Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Insincerely Yours, COVID

This is a message of hope, fellow COVID quarantiners, directly from my email inbox to you. If you thought you were in this alone, nothing could be further from the truth. Hundreds of thousands of people are here for you and me in these challenging times.

They work at places like your credit card company and your local auto dealership.

Why, just the other day I heard from the nice folks at Sunrun Solar, a company I ended up not buying our solar panels from, letting me know that their “top priority is the health and safety of our customers and employees,” and also that they are open for business.

Good to hear, in case I ever don’t need solar panels from them again.

Early on in the pandemic, Southwest Airlines contacted me to let me know “while many things are changing, our commitment to your Safety and providing travel flexibility has not changed.”

That’s a load off my mind, here at home, where I am required by law to stay.

TurboTax reached out to let me know their “hearts and thoughts go out to each and every one of you,” and also, “you have our commitment to continue providing you with the products and services you depend on.”

TurboTax is my rock in these taxing times.

Barclays got ahold of me to tell me that “staying in touch with you is important to us.” I’m pretty sure I don’t have a Barclays credit card. Nevertheless, they let me know that “as the situation with COVID-19 evolves, things are changing rapidly,” and wanted to be sure I had “all the information you need to manage your account as easily as possible.”

Shouldn’t be a problem.

Verizon Wireless sends me daily emails, checking in to make sure I know their commitment to me has never been stronger. They also selflessly let me know about all the money they have given to charities around the globe. We have teenagers, so I guess I should say, all of my money they’ve given to charities around the globe. To really show me they care, they’ve also been giving me free data that expires in a month.

Since none of us have left the protective umbrella of our home Wi-Fi signal since the beginning of March, free wireless data is super handy right now. For Verizon.

Our life insurance company, Legal & General America, shot an email over the other day to tell me that “as the global impact of COVID-19 evolves, we remain committed to the health and well-being of our customers.”

Umm, yes, I would assume so. You’re a life insurance company after all.

And what string of email platitudes would be complete without hearing from the fine folks at Lifetouch School Photography? Of all the emails I received, theirs was by far the most uplifting in its selflessness. “At Lifetouch, we love being a place where you can capture memories, stay connected to your loved ones, and build community. In the midst of COVID-19, and school closings, we will continue to be that place where you can share & connect.”

Yep, as soon as school closed, I immediately logged onto my Lifetouch account to maintain my sense of community connection. Their email had handy links to “some helpful articles on how to navigate this season together.”

Strangely, the links all went to Lifetouch’s own website, where the “articles” mostly encouraged me to take lots of pictures of my kids while I’m at home. Also included above and below each helpful season-navigating article were links that would allow me to purchase old school photos of my kids that I never asked Lifetouch to take in the first place, that they are conveniently keeping for me in their archives.

That was nice, but a thought kept occurring to me. I mean, I know they only sent me this email because they care deeply about my health and wellbeing, but why would a company that wants to take my kids’ pictures for me be encouraging me to do it myself?

And then I remembered… Oh, yeah, Lifetouch is owned by Shutterfly. It all makes sense now.

Like I said, this is a message of hope. We aren’t navigating these troubled waters alone. Your inbox is proof that plenty of people out there care deeply about you and your plans for your stimulus check.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


This just in from a confirmed source in the Roseville, California municipal system: Some people are almost too dumb to breathe.

That wasn’t actually the news item – that’s just my takeaway. You’ll agree with me soon enough.

Please understand, I am not making any of this up. The Roseville municipal system put out an alert to the city employees to be aware that they have fielded multiple calls of hopelessly backed-up sewer pipes.

Multiple calls. At multiple locations.

How many is multiple? I don’t know, but a single one of these incidents is far more than ever should have occurred.

What happens to be clogging these sewer pipes in Roseville?


“Shirts?” you ask, confused. “Did you mean to put the R in there?”

No accidental misspellings here. Shirts.

“Shirts?” you ask again, still confused.

Yes, shirts.

“What do you mean, shirts?” you ask, still trying to wrap your normal brain around this information. “Like pieces of shirts?”

No, whole shirts. Details were not given as to the types of shirts involved - whether they were the T-, under, button-down, polo, sweat, or Hawaiian variety, but one thing was universal in the reports – it was the whole shirt.

“How does a whole shirt get into a sewer pipe?” you might ask aloud, still violently perplexed. “Surely, no one would try to flush an entire shirt down the toilet.”

Yes, yes, that’s exactly what’s been happening – on multiple occasions in multiple locations – in the town of Roseville. People are wiping their butts with a whole shirt, and then somehow flushing the entire shirt down the toilet.

So many things remain unclear regarding this story. One would be inclined to assume this situation is arising due to the nationwide psychotic phenomenon of COVID-19 toilet paper hoarding and the resulting scarcity of TP, however, we are dealing with people who intentionally flush an entire shirt down their own toilet, so I don’t think we are safe in assuming anything here.

However, for the sake of argument, let’s say the shirt flush was a result of being out of traditional toilet paper. Are they also out of facial tissues? Paper towels? Fast food napkins? Baby wipes? Newspapers? Magazines? Printer paper? Old toilet paper or paper towel rolls? Gift tissue paper? Leaves? Cotton balls? Swiffer duster refills? Post-it notes? Old receipts? Junk mail? Corn cobs? Small pets?

And those things off the top of my head are just better alternatives to traditional toilet paper than a shirt. But what about the bidet option? I mean, Roseville is in America, so no one there has a bidet, but the phenomenon of running water being able to clean body parts is not foreign. At least, not to you and me. It might be to a shirt flusher.

I’m just saying, chances are these toilet paperless future shirt flushers were sitting on the commode looking at a shower or a bathtub the whole time, and apparently, they were completely unable to put number two and two together.

Also unclear is the question of the shirt itself. Regardless of type, was it the shirt they were wearing when they went into the bathroom, or did they plan ahead and bring a separate wiping garment?

And again, back to the fact that the shirts are being flushed whole. Let’s suppose you are so unimaginative that you have decided your only option is to wipe your butt with your shirt – are you also so insanely dense as to not tear it into smaller strips first? Obviously, the answer is yes.

These are strange times in our history, made ever so much stranger by the startling revelation that there are people among us, some maybe in the next town over – a town you used to think was completely normal – who turn out to be whole-shirt flushers.

Is it a sign of an impending apocalypse that will start in our sewers? Only time will tell.

I am choosing to look at it as a reminder - a reminder that no matter how odd and disjointed our lives may have become, we non-shirt flushers are doing just fine, comparatively.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

COVID-19 Shutdown Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 33

Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 33

Hope was lost on Day 4. Now all that we have is the endless grind.

Today is our last day of what the school district laughingly referred to as “spring break.” In the before-time, spring break was scheduled to be only one week. We had dreams of travel and adventure. Those dreams are now but a distant and crushed memory of what once was. Just darkness ahead now. The darkness of remote learning.

After my exceedingly polite letter to them asking for the elimination of spring break this year due to the extenuating circumstances, the school district actually extended our new worthless, trapped, virus-ridden “spring break” an extra three days. A cruel, possibly vindictive joke that only forced us to come up with three more days of spring break home school courses until the distance learning begins again tomorrow.

We covered lawn maintenance, car maintenance, pool maintenance, irrigation system maintenance, bicycle maintenance, vacuum cleaner maintenance, coffee maker maintenance, electric wine opener maintenance, garage paint can collection maintenance, shower drain maintenance, and today, toenail maintenance.

The curriculum for my Appreciation for the Cinematic Arts of the ‘80s & ‘90s class was derailed by an academic mutiny, led mostly by my wife. I think I lost her trust at Uncle Buck and, amazingly, failed to regain it with Crocodile Dundee I and II. Whatever. It’s not like anything matters anymore.

The mutineers have decided that we will instead watch every single Marvel Avengers movie (approximately three hundred of them) in timeline order. We are halfway through and, consequently, our couch has developed an impenetrable layer of popcorn residue that is either serving as a protective barrier against wear and tear, or slowly destroying the cushions underneath us. Time will tell.

Meals have devolved into a standard routine of serve-yourself brunch, snack at random, and usually cereal for dinner, with dessert popcorn during the nightly Marvel movies. At first, we were ashamed of what we’ve become. Now we embrace it.

If the boys start to annoy us too much now, we’ve taken to keeping them in the game room by getting “high COVID readings” on my new “COVID meter” (one of our old Blackberry phones). We tell them there’s a viral outbreak in the kitchen or the family room, or wherever, and I put on my welding helmet and Latex dish gloves, hold a can of Lysol, and tell them to shelter in place until I have disinfected the stricken room. Then my wife and I have a few drinks on the patio before we give them the all-clear.

In an effort to limit our store trips, we have been attempting to eat as much as possible from our pantry and our freezers. We have a large chest freezer in the garage that slowly filled up to the top with frozen delicacies over the years. We are more than halfway down into the frozen cavern now, and ice axes have been deployed. Any attempt to retrieve food at this point looks like an arctic expedition.

Tonight, we are having a Stouffer’s Party Size Macaroni & Cheese that no one can remember purchasing, paired with some Van de Kamp’s Crunchy Fish Sticks that would have expired in 2009 had they not been completely encased in ice all these years.  

Or cereal.

Stay strong, people!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Exotic Homeschooling with Joe

These are incredible times. These are trying times. These are awesome times.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide shutdown of our everyday lives, and when the schools closed, we parents were called upon to become homeschool teachers. None of us can lie and say that has gone well, but we’re re-learning math and generally giving it our best shot, on the days we’re not hiding from the children and day-drinking in the garage.

Thankfully, however, in these trying times, either fate or incredibly awesome timing by Netflix executives has ensured that our children are not the only ones getting an online education during the quarantine.

When the homeschool day is done, and the kids have gone to bed, us parents have been blessed with exactly what we needed: the ability to instantly feel great about the direction our lives are going. We have been given the amazing opportunity to learn about the human dumpster fire that is the world of private American big cat owners, the men who love them, the sister-wives who may or may not be able to leave them any time they want, and their totally murdered-and-fed-to-a-600-pound-feline dead husbands.

We have been given Tiger King.

It is unclear how our amazing teachers are going to assess and grade our children’s homeschool progress and learning, but I can assure you, if our children can soak up their school work with as much zeal as the world has devoured the first season of Tiger King, every single one of them will have straight A’s.

So, in the spirit of our continued online education, here are twenty things I have learned from Tiger King:

1) Don’t do meth.

2) There are more privately-owned tigers in America than there are tigers out in the wild. On the one hand, that’s sad. On the other hand, U.S.A, U.S.A, U.S.A.!

3) Seriously, don’t do meth.

4) Don’t snort or smoke meth, and also don’t ever marry Carole Baskin. She’ll straight up kill you.

5) It is possible to be a gay man and also have a peroxide-highlighted mullet and own multiple fringy leather jackets. I was under the impression all gay men were fashion conscious, but then again, I have never been to Nowhere, Oklahoma.

6) Hiring a cross-country hitman is relatively cheap in Oklahoma, as long as they are also provided with a lot of cocaine, and you don’t mind if they actually do the job or not.

7) Zoo-based sex cults are a real thing, at least in the Carolinas.

8) You can be a cocaine drug lord, go to prison for murdering a DEA informant and being party to cutting said informant up into little pieces with a circular saw, get out of jail only twelve years later, somehow still own your own private “zoo” in Miami with all sorts of big cats like tigers and leopards, and be one of the most well-adjusted people in the cast of characters on Tiger King.

9) Sometimes, a really quality documentary requires two directors. A second one to actually direct the documentary, and a first one to live on the zoo and shoot years-worth of film, never backup any of the footage offsite, and then loose it all in an arson fire that also kills a bunch of alligators.

10) Every person who owns large cats is bat-shit crazy.

11) Every person who owns large cats has killed someone, enslaved someone, and/or done a ton of drugs. Usually all three.

12) Sometimes it takes a while to understand that working at an illegal tiger zoo operation owned by an intensely egomaniacal man with a frosted mullet and a sidearm might not be the right career choice for you. Sometimes that realization comes long after a tiger bites your arm off. Also, don’t do meth.

13) Wearing a bandana under a flat-brimmed Oakley baseball cap makes you look like a complete tool, even before you open your mouth to prove that you are, in fact, a complete tool. (I already knew that one, but this show majorly reinforced it.)

14) Meth can not only destroy everything you and your dentist worked so hard to protect, but it can also apparently cause you to make very questionable decisions in the bedroom.

15) Carole Baskin totally did it.

16) Gay, redneck, tiger-owning, mulleted, polygamist country singers will, in fact, sell you pizza topped with expired Walmart meat they got for free, just to keep costs down at the park.

17) Ligers are actually a real thing, and not just Napoleon Dynamite’s favorite made-up animal.

18) It is possible to have a worse haircut than Joe Exotic, if you happen to be a redheaded, jet ski-riding, lemur-having snitch boy.

19) Anyone you know personally whom you think is weird, is not weird by a mile compared to big cat owners.

20) Carole Baskin’s current husband should be a lot more worried than he probably already is.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

An Open Letter to the School District

Dear folks in charge of the decision making down at the School District,

It has come to my attention that you are still planning to have “spring break” next week. I am writing to ask that you seriously reconsider that plan, because frankly, it’s stupid.

Spring break is meant to be a time of joy – a time to “break away” from the harsh rigors of school and the grueling six whole weeks of continuous study we’ve had to endure since ski week in February.

That would be great and all, if we could leave the house, but there’s a little viral wrench in the works this year. I know you know about it, because you guys send me six or seven emails a day expressly telling me that you are aware of the situation, you are proud of how you’re handling it, and you care deeply about my family’s health and safety.

Well, Mr. and Mrs. School District, I’m not a hundred percent sure that last part is correct. Do you really care?

You see, the governor has told us that we’re not allowed to go anywhere or do anything. I’m not sure if you school district big wigs got special travel dispensation, but the rest of us are supposed to remain locked inside our houses for the foreseeable future, which most certainly includes your so-called “spring break” next week.

Even if we could leave the house and go somewhere, all the places we were planning to go have closed. Exactly what are we supposed to do with our children on this “spring break” of yours? Take them to the grocery store? Nope. I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed under state law anymore.

Field trip to the Chevron? “Hey, kids, let’s go get gas! Stay in the car, though. Maybe if you’re good we’ll go through the car wash.”

I don’t think so, and these scenarios are what make me skeptical about your claim that you care about the health and safety of my family. Health includes mental health, and the only thing keeping our mental health even remotely intact right now is the existence of some sort of school schedule for our three boys.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that homeschooling is going well. It’s not. It’s not even going remotely well. But at the very least, their online schoolwork is an activity they’re required to accomplish during the day. That means they stay busy for at least part of the day, and more importantly, out of our hair and off of each other. Some days it may only be for fifteen or twenty minutes, but it’s something.

And if you cared at all about their safety, you’d definitely cancel this whole spring break nonsense. Have you people even ever seen two testosterone-y teenage boys and their crazy twelve-year-old brother caged up inside a house with nothing to do? If not, have you ever seen footage of a prison riot? Same thing.

We, as their parents, genuinely fear for their safety, because if they don’t kill each other, my wife and I might just finish the job. Possibly as early as day two. They are that annoying.

And please don’t suggest to me that we should let them play more video games. Screen time is not the answer if you are truly concerned about their health. Screen time is the answer if we’re looking to have them rapidly oscillate between lobotomized drooling and hyperactive insanity, but that’s not exactly the picture of mental health now, is it?

And don’t try to give me any nonsense about the hard-working teachers needing a break. My wife is one of those hard-working teachers, and she is not looking for a break from her students – she’s looking for a break from her own kids. Spring “break” will be the exact opposite of that.

A vast majority of our district teachers are in the same boat. They have kids, too. It’s not an excessive burden on them to teach through what would have been the break. They are all helping keep each other’s kids busy during the day. It’s a circle of life kinda deal.

And the teachers in our district who don’t have kids at home need to keep working just as much, but for a different reason. They’ve had to quickly ramp up to online teaching the past few weeks, and they’re as stressed out as the rest of their colleagues. Normally, a break would do them a world of good, if they were actually able to travel. However, if you make them stay home with nothing to do, they are just going to develop severe drinking problems.

Restaurants are allowed to deliver alcohol now! That’s not good. These teachers are trapped inside like the rest of us, and the fact that they still have to go to work each day, albeit in their pajamas, is the only thing keeping them from slipping off the edge. If you take away the responsibility of needing to be coherent during the day, it’s going to be a nine A.M. margarita-fueled disaster zone.

So, I beg you, for the good of all mankind in our district, please stop the inevitable spring break madness before it even begins. You can even take full credit for the great idea of “pushing on with valuable learning during these unprecedented times to maintain fluid educational continuity,” or however you want to word it to make yourselves sound amazing. You guys are good at that.

Just please, please don’t make me have to buy a monthly pass at the Chevron drive-thru car wash for field trips. I fear we’ll scrub off the Suburban’s entire top coat of paint just trying to keep our sanity next week without a school schedule.

Yours in educational excellence through continued partnership,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

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