.

If we had Snapchat it would be like we were on the trip with him, apparently.

Parenting in 2023 is a wild ride. The kids and their tech move fast, and you have to keep up if you want to meet them where they are. So, my wife and I talked, and decided to change how we were approaching this.

We’re just going to have Number Two keep showing us whatever he gets.

Neither of us want to try to figure out Snapchat.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Hit SEND Before it's Too Late

There’s a funny thing about kids these days. They have embraced digital technology like no other generation before them. It is interwoven into their lives and they probably would not be able to function without it.

Except for email.

For whatever reason, email – once the very pinnacle of sophisticated digital communications – is like a rotary phone to them. They don’t know how to use it.

Way back when the boys were little, I set all three of them up with Gmail accounts. Best dad move ever, I thought at the time. I would have been less enthusiastic had I known how little and how poorly they would use them.

If you email them something, you have to text them to tell them that you emailed them. If you do that, you have increased the chances from 0% to 11% that they will see your email. Unfortunately, even if they do see it, the chances are still 0% that they will actually read it.

I foolishly thought that high school would get them in the habit of using email effectively. I mean, after all, they were given school email addresses in order to communicate with their teachers. Once again, I was wrong. Ask any high school teacher how well the kids use email. They will just laugh and laugh.

Once again, I foolishly thought things would change with my eighteen-year-old when it was time to register for college. And once again, I was wrong.

He is going to University of Nevada, Reno in the fall, and yesterday was his orientation day. About two weeks ago we received an email about Orientation Step One. I saw that he and I had both received it, and I even mentioned it to him at the time.

When I inquired about it Monday night – the night before orientation – he said, and I quote, “Huh?”

When I sat down with him at his computer and had him look for the email, he immediately claimed that he had no idea where it was, and probably never got it. As I stared slack-jawed at his 999 unopened emails in his inbox, I suggested that he might try a search for the word “orientation.”

Miraculously, we found the email, which contained a detailed list of lots of things he needed to take care of about a week ago. He had a busy night.

The next day at UNR, one of the presentations for the parents was from the head of the student advisory department. They are in charge of helping the kids get all the classes they need in order to stay on track. She talked with us for twenty minutes, and about nineteen of those minutes consisted of begging us to somehow make our children check their emails.


So, parents of young children, this is your Immature Societal Email Nonfunction Disorder (I-SEND) Public Service Announcement. It’s obviously too late for our college freshmen, but you might still be able to salvage your children.

You need to get your kids in the habit of checking (and actually reading) their emails on a daily basis. It won’t be easy, but it can be done if you focus on the things they really want and need.

For instance, kids need food. Put a lock on the refrigerator and the pantry and email them the combination. Change the combination each day.

Kids love Wi-Fi. Change the code daily and have them send you an email each day to request their chore list. When they have replied with a list of fully completed chores, they can then send a separate email formally requesting the Wi-Fi code. If their email has no subject line, delete it without reading it.

Kids enjoy getting an allowance. Each month they must email you an allowance request. They can find their money after they complete a series of back-and-forth informational emails as you lead them through a scavenger hunt. Make it complicated. If you have more than one child and they use Reply All incorrectly, no allowance that month.

If you have teenagers that drive, the location of their car keys should be available only by email. Every once in a while, send them an email from you, but with poor grammar and spelling errors, starting with, “Dearist beloved Child.” Include an attachment that is a “pdf of the locality of you keys.”

The pdf should consist of the following one line of text: “You don’t get to drive today because you obviously need to stay home and learn which emails to flag as spam.”

Good luck out there, parents!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

There's Now a Colon in D-Day

Have you ever chugged a whole bottle of grape cough syrup? If your answer is yes, please seek help immediately.

I haven’t ever downed an entire bottle of Robitussin, but I’ve recently done something very similar. Twice.

My six-ounce bottle of sodium, potassium, and magnesium sulfates was the same consistency as cough syrup, and had that same “grape” taste that leaves you wondering if anyone involved has ever eaten an actual grape.

I was instructed to mix it with ten ounces of water, and drink the entire sixteen-ounce mixture. The water did not help.

I did that once on Monday night and again yesterday morning. Why would someone drink a sixteen-ounce mixture of various sulfates, you ask? I found myself asking that same question about thirty minutes after I drank the first one.

Holy wow.

Allow me to explain. Yesterday was D-Day. On June 6th, 1944, after softening of targets by air support, Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, penetrating deep into France after heavy resistance.

And yesterday, on June 6th, 2023, after sudden, severe, and overwhelming softening of the target area from heavy sulfate solutions, Sutter Roseville physician, Dr. Bul, met me in Procedure Room 3 with his colonoscope, and... well, you get the picture. (He also got a few.)

I obviously wasn’t at Normandy, but on Monday night after the first weaponized grape cough syrup kicked in, I might have chosen the hostile beach landing given the option.

Unpleasant colonoscopy bowel preparation aside, the procedure itself was fairly boring. This was my first one, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but it mainly consisted of laying on my rolling bed in a curtained-off waiting area ahead of time, bored out of my mind because my phone was with my clothes in the plastic bag that I couldn’t reach.

They had originally told me I would be semi-conscious, in and out of it, but very comfortable and not feeling anything. They were going to accomplish this by giving me a mixture of fentanyl and something else. I was understandably concerned by their drug choice, but the male nurse assured me it was “the good stuff.” Hmm…

A little later into my incredibly boring waiting period, they came back through my curtain and told me they had an anesthesiologist who could stay for the whole procedure, so they could give me the even better stuff that knocks me completely out and wears off faster. It was an easy sell.

Whatever he put in my IV definitely did the trick, because he said, “Off you go,” and I woke up about two minutes later and they were all done. As I was coming back around, someone in the room said something funny, and I came back with possibly the wittiest retort ever uttered in that procedure room to date.

“What were my demands?” I said, expecting the room to erupt in laughter.

The general reply was, “Huh?”

Um, OK, either I’m slurring really badly, or that was only funny in my head. What was the joke again?

Wow, what the hell was in my IV?

I don’t really remember the bed ride back to my private curtained waiting area, but after two of the best apple juices I’ve ever had in my life, Son Number One showed up to shuttle me home.

Easy peasy. So, remember gentlemen, there’s nothing to fear. And they’ve recently lowered the initial screening age down to 45 years old, so don’t wait.

And if you happen to find yourself needing to storm a heavily fortified beach for some reason, I’d highly recommend bringing along a supply of sodium, potassium, and magnesium sulfates to slip into your enemy’s water supply first.

Talk about softening up your target. It’s basically a gastrointestinal hand grenade.

Holy wow.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Trick Waterpik

We have a problem with our Waterpik. The main problem is that I can’t seem to live without my Waterpik anymore.

I guess I should be clear and tell you it’s not really an actual Waterpik brand device. I guess the technical name for it would be “cordless water flosser,” or “oral irrigator,” or “flossing irrigator,” but I don’t call it that.

That would be like asking my wife, “Honey, where do we keep the cotton swabs?” She would ask if I was trying to perform surgery. “Where are the Q-tips?” is going to be a much straighter path to the location of our off-brand cotton swabs.

Anyway, back to our off-brand oral irrigator. Turns out Waterpiks are a lot like streaming television or smartphones. I was living just fine without it, then I got it, and now it would simply be impossible to live a normal, productive life without it.

The Waterpik is definitely lower on that scale than Hulu and my Samsung Galaxy, but it’s still on the scale.

Hence, my problem. The Waterpik quit working the other day. I charged it all the way up and then it wouldn’t start when I pushed the button. Nada. Just me hovering over the sink with the business end of a Waterpik in my mouth pushing a button that did nothing at all.

I flossed joylessly and went to bed sad about my oral hygiene situation. Our off-brand irrigator wasn’t too expensive (possible cause of the issue), so I figured I would order another one from Amazon the next day. However, when the next day rolled around it decided to start working again, as if it just needed one night off.

OK, I decided. I’ll chalk that up to a random electrical issue and pretend nothing happened. Now, normally devices that both spray water and go in your mouth are the last devices you want to have random electrical issues with, but it’s all low voltage, so what the heck.

It worked for a few more days with no issues, and then I decided to charge it up again. Wouldn’t you know it – last night, same problem. Push the on button – nothing comes on. But last night I wasn’t OK with giving up. I’d seen this problem before and overcome it somehow. But how did I overcome it? By giving up.

Last night I tried a different approach. I decided to stand at the sink and push the button about a thousand times. Now, this is a completely handheld device where the water reservoir attaches to the bottom of the handle/motor/pump section that has the nozzle on top of it. The water reservoir was empty and not attached while I was furiously pushing the button. I’m not an idiot!

On button push number 1004 the Waterpik sprang to life. Excellent! However, on push 1005, it did not turn off. It didn’t turn off on the subsequent two hundred pushes either.

Hmm… now I have the opposite problem. A Waterpik that won’t turn OFF. Well, I thought, I can at least get one more water flossing in before the battery dies. Don’t want to waste this opportunity, after all…

So, moments later, there I am, with a continuously running Waterpik motor and nozzle in one hand, and a full 300 ml water reservoir in the other. My plan was simple, keep the nozzle in my mouth while I connected the reservoir to the running pump with the easy quarter twist locking system.

Now, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about what happened next, mainly because I’m still in shock and not too sure. All I know it that I nearly lost and eye, I managed to turbo-waterboard myself with a needle stream of high-pressure pulsing water straight up my nose, and we now have dripping water on our mirror, our ceiling, the dog, inside the light fixture, and somehow, inside the closed medicine cabinet.

Perhaps if I’d bought an actual Waterpik brand, I wouldn’t be having this problem. I’m going to go on Amazon right now and fix that prob… ooh, the off-brand irrigators are a third of the price…

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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