Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Long Live the iPod Shuffle

I don’t like Apple products.

I realize I just made half of the population gasp, but it’s true, ApplePeople. There are actual humans out there that don’t think iPhones are just the best thing ever.

Apple is a cult, like CrossFit or “high-demand religions.” (I’d say you know who you are, but you don’t… yet.) Everything costs four to five times what it should, and doesn’t communicate well with anything other than other Apple products. (Much like high-demand religions, come to think of it.)

Let’s use text messages as a quick iPhone for-instance. Apple decided that having an Apple-only iMessage texting platform was a good idea. It wasn’t. The rest of the free world (using that term literally, cult members) uses the SMS texting platform.

Hey ApplePeople, has an outsider ever told you that they didn’t get your text? They weren’t lying. Your phone never sent it to them. Did you assume it was their fault because they have a stupid Samsung that doesn’t work right? It wasn’t. It was your fault. You can read that as many times as you need to.

Buried in your iMessage settings, six layers deep, is a button that should not even have to be there that says, “Send our ridiculous iMessage text as a real text if the other person doesn’t have an overpriced cult phone.” (It might be worded slightly differently.)

Oh, and don’t worry, you have to do the same thing to your iPad, but it’s more complicated.

And don’t even get me started on Ethan, the twenty-something “customer service Genius,” (currently gagging again at that title) at the Apple store the time I had to go with my mother-in-law. I’ve never met a human that was so smug about not being able to answer a SINGLE technical question I asked him. He was visibly shocked that I wanted to know about anything other than the color of her new computer. (Which she was buying because you stopped supporting her “old” one from two years ago.) I would have slapped Ethan, but I didn’t want to hear him scream.

All that being said, Apple, I will give credit where credit is most definitely due. I own an iPod Shuffle, 2nd Generation, released in September of 2006, and it is an absolutely amazing piece of equipment.

You probably stopped supporting it in October of 2006, but I don’t care, because it is bulletproof. And beautiful. And small.

So very, very small.

It’s smaller than a pack of matches. (Kids, you’ll need to get a size reference from your parents here. Matches are what people used to use to light their vapes, back when vapes were made of paper and you actually lit them on fire on purpose, instead of waiting for the crappy knock-off Chinese battery to light it on fire for you.)

My iPod Shuffle has no pesky screen. It’s a sleek piece of aluminum and white plastic with one set of selector buttons, two switches, and a headphone jack, because it’s old-school and doesn’t screw around with Bluetooth. It clips onto the pocket of my shorts and plays twenty songs in order, or on shuffle. It blares music through my headphones while I run, as loud as I can stand it, and I only have to charge it once every few months.

It is simple, and at the same time, amazing. I can’t speak for any of the other iPod Shuffle generations, but the Gen2 is phenomenal. The battery, the storage, the size and weight, the clip, the simplicity – it’s all perfection.

So, thank you, Apple, for the amazing iPod Shuffle. You help make my runs as enjoyable as runs can be.

Now please fix the damn texting thing. And fire that idiot, Ethan.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Duty-Free Shopping, Perhaps

I want to point out to the wonderful and kind folks over at the California Franchise Tax Board and the amazingly benevolent and totally cool (and not at all “universally disliked”) people at the IRS that the following tale could be completely hypothetical in nature.

Let’s just say, for the sake of telling a fun story, that my family recently traveled via our Chevrolet Suburban up to Oregon, where we have other family. We potentially traveled there to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. It was, hypothetically, a great trip!

If Son Number Two had happened to catch wind of a smokin’ deal that Verizon was having where he could somehow trade his current iPhone in as long as the screen wasn’t cracked and magically get the latest iPhone 13 for free, he would have been really excited about that.

The one catch to getting a “free” iPhone here in California with a possible Verizon program would be that you would still have to pay the sales tax on the $900 “value” (using that term ironically, Apple) of the phone. That could, in theory, run you as much as $92 in tax in some parts of the Golden State.

If Number Two happened to hear about this program the night before we left for the alleged trip, he would have been pestering me to take him to a Verizon store the minute we had a free minute. I would have buckled under his teenage endurance for pestering and taken him to a possible Verizon location close to our accommodations on Sunday.

We then might have been informed about the true nature of this hypothetically amazing deal, whereas every one of the family’s lines potentially had an $800 or $900 credit for a brand-new phone, due to our possible customer loyalty.

If that had been the case, we surely would have all arrived at that same Verizon store on Monday, fifteen or so minutes before they opened, ready to upgrade all of our phones for free. And during the ostensibly fictional transaction, we may have discovered that my wife’s phone was ineligible due to a previously unnoticed small crack in the corner of the screen.

Getting some fictional advice from a helpful Verizon employee we’ll call Mike, we would then have tracked down a brand-new older model phone, still in the box, being sold, potentially, four miles away on Facebook Marketplace, and jumped in the car to race over and buy it with cash for far less than the sales tax would have been had this alleged transaction been taking place one state to the south.

And after spending, potentially, three hours of our Monday morning at the Verizon store and/or on Janet’s porch paying cash for a phone her daughter ended up never using, we might have walked out with five top-of-the-line, brand-spankin’-new cell phones for a hypothetical grand total cost of $175 in data transfer fees and cash for Janet’s daughter’s phone she didn’t want.

I would have been very pleased, ostensibly, because what we would have avoided, in theory, was upward of $450 in California sales taxes by having this entire theoretical situation occur on the fertile soil of our friendly neighbors to the north.

And if I had purchased a new wallet-style phone case for my wife on Amazon Prime and had it shipped to our Oregon accommodations, I would have, in theory, also avoided paying any sales tax on that.

Had any of this actually taken place, rest assured that come January, I would be reporting those sales to the IRS and the California Tax Board so that I made darn sure to pay 100% of my fair share of the tax revenue they so richly deserve. But, of course, as stated, this tale is speculative. Merely a “for-instance.”

Later that week I also hypothetically put new sales tax-free tires on the Suburban. They rode, in theory, quite nicely back down south.

Duty-free has a nice relaxing hum to it.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Ask Smidge - The Turkey Edition - Repost

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and if you’re like most of our Ask Smidge readers, you’re just now realizing that you might have to start cooking a big meal in a few hours from now. Just like last year, your extended family may not be able to join you – not because of COVID lockdown restrictions, but because all the time apart has made them realize they never really liked you that much.

So, this whole meal might be up to you to prepare. It’s a scary situation. Believe me, we understand. Many of you know nothing about cooking anything other than Pop-Tarts and Cheerios, so naturally you have turned to the only truly trusted source for all things culinary – the Ask Smidge advice column.

Our asksmidge@gmail.com inbox has been inundated with poultry-related questions. You ask, we answer! (As always in a fact-based, scientific, and completely non-made-up-on-the-spot manner. We’re here to help, after all.)

 

 

Smidge,

I know absolutely nothing about cooking a turkey. What temperature do I use and how long should I cook it?

Novice in Norfolk

 

Dear Novice,

There is nothing to it. First you have to weigh the bird. Do this while it is still alive, so you can just walk it onto your bathroom scale. Once you remove the feathers and the feet, you’ll cook the bird on high for 90 minutes per pound. Carve and enjoy.

 

 

 

Smidge,

This is my first time doing anything at all with a turkey. We bought a frozen one at the store this week. Do I need to thaw it before cooking?

Frozen in Fort Worth

 

Dear Frozen,

Thawing is a personal choice. A thawed bird will be slightly juicier, but a frozen turkey will have a crispier skin. If you put it in the oven frozen, simply add five minutes per pound to your cook time.

 

 

 

Smidge,

I have never purchased or cooked the turkey before, and I don’t know what size to get. Do they even come in different sizes? We have three teenage boys and my sister has two teenage girls and a grown son. Please help.

Shopping in Santa Barbara

 

Dear Shopping,

Yes, turkeys do come in various sizes. Economy, Compact, Intermediate, Standard, Midsize, Full Size SUV, Convertible, Luxury, and Luxury Elite Platinum. You want to plan for about ten pounds of bird for every high schooler, so look for one at your store in the 70-80 pound range to be safe.

 

 

 

Smidge,

I’ve helped with the turkey before, but I’ve never been in charge of the stuffing, and I’m lost. Where do I start?

Breadless in Bangor

 

Dear Breadless,

Stuffing could not be simpler, because the turkey does all the work. Stuffing is nothing more than full-size dinner rolls that cooked down inside the bird. As the turkey cooks, the rolls break apart naturally and form into the smaller stuffing pieces that you know and love. Just buy a couple extra packages of dinner rolls and cram as many of them as you can into that bad boy before you pop it in the oven. The turkey does the rest!

 

 

 

Smidge,

I’m in charge of everything this year, and I don’t know anything about how to make gravy. Do you even make it, or do you buy it? Help!

Dry Dinner in Denver

 

Dear Dry Dinner,

As with stuffing, gravy is a breeze because the bird does all the work. Gravy is not sold in stores, because it is a natural byproduct of the turkey cooking process. All turkeys are fed a rich diet of corn starch, flour, and butter from a young age, so as they cook, the carcass secretes the ready-to-eat gravy. Yum! That’s why you always cook a turkey in one of those big pans. Makes sense, right? Enjoy!

 

 

 

Smidge,

I’m cooking the bird for the first time this year, so I’m thinking about switching it up and deep frying it in oil. What do you think?

Oiled in Omaha

 

Dear Oiled,

Deep frying a turkey can be a great option, depending on where you live. You’re in Nebraska, where it’s likely to be cold this Thanksgiving, so I’d say go for it. If you were in a warmer climate, I would probably advise against it. That’s because there is a 100% chance that you will set your house on fire when attempting a turkey deep fry. You folks in the frigid Midwest will enjoy the extra warmth, while the raging grease fire would just be an inconvenient distraction for people in Florida and California, really adding no benefit to the day.

 

 

 

Well, there you have it, America. You’re all set to cook the perfect turkey and have an enjoyable day with whomever still wants to come to your house this year.


Have a tasty Thanksgiving!

 

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Please Stop Disclaiming

There is something we need to fix, America. Everything else seems to be running like a Swiss watch out there except this one item. Can we please tell the radio stations they can stop saying, “Message and data rates may apply” when they ask us to text or call into a contest?

I mean, come on! Aren’t we past that by now? Are there actually cell phone users out there that don’t understand how their message and data plans work? And maybe more to the point, who is still out there worrying about their plan’s limits? I guess data is one thing, but do cell companies even have limited text plans anymore?

And why do the radio stations even feel the need to add that disclaimer? What are they afraid of? Someone suing them for not knowing, let alone explaining to them, how their own cell plan works? Who in the hell is going to win that court case?

Plaintiff: “Your honor, this radio station owes me $57.23, because when I texted into their Workday Payday contest it put me over the limit on both my messages and my data.”

Judge: “You are a moron. Leave my courtroom before I have you arrested for being too stupid to be left on your own.”

And why did the radio station lawyers pick that one obvious thing to point out over every other obvious radio station disclaimer they could have?

Caution, you probably won’t love 100% of these songs.

Caution, listening to our ads might give you the impression that you have a rare disease that no one has ever heard of. Talk to your doctor about endocrine pancreatic insufficiency today.

Caution, playing air drums in your car at a red light may permanently ruin your chances with that good looking stranger to your left.

Caution, listening to this station at an extremely loud volume can make your wife annoyed at you later in life when you can’t hear anything she says from the other room.

Seriously, guys, please! Message and data rates haven’t applied in a long time. Let it go.

Now, can we move to the all-Christmas format already? It’s almost Thanksgiving.

Caution, this station will make your wife bug you about putting up the Christmas lights.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Veterans Day

I am proud to say I have quite a few veterans in my family tree, including my own father, his father, and my wife’s grandfather. The old war story that always makes me smile, however, is one from my mom’s side of the tree.

Brad Dolliver, my mom’s Uncle Brad, was a WWII and Korean War veteran. He was the Captain of a B-24 Liberator in WWII, a bomber named the “What’s Cookin’ Doc?,” complete with Bugs Bunny painted on the nose.

He received his plane and his crew here in the U.S., and they had to fly from his home state of Colorado to Kansas for training, and then make the long trip overseas. On the day they were leaving, he called his wife, who worked at the courthouse, and told her to come out onto the front steps on Main Street at noon.

She assumed he was going to drive up with flowers or a box of candy, so you can imagine her surprise when Uncle Brad’s shiny silver B-24 roared over the center of town, less than 500 feet above Main Street. He was so low she said she could clearly see the face of his tail gunner, smiling and waving from his little bubble window in the back of the plane.

When Uncle Brad got to the end of the street, he pulled back on all the throttles momentarily, then slammed them all forward to the stops, backfiring all four engines on his way out of town. An exhaustive “I Love You” courtesy of Pratt & Whitney, and a crazy-dangerous stunt.

He and his crew continued their low-altitude midwestern barn burning run all the way across two states. He was flying so low over some farms that his tail gunner radioed up to the cockpit to announce that the prop wash from the engines was picking chickens up off the ground and flipping them around in the air behind the plane.

Captain Dolliver only decided to put a little more sky between his plane and the ground when the tail gunner radioed back over Kansas to let them know they’d just sent a farmer diving for his life into the dirt off a moving tractor.

(That incident could very well have been the first chance meeting between the families, since my dad’s side were Kansas farmers, but, alas, we’ll never know.)

Brad said, when interviewed later in life about the flight, quite simply, that none of them knew if they were ever coming back, so they were having as much fun as they could along the way.

As it turns out, thankfully, his whole crew did make it back. Captain Dolliver and his nine men flew thirty missions over Europe, only sustaining one single crew injury, when flak shrapnel hit one of his gunners on their final mission over Germany. That was an amazing feat, since their campaign tour included being shot down on Christmas Day, 1944.

They were hit hard by anti-aircraft fire that knocked out three of his four engines, and he knew they couldn’t make it back to their airfield in England. He was losing altitude fast and heading for the Allied lines in France when he told the crew to bail out. There was heavy ground fog, and he had his eye on a large clearing, but had no way of knowing if it was a field or a lake.

His crew unanimously disobeyed his order and they all stayed with him in the crippled plane. As he recalled, he made the smoothest landing of his entire career that day, thankfully, in what turned out to be a plowed field. He and his crew hitched a ride with a French farmer in a pickup truck, and Uncle Brad assumed they were being taken to the nearest Allied forces.

Fortunately, the navigator didn’t stop doing his job after he got out of the plane. He was paying attention, and informed Captain Dolliver that they were being driven in the wrong direction, toward the Germans. The way Uncle Brad told the next part of the story speaks volumes about his generation and their matter-of-fact style. As he put it, “Somehow my .45 ended up in that Frenchman’s ear, and we got that truck turned around the right way.”

Got to love it.

Uncle Brad and his crew were some of the lucky ones that returned home from the wars they fought. Tomorrow, on the very special day we set aside to remember and thank our veterans each year, let us not forget those who gave their lives for our liberty, and the liberty of other nations. It’s the men and women that no one ever got a chance to thank who deserve our utmost appreciation. Their lives were cut short on our behalf, and that is a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

I can’t imagine a sacrifice more grave or selfless than the one the soldier makes when he or she leaves their family behind to fight on foreign soil on our behalf. The physical, mental, and emotional toll must be staggering, but we are reminded of the caliber of people who stand at our defense when we hear them say, as Brad Dolliver said, “We were just doing our jobs.”

The humility and grace of our nation’s finest always strikes and inspires me, and I am always at a loss for words of gratitude when I get the chance to express my appreciation. It’s always just a simple “thank you,” because anything else I would or could try to convey would fall well short of the reverence deserved.

So, from this grateful American to all you VFW’s out there, all I can say is, “Thank you for your service.”

God bless you all.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021

An Open Letter to the Medical Insurance Industry

Dear Medical Insurance Folks,

Do you guys remember a couple years ago when I took all three of our boys in for their annual “wellness visits?” Those visits that are supposed to be free under your plan in an attempt to make us think that you care about us getting regular check-ups and staying healthy?

Remember when the doctor noticed a wart on Son Number Two’s foot and offered to freeze it off real quick? I was there, so I remember. He grabbed a spray can of freon (or something else really cold) out of the cabinet on the wall and sprayed the wart. The entire process, including asking if he wanted it done, took less than fifteen seconds.

Do you guys remember that the visit then became a “surgery” in your insanely whacked out system, and you charged me $450 for his free annual wellness visit, instead of the customary zero dollars?

Yeah, that was fun. Good times.

I thought your system was broken back then, but Monday you proved to me that I hadn’t seen anything yet.

Monday was annual wellness visit day, and their doctor confirmed medically what my wife and I had suspected – their feet are huge! He was also able to confirm that Son Number One has a very mild case of regular old teenage acne. While he was checking him out, he wrote him a prescription for some acne cream that is a little stronger than the over-the-counter stuff, hoping to just completely clear him up.

When he examined Son Number Two, he noted that he had an even milder case of teenage acne than his older brother, but asked me if I wanted him to prescribe the same thing.

“Sure,” I said, naively, not believing that even your malfunctioning system could screw something as simple as this up. Ha! I went to the pharmacy later that day to get my dose of reality slapped across my face.

“I have two prescriptions to pick up for my sons. They are both the same thing.”

“OK, yes, we have them right here. This one will be $10, and this one is $147.53.”

I am not making this up.

“Huh?”

“Yeah, that’s weird,” said the pharmacist, frowning at the computer screen. “They are the same exact thing. What happened there? Do you have individual deductibles?”

“Yes, but neither of them have racked anything up this year. We haven’t been to the doctor at all.”

“Weird! Let me run it again… nope, came up the same.”

“OK, well, I think I’ll just take the $10 one and they can just share.”

The nice pharmacist promised that she would keep looking into why the prices were so whacked out, but she hasn’t gotten back to me yet. Do you know why I think that is? Because she can’t figure out your insane system either.

Two boys on the exact same insurance plan get prescribed the exact same medicine on the exact same office visit, and Son Number One’s bill is $10, and Number Two’s is $150. How on God’s green earth can you look me in the eye and tell me this system is working?

The only possible explanation I can come up with is you think the acne cream is some sort of follow-up treatment for his wart “surgery.”

Your system is completely and utterly broken.

I’d ask you to fix it, but I have a strong hunch that “broken” is exactly the way you want it.

Kindly bite me,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Try Number Two

Son Number Two is getting close to being off the Christmas list. He’s making me go to the DMV more than I should have to. The DMV! That’s almost grounds for being kicked out of the house.

Because we just love inordinately high auto insurance premiums, we’re going to let him get his driver’s license and have two teenage boys on our policy. Son Number Three has already been informed that he needs to either win the lottery or help me rob a bank before he can be the third teen driver.

Anyway, Number Two just turned 15-1/2, and off we went last week to the DMV to take his written test and get his learner’s permit. While I appreciate any government organization’s efforts to make sure you are a legal citizen, the DMV’s system for getting a teen driver’s license is a little over the top.

As the parent, I should simply be able to show my official documentation that I am who I say I am, and then tell you who this kid is. That should be the end of it. That would make sense. Instead, we have to prove that the kid standing next to me was actually born, and then prove that he lives with me, and then prove that we both live in California. OK, fine, but without any sort of official photo identification for the kid, there is a certain level of guessing still happening on the DMV’s part. I mean, without photo ID, I could take your kid in and pretend they’re mine.

But when the kid actually has official photo ID, in the form of a valid U.S. passport, why the hell would Shirley behind the counter with her ridiculous cat pictures on her coffee mug care for even half a second whether the birth certificate that matches the name on the freakin’ passport is a photocopy or not!?!

But I digress…

Shirley’s supervisor was able to find “a workaround” to a problem that never existed in the first place, and the paperwork was filed. The $38.00 was paid, and it was time to get Son Number Two his permit. Just need to head over to those computers and handle that written test.

Twenty minutes later, Number Two found me in my super-comfortable plastic chair to let me know that, “Yeah, so I kinda didn’t pass…”

“Could you speak up a little, Son? It sounded like you said you didn’t pass the test.”

“Well, there were all these stupid questions about how far you have to stop from a safety zone, and the allowable blood-alcohol percentages if you’re 21 or 18. None of that stuff was in my online course.”

“Hmm… Is that right? Is that the same online course I saw you taking on your computer while you were also looking down at your phone?”

“Well, I mean, I might have been playing Clash Royale sometimes when I had to listen to the long stuff, but I was listening the whole time. I totally studied.”

[sound of tiny blood vessels exploding inside my brain]

After some time to relax a little and get a quick CT scan, I informed Son Number Two that I would drive him back to the DMV one more time for the written test. He promises that he has studied “super hard this time.” He knows he’s on thin ice and if he fails a second time, he’ll need to figure out another way to get there for try number three.

We have waited the required seven days, and we go back tomorrow to take the test again. Supposedly, we just walk in and get in line for a computer, but I swear, if I have to wait to go to a window and deal with Shirley again, Number Two is walking home, passing grade or not.

We’ll see about any Christmas presents.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Deal of the Century

So, there I was, putting six million miles on my car, driving all over the place yesterday buying used snowboard boots. You see, we have a thirteen-year-old, Son Number Three.

The next time you come across a thirteen-year-old boy, have them sit down for a few minutes and observe their feet. You can actually see them growing. If you can keep them still long enough, you’ll witness their toes popping right out the front of the pair of sneakers their parents bought a week ago.

Over this past year and a half I have been slowly but surely outfitting all three boys with boards, boots, and helmets so that I never have to fill out another ski rental form, hopefully for the rest of my life. If you are willing to do the searching, and you get lucky, you can get almost brand-new gear for less than a few rental fees.

Yesterday was going well, and I was able to score one pair of boots that will fit Son Number Three now, and one pair that will fit him fifteen minutes from now. I was back home in the afternoon and very tired of driving. I plopped down on the couch and got on Facebook Marketplace one last time to check the listing on a pair of his old boots I was selling, that his growing toes, luckily, had not rendered useless.

Then I saw a listing I hadn’t seen that morning.

“$40, Auburn, CA. K2 snowboard, Salomon bindings, size 11.5 boots, helmet, gloves.”

Huh? $40? For which thing? He’s listing everything at once. For $40? That can’t be right. Let me read that again…

OK, so it shows a picture of all the stuff. The boots are even strapped into the bindings… it isn’t saying anything about separate sales. Just lists everything and says $40…

This can’t be right… Let me just text this guy… and then I saw it. “Listed 26 minutes ago.”

Oh, holy crap! This is brand new. This just showed up. No one has seen it yet. This could be for real!

Auburn is 18 miles from my house, right up I-80.

Me on Facebook messaging app – “Hi Larry, is this package still available?”

Immediate response from Larry, which is unheard of on Facebook Marketplace – “Yes.”

OK, OK, play it cool, man. Don't spook him... “Great. Is there any chance you're available right now? I happen to have some time right now and can jump in the car right now.”

I would have left my own open-heart surgery to get in the car. For those of you who don’t ski or snowboard, allow me to explain. What I was looking at in the picture was no less than $1000 worth of gear, purchased new. Sold used at reasonable prices on Facebook Marketplace, it was anywhere from $200 to $400 worth of gear.

I didn’t even want the snowboard. I wanted the bindings, maybe, but it was really just the principle of the whole thing. And if the boots really were a men’s 11.5, Son Number Three would probably be able to use them sometime next week.

I hit send on the text and then endured five minutes of agony.

Larry – “Yes, let me know when you're getting in the car and I'll text you my address.”

Why the hell wouldn’t you just tell me your address now?!? OK, OK, remain calm. Play it cool…

Me – [already in the car and doing 90 mph toward Auburn] “OK, great. Just getting in the car now. What's your address? No big deal. It's all good. Everything is cool and casual. Totally all good and cool.”

Larry – [sends me address]

Me – [has minor in-car early celebration dance-a-thon as I type the address into Google maps while punching it up past the triple-digit mark.] Kids, don’t try this at home, but I honestly figured if I got pulled over, I could show the cop what was happening and probably get a code-three police escort the rest of the way.

Eighteen miles and three minutes later I slid around the corner onto Larry’s street and then forced myself to slow down and drive like everything was cool. I pulled up to Larry’s house very calmly and casually, and did my best not to sprint to the door.

Larry came out of the house to meet me, carrying everything that was in the picture, all hooked together in one big bundle. Sure enough, it was a K2 snowboard ($500 new), big enough for Number Three to grow into, Salomon bindings ($300) that were perfect for me, Burton Moto boots ($250) that really were a men’s 11.5, an XL helmet ($100) that will actually fit one of our XL heads, and a pair of Burton gloves ($40), just for fun.

Stay calm. Everything is cool…

“This looks great, Larry. I think this will work for my youngest son.”

“Well, it was my son’s stuff, but he shattered his heel jumping off the roof of a church,” said Larry, with some obvious residual disgust regarding the incident still showing on his face.

“Wow, no kidding.” Your son sounds smart…

“Yep, so he hasn’t used any of it in a few years.”

“Oh, wow, that’s too bad.” Your son isn’t home right now, is he? He can’t be OK with this price…

“I don’t know too much about this stuff,” said Larry, “but it all looks like it will still work for your son.”

“Yep, I think it will.” Deep breaths. Remain calm…

**moment of truth** “So, you said $40?” I asked, very cool, calm, and casual.

“Yep,” said Larry.

Me, reaching into my pocket while trying not to scream, “Holy crap!”

“Here you go.” OK, well, I should go before your son hobbles out here swinging a crutch and yelling NOOOOOO!!!

“We’re actually moving to North Carolina soon,” said Larry.

OK, great. Please just take these two twenties from me so I can run to my car and drive away before anyone inside your house realizes what you’ve done... “Wow. Good for you. Good luck with the move and safe travels.”

“Thanks,” said Larry, claiming his prize money. “You too.”

My travels will be a lot safer once I’m done sliding out of your neighborhood and back on the freeway and I’m sure your son isn’t chasing after me… “Thanks. I’d better get back. Take care.”

Just walk casually back to the car… Don’t run… Be cool… OK, start the car…

[sound of my screeching tires]

What a thrill! I think I finally understand the extreme couponing phase my wife went through a long time ago, when we ended up with twenty-six bottles of ranch dressing for seventeen cents. It wasn’t that we needed any ranch dressing, it was that it only cost seventeen cents. She knew how much it would cost retail and simply couldn’t leave that ranch dressing on the shelf.

I get it now, honey! And you’ll be happy to know the boys are all set for this winter.

Assuming we can keep them off the church roof.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Let Ugly Dogs Lie

I blatantly lied to someone’s face this morning, and they knew it, and I’m not sure how I feel about it…

There I was, walking our dog, Remington. We call her Remi for short. She is a four-year-old yellow Labrador retriever.

Now, I’m not telling you this story to brag about our dog, but I need you to know some things for context. These are just pure, unbiased facts:

Our dog is gorgeous. She is a purebred Lab with papers. She is the picture of what a Lab – America’s favorite dog – is supposed to look like. She could be the poster girl on a bag of premium dog food or on the front cover of Field & Stream. Her coat is shiny. Her coloring is perfection. She runs with me three times a week, so she is muscular and lean.

When she sits up tall and looks at you, you almost want to salute her. When she lays next to you, you are comforted, because you know all is right with the world because amazing dogs like her exist. Again, these are just the unbiased facts that you need for this story, nothing more.

She’s also really smart, and although that played a role in what happened this morning, it doesn’t really factor into the main point of the story. I just thought you should know.

So, there I was, walking Remi. We were almost home when a lady came around the corner toward us. She was walking what I am still assuming was a canine, but it is very hard to think of Remi and that thing as the same species. For the sake of the story, I will refer to it as a dog.

If this dog was full sized, you would run from it in fear for your very life, thinking it had just escaped from Hell. Thankfully for the world, it was the size of a shoebox, so instead, you just recoil slightly at the sight of it, trying not to be rude, but desperately wanting to avert your eyes.

It didn’t have fur. It had hair that was sparse and wiry. Each hair was spaced much further apart from the next hair than it should have been, like a child’s drawing of a very ugly dog. The front of the dog was much wider than the rear for some reason, and its front legs were bowlegged, like an old cowhand named Slim. Its face gave you the distinct impression that, among other things, it could have been a cross between a rat terrier and an actual rat.

It was butt ugly.

Remi, when confronted by small dog breeds, simply ignores them. Ninety-nine percent of the time the small dog will be growling and yapping at her, as per typical small dog protocol, and she couldn’t care less. She acts as if they are not even there. This situation was immediately different. As soon as the woman and her dog came into view, I felt Remi tense up on the leash.

We said good morning to each other, and then as we passed, the woman forced my hand.

“What a beautiful dog,” she said.

Well, crap.

I didn’t feel comfortable just saying thank you. I felt like that would be rude. I mean, she had a “dog” also. For a brief moment I considered, “Thanks. Is yours a dog?” but that seemed possibly more rude and definitely more awkward.

“Thanks, you too.”

It just came out of my mouth. I said it right to her face. Then I quickly averted my gaze from both of them. Was it the shame of the lie? Was it the embarrassment about the truth? I don’t know how to feel about it.

I mean, she obviously knew I was lying. She knows her dog is the opposite of beautiful. Does the lie make her smile, thinking, “Oh, he’s being nice. Isn’t that sweet.”

Or does it make her sad, since it was obvious that I was lying and it forces her, once again, to confront the fact that her dog looks almost exactly like that monkey-lizard thing that sat next to Jabba the Hut, stealing food and mocking visitors.

As we passed, and the little monkey-lizard growled, Remi actually growled back, barked, and made a move for it. I was very surprised, and pulled her back and swung her around to look at me. She whined and shook, like she does when the garbage truck comes to steal our hard-earned refuse.

She stared wide-eyed at me, trying to get loose of my grasp. It was as if she was trying to tell me, “We need to get outta here, man. That thing isn’t a dog.”

I told you she was smart.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

This is Taking a Toll on Me

I went over a toll bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area at the end of last month. They have completely done away with toll booth operators, in favor of taking a picture of your license plate and mailing you a bill. With no one there manning the booth, I guess they just expect you to be rude to yourself on the way through now.

I always figured they were still collecting tolls just to pay the toll workers in some insane government catch-22. I just assumed, based on Bay Area traffic volume, that each toll worker must make about $3000 an hour. I guess that wasn’t the case.

So, since they got rid of the workers, I guess all the money just goes to the bridge now. What a fun way to pay for a bridge that has already been fully paid for by the tolls about six zillion times.

Anyway, I got the $6.00 automated bridge toll invoice from Bay Area Fastrak in the mail the other day, and I picked it up yesterday morning to pay it. You just have to go to bayareafastrak.org and enter your credit card info. Neat-o.

As I was about to go to the website, the license plate number listed on the bill caught my eye. I was driving our Honda Accord that day, but the license plate number listed was the one on our Ford Expedition. Hmm… Did they just look up our name with the Honda plate and then the computer defaulted to another one of our cars when creating the bill? That would be weird, but plausible.

Then I noticed in the upper right corner of the bill there was a downward-facing picture of the front of our car going through the toll booth. There was the hood and bumper of our Accord with our Ford’s license plate clearly visible below the Honda emblem.

What the hell??? Did some prankster in our neighborhood sneak onto our driveway one night and swap our plates around? No. Who would do that and why?

Wait a minute, here. That’s not the date I was in the Bay Area. And this says I went over the Antioch bridge. That is not the bridge I was on.

I don’t think that’s my Honda. Did someone steal our license plate and attach it to their Honda?

Nope, all plates accounted for.

Hang on a second. Let me put on another pair of readers and double my magnification on this picture… Son of a biscuit, that’s not a C. It’s a G! Some Honda owner has a plate that is only one very similar-looking letter different than mine.

Dammit! This invoice is going to be $6 plus $25 more if I just ignore it, and I think that’s just for the first month.

I guess I am going to bayareafastrack.org after all… Oh, look. What a shock. There is no place on this fabulous website to handle this. Yay, I get to call them!

Thank you calling the Bay Area Fastrak customer service center. We are currently experiencing longer than average wait times to speak with a customer service representative. We recommend calling back later in the week when we anticipate a shorter wait time, or you can visit us at our website, www.bayareafastrak.org.

How the hell can you anticipate shorter wait times later in the week? Do you mostly send people someone else’s invoice over the weekends? And I already went to the website. There’s no section for, “Hey, you butt munches, this isn’t my car!”

Press one for English.

If you have a question about your notice of toll evasion, or would like to pay your notice of toll evasion fines over the phone, press one. If you have a question about…

Sixty-seven phone menu tree branches and a full five minutes later, Your wait time in approximately fifteen minutes.

What followed was possibly the worst hold music to ever exist. It was the same fifteen-second tune (I had time to count), played over and over on a loop, and it sounded like it was being piped through one of those giant WWII-era military loudspeakers, except the loudspeaker had been hit by a mortar shell. It was so tinny, my dog ran out of the room.

Every sixty seconds, or four “musical” loops, the recorded voice would come back on and tell me all about how great the website was and how I could definitely handle my transaction there. Then it would update my wait time by subtracting one minute from the previous estimate.

But the twenty seconds it took the voice to tell me about the website every minute was never factored into the declining minute timer. So, the sixteen times I heard about how great the website was (they told me twice that I had one minute remaining on my wait) really added more than five minutes to my wait. (I had time to do the math, while I prayed that my ears would fall off.)

Amazingly, when my friendly toll customer service professional finally came on the line, it was very easy to clear up the problem. I told her it wasn’t my car and that I thought the license plate was one letter off from mine. She had immediate access to multiple pictures of the car on her computer and was able to zoom in on the rear plate and read it clearly. It was, in fact, a G and not a C.

She also laughed at one point when looking at her pictures and said, “Oh, yeah, ha! That’s a guy wearing a white shirt,” as if that was further evidence that this was a mistake.

Umm… you’re on the phone with me. I’m clearly a guy. Do I not sound like I own any white shirts? Why would that… never mind. Whatever. She removed the charge from my account. That’s all I care about.

So, Bay Area Fastrak, I just want to thank you for the twenty-eight minutes of my life that it took to fix a problem that you created and had absolutely nothing to do with me in the first place.

And just a thought here, but how about we invest some of those (literally) millions of dollars y’all are collecting every month in a camera system that can tell a C from a G? That would be great.

But in the meantime, feel free to send my actual toll bill from the end of last month to someone with a similar license plate as my Honda. I appreciate it!

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Voodoo Economics

The last time I bought a Powerball lottery ticket was back at the beginning of this year. In my January 20, 2021 column, Power Mega Super Smidge Lotto Ball Bucks, I discussed the phenomenon of the nearly exponential increase in the jackpots of these big lotteries when they get above a certain threshold.

It’s because many, many folks like myself will never buy a ticket for one of these big lotteries until the jackpot gets so ridiculously large that you just have to. And once you do, you won’t stop buying them again until someone wins. (Spoiler alert: it won’t be you or me, but we’re going to do it anyway, just in case.)

Well, we are there once again, with the current jackpot for tonight’s Powerball drawing estimated at $570 million. So today I bought a ticket again, and I’m feeling pretty good about it because I just got a major sign from the universe.

You see, just a few short days ago, while that jackpot was skyrocketing upward, a recent lottery number winner, Hidago Daniel, whose name was the first among winners, was leaving a comment on my January 20 column:

I never use to believe in lottery winning spell until i met Lord Zuma who help me to win the lottery number, This is a great testimony on how i won $100,000 in my play lottery in the mega million lottery jackpot , I took an advice from someone called Wilson the person who talked about this great voodoo spell caster called Lord Zuma the person placed a testimonies on a blog also on a facebook saying how Lord Zuma helped him win the lottery by sending him the winning number i was curious and i thought it was all joke not until i contacted this spell caster to know for myself how this work cause i have spend a lot buying tickets and i never win. I contacted him and he told me the necessary thing that need to be done and i did it and he told me to wait for 2days and truly he gave me the winning numbers to play the lottery which i did, Can you believe my name was the first among winners. He told me (my son all i need you to do for me is make sure that you share this testimonies to others so that they can also win the lottery cause i do not have much time to spell on the internet) so that is why i am sharing this testimony with you that if you want to win the lottery this is the way online tips can not help you,, i will forever be grateful to you, Email him for your own winning lottery numbers, He alone have the winning numbers to win the lottery, Because he is a gifted human being who is fully blessed to help other who are in need, All you need to do is to contact this man and make your life easy and wealthy. His email address: herbalspiritualhealing@gmail.com and whatsapp number +15068001746 For all problems and pains to be over i win my game.

There’s $570 million on the line and I now have a Canadian voodoo spiritual healing herbalist short-term internet spell caster named Lord Zuma on my side, ready to help me win!

I’m not sure how my man Voodoo Zuma makes a living if he doesn’t use his extraordinary powers to win the lottery for himself, but it sounds like this service is completely free, which is sweet!

I’m going to get a hold of him right now and check my numbers. If they’re no good, I’ll be sure to get a second ticket with the correct ones.

What could possibly go wrong?

Do me a favor, though, and find your own guy. I call dibs on the Lotto Lord.

I don’t want to share.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Hoarding Failure

My wife went to Costco the other day. We don’t do a Costco run more than once a month, max, so we always buy a couple packs of toilet paper and a couple packs of paper towels whenever we’re there.

She was stopped by the Costco toilet paper police and told she could only have one pack, because people are hoarding again.

C’mon, people! Are we really going to do this again? Didn’t we all learn the lesson in early 2020? COVID does not require more toilet paper! What is the matter with you?

Speaking from recent personal experience, having spent eighteen magical days inside my house while COVID kept me glued to our horizontal furniture, I can say without question that toilet paper is not what you need when you have the Vid.

In fact, I needed far less toilet paper than a normal 2+ week period, because I didn’t eat anything for about a week and a half. So, America, if you are finding yourselves once again concerned about the current state of COVID, I have a few suggestions for things to hoard, if hoarding is what makes you feel better.

Buy all the cough syrup you can find. It doesn’t help, but it makes you feel like you’re at least doing something to fight off the hellacious coughing fits.

Hoard Advil. You are going to have some serious all-over body aches. A little Advil will not be enough Advil, trust me.

Stock up on chicken noodle soup. It was about all I could eat for a week when I finally decided that I needed to eat something. And as your grandmother will tell you, chicken noodle soup is every bit as good as antibiotics in its healing powers.

If you want to spend your money, spend it on streaming services. You’re going to need to subscribe to all of them to have enough shows to watch while you melt into your couch from the fatigue.

Buy extra sheets. I was a feverish sweaty mess for the first week. You don’t want to be doing laundry when you have COVID. You don’t want to be doing anything. Make it as easy on yourself as possible.

While you’re at it, buy more pajamas. Same reason as the sheets.

And lastly, you should buy all the Gatorade you can find. Hoard the crap out of that magical sports drink. I’m pretty sure it kept me alive.

Just please stop hoarding the toilet paper. You don’t need more than normal, I promise, and your hoarding is making it difficult for those of us with teenagers that actually need those big Costco packs.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Property Mismanagement - Repost

This month marks the second anniversary of us living in a meth-free neighborhood (as far as we know). We were unable to celebrate the first anniversary due to COVID restrictions, but we’re partying this year! Here’s the account of what went down two years ago:

 

We had a neighborhood barbecue a while back. It was on a sunny Sunday afternoon this past March, and it was the kind of day just tailor-made for an impromptu get-together out on the street.

We didn’t grill burgers or dogs, though. We cooked a Prius.

Well, I shouldn’t say “we” cooked a Prius, so much as, the meth addict felon who lives down the street cooked his Prius. We just all came out to watch.

That fine afternoon, Sir Meths-a-Lot had somehow caught something in the middle of his driveway on fire. He remedied that situation by intentionally kicking over a large can of gasoline at the top of his driveway, which ran down into the fire and strangely enough, started a much, much larger fire.

By the time I saw the giant plume of black smoke rising above the rooftops, the entire driveway was burning, his Prius, which was parked at the curb in front of the driveway, was ablaze, and a flaming river of gasoline was running down the gutter toward two of his neighbor’s cars.

Good times.

His also-a-meth-head-but-so-far-only-committed-misdemeanors brother managed to get the fiery river put out before any more cars caught on fire, and it wasn’t too much longer before a couple garden hoses had the entire barbecue extinguished and Captain Felony Meth could concentrate on shouting at one of his neighbors to – and I’m not making this up – “mind your own business, bro.”

This fun Sunday afternoon get-together came after at least a year of other amusing antics and shenanigans over at Methtopia, including, but not limited to the following (and keep in mind, I am not making any of this up):

Fights on the front lawn

Homeless lady living in her truck out front and using their potty

Power washing the house/driveway/street at midnight

Throwing two dozen eggs from the side yard onto the neighbor’s house at 3 A.M.

Vacuuming the street with a Hoover upright

Mowing the street with an electric lawnmower

Power washing the lawn

Oh, and a full guns-drawn SWAT team raid on the house

That was all just neighborly fun and games, but apparently I have a limit, and as we found out, that limit is lighting the street on fire.

After the barbecue that no one was invited to, I did some internet research and came up with a few phone numbers. I texted around until I found the property owner and told him that his renters just lit his entire driveway on fire and it was time for them to find other, more suitable accommodations.

He then told me he only managed the property for his son, who owned it, but he would go check things out that day.

When I inquired back about the property visit, he texted back, “Everything looked fine. No problems.”

I decided at that point that an in-person meeting might be appropriate.

At the meeting, which took place at my kitchen table, I informed Roy of all the silly things that have been going on over at his son’s rental property, and that it was definitely time for the renters to fire up the old Prius, as it were, and head on out.

He amazingly tried to make the case that they were really quite nice, but I finally convinced him to give them notice. We settled on a charitable thirty days’ notice, even though three days were all that was required by law, given the many, many drug arrests that had occurred in the home. We shook on it.

He texted me later that week to tell me he changed his mind and they could stay until the lease ran out on August 31st.

I texted him back and told him how small claims court works for a landlord operating a nuisance property.

He ignored me.

During the dedicated public servant portion of the barbecue, Mr. Amphetamines-R-Us got popped for felony possession of a weapon while on parole (parole in this case, I’m assuming, meaning the entirety of his twenties and thirties), so he went back to his home away from home.

My first-ever incarceration report search (God bless the internet) turned up the fact that Doctor Now-I-Have-To-Do-Crappy-Jail-Toilet-Meth was scheduled to be in the slammer until after the lease expired, so I let it go.

A For Sale sign went up on the lawn in July, and things were looking promising until Future Eagle Scout Time-Off-For-Good-Behavior came home in mid-August to resume his standard routine of basically living in the front yard and doing absolutely nothing even remotely productive with his life.

I texted Roy. Here’s how that went.

Me: When will they be out?

 

[August 31st ]

 

Me, On August 31st: Will your tenants be gone by the end of today?

 

[They will start moving tomorrow hopefully . but not later than Tuesday

They are moving to my other house, other house’s tenant be out till midnight,so don’t worry PL try to help me find a nice buyer]

September 2nd: [Because holiday,may be we are running behind ( one day)]

 

Me: So, will they be out by Wednesday?

 

[Yes sir (OK hand emoji)]

September 4th: [They are moving since last night sir]

 

Me on September 5th: Your tenants are still at the house tonight.

 

[They are moving it may take 3 days to finish,sir]

 

Me on September 10th: It is Sept 10th. Your tenants were supposed to be out on August 31st. They are still in the house, with no signs of being out any time soon. What is your plan to get the felon drug addict who nearly burned your house to the ground out of our neighborhood?

 

At this point, I received a text from the second number I had, which I thought belonged to the owner, Roy’s son.

[This is Bea. Im Roy's daughter. I cant help but get your texts everyday. Are you renting the house or buying the house on plum? Whats really going on?]

 

Me: Sorry to have included you on the text string. I thought you were one of the owners. I'm a neighbor with kids, on a street full of people with children. The tenant is a meth addict, a felon, and the definition of a nuisance. He nearly burned down the house one day, which was when I contacted your dad and told him they needed to go. And I am honestly amazed that he didn't come to that decision on his own! This was after the SWAT team raided the house with guns drawn while my kids were playing in the street, and I don't know how many fights on the front lawn between the felon and his drug addict associates. I met with your dad and he told me in person he would evict them in 30 days. He then went back on that and told me they would be allowed to stay until August 31st. It is now Sept 10th. They need to leave this neighborhood, and I need to know an actual day they will be gone. They are wholly unacceptable, and suing your father for running a nuisance property is the only next step. I already made him aware that each affected family can sue for $5000 per person, including children, which adds up to a conservatively estimated $100,000 lawsuit. Time for them to go, now. That's what's really going on.

 

[First, I d like to thank you for being a concerned neighbor.

Second, if my dad says he will do something. You can mark my words. He is a man of his word.

3rd, My dad raised 3 kids in the same neighborhood. I want you to know things are being taken care of.

I just need to step off the gas pedal a lil bit and know you have been respectfully heard and my family is making it happen.

My dad stays unwell. Please be respectful. Nobody is ignoring you. We are all families in this community

Contact me directly from now on.

The new family thats moving in has their trucks outside being loaded.]

 

Me: I was not aware your dad was unwell. I will contact you from now on, but hopefully that won't be necessary. What do you mean when you say the new family moving in has trucks outside being loaded? As of this minute, the Plum house is still occupied by the old tenants.

 

[Again Marc, I want you to know my dad is under doctor's care and is very fragile. He is a good man. You will be taken care of at any cost. Period.

Have faith and some patience. M working on it too from Chicago as well.

You have our utmost respect n attention. I will personally contact you soon.

I m looking out 4 my dad and his health too. I only got 1 old man.

He dont need threats, your request is enough 4 all of us to step in.

My name is Bea. M his oldest kid. I invite you to be patient with serene calm mind. Universe will return the favor in 10 folds.

Namaste! (prayer hand emoji)]

 

Umm… say what?

Me: I am nice and serene. You didn't answer the question. What do you mean when you say the new family moving in has trucks outside being loaded? Outside where? As of this minute, the Plum house is still occupied by the old tenants.

 

[We have new tenants moving in very soon. Be patient, be kind. Everytime u look towards the house, inhale love n exhale love. Right now, you may not be perceiving things as they are, rather how you see!

No need to be on pins n needles. Cuz I got chu! Relax.

Your request has been received, approved, accepted, sealed, stamped!]

 

What in the actual hell is this idiot talking about? Are there three different people on the other end just grabbing the phone to text random crap at me? Can someone throw the phone to an adult?

Me: What actual date on the calendar will your current tenants be gone?

 

[I will call you tomorrow with that. Im sending my own tenants from my house to shift over there.]

 

Me: Text me. I like to have things in writing. It brings me peace and harmony.

 

[Blessings (double pink and red heart emoji)]

 

They did finally move out, but it took another week. I spent that week wondering if I was perceiving things as they really were, and concentrating on inhaling n exhaling love.

I’m fairly certain I was communicating with Bea’s idiot boyfriend more than half the time during that week, and I’m positive he was inhaling n exhaling something entirely different.

Namaste.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite T-shirt is at SmidgeTees

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Group Text Hell

“I’ve never been held hostage, but I have been on a group text.”

If you own a smartphone, I’m sure that rings true for you. And if it doesn’t, then I’m terribly sorry that you were held hostage at some point in your life. I hope that’s not still going on!

I, unfortunately, have found the fourth level of group text hell. I am currently on a GroupMe with the seventh- and eighth-grade flag football teams. Not the parents. The actual seventh- and eighth-graders.

Like his brothers before him, Son Number Three won’t get a cell phones until high school, but I’m pretty sure every other kid on both teams has a phone and is on the GroupMe. The coach is young enough that he just set up the GroupMe and added the kids. I’m not even sure he was planning to communicate at all with the parents. For the first week of practice, I had no actual written or verbal proof that my son was even on the team.

I guess the coach is too young to realize that it used to be just the parents on the group communication, because we’re the ones that actually need to know the practice and game schedule.

Now, since all the kids have phones, they’re on, too. Here’s the first reason why that’s dumb: the parents still need to be on, because the last person you can trust to relay information correctly is an eighth-grade boy. My son cannot accurately explain to me a single solitary event of his entire day.

The second reason it’s dumb is that now the coach and whatever parents are unfortunate enough to be on the chat are stuck there with forty middle schoolers.

Allow me to illustrate the situation with a recent text string:

 

Coach: Our game this Thursday the 2nd is an away game. Please arrive at Johnson Middle School by 3:30pm for our 4:00 game time. Remember to wear your red away jersey.

Player 1: cool who are we playing

Player 2: johnson idiot

Player 3: hahaha

Player 4: ok

Player 4: are we home or away?

Player 1: coach said red jersey so were home

Player 2: we are away dude  we are only home when we playat our field idiot

Player 4: So white jersey?

Player 3: white jersey is home coach said red for away

Player 2: ya

Player 5: yep

Player 4: ok what time is the game? i need to find a ride. my mom is working i think

Player 1: the game is at 3:30 idiot you have to read coachs text

Player 2: the game is at 4 idiot we have to be their at 330 you have to learn to read hahahaha

Player 5: cool

Player 6: ok

Player 7: coach I dont want to play center I want to play a catching position I can catch you just have to see me

Player 2: dude you cant catch

Player 7: shut up

Player 4: hahahaha

Player 8: coach am I allowed to play in the game if I haven’t been to practice because I was sick but im not sick anymore?

Player 1: ya you should come. you can play

Player 9: What time is the game? who we playin?

[And on and on for another 24 texts]

Parent who didn’t start at the top of the 48-text string: Hi Coach, can you let us know the location and arrival time for this Thursday’s game, please?

Me on the couch listening to my phone beep like it’s a bomb about to go off: *just shoot me*

 

I’m starting to think it might be less of a headache if I just gave Son Number Three a cell phone and the car keys. Being off this GroupMe would probably be worth it.

I mean, he’s already thirteen. What could go wrong?

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite T-shirt is at SmidgeTees

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