Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Prepare for the Scare

This is a message for all you young folks out there. You crazy kids in your twenties, just brimming with enthusiasm and youth. I know you don’t think of yourselves as kids, but trust me, you are, and I’ll prove it to you.

I don’t really remember what drove me back when I was your age. I don’t remember what made me tick. But I know for certain it wasn’t the same things that drive me now. The things that make me tick these days are just downright scary.

I realized (again) the other day that I am no longer a kid and that I have become old. It happened right after I got done skimming every last leaf out of my pool, and I sat back, gazing at the crystal-clear water with a swell of pride, knowing I had my pH absolutely dialed in.

Nothing can prepare you for that jolt of sickening realization that you have become so old and boring that the chemical balance of your pool water is now a significant source of joy in your life.

You young folks have taken a lot of classes in your life thus far, but sadly, none have prepared you for this impending situation – you will become old, and tired, and boring.

I realize you are convinced that you won’t, but trust me. If you don’t want to take my word for it, simply ask as many people over the age of forty as you can find. You can quit polling anytime you’re satisfied (or terrified), but I will guarantee you the answers will be one hundred percent identical.

One day you will:

get excited about the 30% off coupon from Jiffy Lube.

have a deep feeling of accomplishment from putting felt pads on the furniture legs to protect your new fake hardwood floors.

say “Because I said so,” to your own kids for the first time (but not the last). Also, “It’s for your own good.”

worry if you have enough life insurance. You will also have conversations at dinner parties with your friends about life insurance.

wake up more sore than when you went to bed, and realize that you didn’t do any physical activity that should have made you sore in the first place. Then you will sadly realize that you just literally hurt yourself sleeping.

experience the joy of buying your first home. Then you will experience the shock of writing your first property tax check. Then you will experience the utter horror and disbelief of realizing that people who don’t own property still get to vote on how much your property taxes should be.

revel in the feeling of beating them at their own game when you cut up the old dresser with your Sawzall and slowly throw it away over four or five weeks in your regular trash can so you don’t have to pay for a dump run.

These are just a few examples, and by far not the worst. I didn’t want to scare you.

And remember, I tell you all of this in an attempt to minimize your shock when it happens, not as a warning of what to avoid. There’s nothing you can do about it. It will happen.

Just keep living that young life of yours to the fullest, so when the inevitable Sunday afternoon comes and you find yourself swelling with an optimistic feeling that all is right with the world because you just fully refilled all seven compartments in your day-of-the-week pill container, you can look back with no regrets.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Masking the Problem

My bank used to have a sign on the door prohibiting anyone from wearing a hat or sunglasses inside the building. My bank now has a sign on the door requiring me to completely cover my face before entering.

Think about that for a minute.

Prior to this COVID scare, the bank wanted to make sure they could identify every one of my facial features if I was going to be in their building, and now the place where they keep all the money is mandating that I disguise my appearance.

We just went to the bank the other day to set up a new checking account for Son Number Two, and my fourteen-year-old was sitting at the bank manager’s desk literally wearing a bandana around his face like an old west bank robber.

What an amazing time in history this must be for thieves. You no longer have to slink around in the shadows and pull the stocking over your face at the last second. We’re literally required to be in disguise at all times!

You now have so many more options at the bank counter. You don’t need to bring a gun, or even a note. Just wait until you see a few big guys go in the bank, then casually mention to the teller that they are with you and they have guns. The teller won’t know what to think. Everyone who doesn’t actually work at the bank might be in on it, because everyone is wearing a mask! You’ll be rich beyond your wildest dreams!

I don’t think I’ll go immediately into bank robbery, but I am considering a new career in porch piracy. It’s just become too easy. I am now actually looked upon as a thoughtful, caring citizen if I’m seen walking down your street wearing a backpack and a mask.

“Look at that wonderful man! I can’t for the life of me tell who he is, but he’s obviously doing his part for the environment by commuting to work on foot, and caring for our community by keeping his COVID to himself. How nice. On a completely unrelated note, I wonder where my Amazon package is? The app said it was delivered.”

The thing about bank robbers and porch pirates is this, though: They actually made the decision to become bank robbers and porch pirates. That means, by definition, they are bad decision makers. Same goes for your everyday, lowlife, smash-and-grab thief. This fact was evidenced recently in our local Facebook good neighbors group.

Folks we know from our elementary school posted security camera footage of a man who broke the front window of their business in the middle of the night and stole thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment.

They obviously have a good security camera system because the night vision photo of the thief was very high quality. There he is, plain as day, NOT wearing a mask. You heard me - NOT wearing a mask. You can see his entire head of hair and his whole face. The camera quality is so good it looks like a school picture of him. At first, I thought Lifetouch might have actually taken the photo, because he’s not smiling and has a weird look on his face.

This only happened a few days ago, but he’s probably already in custody. Anyone who knew him would have been like, “Yeah, that’s totally Rick. He always has that dumb look on his face. Do you know why? Because Rick is a dumbass.”

The police probably showed up to Rick’s apartment, where he was high and watching cartoons at two in the afternoon, knocked on his door, compared his face to the security photo, and just shook their heads as they handcuffed him.

Rick, buddy, even the greenest, twenty-year-old public defender who went to a Caribbean law school could have got you off with reasonable doubt if you had just bothered to wear a mask that night. Seriously, Rick, you can’t be THAT bad at making decisions. It was so simple. Wear a mask, dude, like the law is REQUIRING you to do.

Or is that it, Rick? Are you such a badass outlaw that you don’t do anything the law requires? Even when it might help you get away with committing a crime, as is your penchant as a career scoundrel? Sorry to say, buddy, you are proving my point. Thieves are bad decision makers.

Oh, and one more thing, Rick... on an unrelated note, you should probably stop smoking meth.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going for a walk. I just need to find my backpack. I think that’s all I need.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Thank You, Joe Wong

A really great man passed away on Friday due to a massive heart attack. I was fortunate enough to get to know Joe Wong a little when I coached his son, John, in baseball on several different teams over the years.

Before I ever met Joe, I knew he was an exceptional man and father just from meeting his son for the first time. John is one of those kids that, as a coach, you dream about having on your team. He was at the top of my draft list every season, but all too often he was snatched up ahead of me by another coach who knew his value like I did.

In terms of talent, by definition, ninety percent of baseball players aren’t in the top ten percent. (I did that math all by myself.) I wasn’t trying to draft John every year because he was a top ten percenter, talent-wise. He was always right there with my sons, solidly in the middle of the ninety percent.

He is, however, in the top one percent of athletes as far as being a teammate. John simply makes the team better just by being there. He is a good player, but his biggest value to the team is his ability to positively affect morale.

John just makes you happy. He makes you want to have fun. He is always smiling. He makes you want to race each other. He makes you want to compete, for the fun of it. He is always happy to be there. He makes you want to win together. He always brought gum. He just makes the team better.

John contributed standardly to the success of our teams on the field, but he contributed immeasurably in the dugout. I knew John got those attributes from his parents, and it was very easy to see those same qualities in Joe whenever you spoke with him. It became abundantly clear what a powerful influence Joe was, however, when I read a tweet about his passing from a professional basketball player.

Joe was a hard-working man, and he held down more than one job to take care of his wonderful family. Among other things, he was on the security team at the Golden 1 Center, where the Sacramento Kings play.

Kings center and power forward Harry Giles III tweeted his reaction the other day to the news of Joe’s death.

My heart is heavy! Joe Wong! I’ll never forget you my man! You were one of the nicest people I’ve ever met! Your attitude never changed! You showed me how to show up every day for work and regardless of what’s going on... always be happy! On some of my worst games you were always so uplifting and positive! Going to miss you having mango Hi-Chews and green Jolly Ranchers for me when I came in G1C or asking if my mom was coming to the game. Wish I could do it all one more time and hug you. Going to miss you so much. Thank you for everything!

Is it any wonder that John became the stellar teammate he is with a dad like Joe? I mean, how amazing is that statement from Giles?

Harry Giles wasn’t coached by Joe. Joe wasn’t one of his teammates. He wasn’t one of his trainers. Joe never got the chance to address the team and talk with them about their mental performance.

The Kings players only saw Joe in passing when they entered and exited the arena, but his positive demeanor and attitude about life had such a profound impact on them that a professional athlete credits Joe with teaching him how to show up to his own job with joy, what an authentically positive attitude can do, how to bounce back from disappointments, and what truly caring about others looks like.

Some of the highest paid coaches in the NBA don’t have the ability to positively impact their players the way the man guarding the door was able to impact Harry Giles, and very likely, the majority of the rest of the Kings players and staff as well.

Joe knew, probably better than anyone I’ve ever known, that being a teammate means so much more than what you do during a game, and that you can be an invaluable asset to the team without ever having set foot between the lines.

I have no doubt that John will follow in his dad’s footsteps and continue to be that beacon of light for others to look toward, and I’m looking forward to seeing it happen.

I only wish Joe could have been around a little longer to model it some more for his kids, and for the rest of us.

Rest in peace, Joe. You were the real deal. Thanks for showing us the way.


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Shotgun Wedding? - Repost

My wife and I celebrated our eighteenth wedding anniversary a couple days ago with our whole family. That’s an amazing testament to the love we share… for our three boys, since they have been with us for fifteen of the eighteen years, and they have been loud and annoying the entire time.

Just so you know, fellas, we could have easily chosen to celebrate by ourselves. You’re welcome.

Anyway, in honor of another successful year of marriage, I thought I would once again regale you with the heartwarming tale about the night after the night I met my wife.

Unfortunately, the night I met my wife was fairly uneventful. (Besides the fact that I met the love of my life, of course.)

So instead, I will regale you with the shocking, explosive, frightening, and downright weird tale about the following night. It’s a tale of a dive bar, a truck, a barefoot man, a policeman, a bathrobe, and a shotgun.

A guy walks into a bar. It was me. I met my wife in a bar.

That’s not the whole story. It gets better.

It was only my first or second time at this particular bar, but she had been there for thirty-two nights in a row. She and her best friend were going for a combined personal record. It was her initiative and dedication to the endeavor that drew me to her. We were both college students in San Luis Obispo, CA, and she was working at a pizza place that summer. She would get off work at midnight and meet her friend at Bull’s Tavern to shut the place down. We met one evening, talked until closing, and said goodnight.

I thought she was really neat-o, so having heard about their record-breaking attendance goal, I had a good idea of where I might find her again the next evening. After missing her a few times, between the bar and the pizza place, we finally connected, and had another delightful evening of bar-booth conversation. This was the kind of bar where “delightful conversation” means you sat in a red Naugahyde booth, taking turns shouting into each other’s ears, in an attempt to carry on a conversation over the AC/DC blaring out of the jukebox.

After the last-call light came on at two A.M. – this was back when we could stay up until two A.M. – we walked back to the pizza place where my truck was parked, and carried on our conversation in the cab of my Ford F150. By about three A.M. I had convinced her that kissing me wouldn’t be so bad, and just when I was about to plant one on her, a sonic boom came rolling down the street. It would have been much cooler if we had heard the explosion as we kissed, but you just can’t plan for these kinds of things.

She said, and I quote, “That sounded like a twelve-gauge!”

I replied, scoffing-ly, “There is no way that was a twelve-gauge shotgun. It was probably just a car backfiring.” In my head I was thinking, Cool. She knows her shotguns. But that couldn’t have been a shotgun.

Roughly four minutes later a barefoot man in a bathrobe came walking down the street carrying a twelve-gauge shotgun.

Now, if I can paint the scene for you - It is past three o’clock in the morning, and the town has completely shut down. We are the only car parked on the street, directly across from the pizza parlor. The only other car that we can see belongs to a police officer who is parked in a parking lot across the intersection from the pizza place. The police officer is standing outside of his car, chatting with a man on a bicycle. They have apparently not heard the big bang and seem very relaxed. The pizza place is located on the corner of the intersection, and the man in the bathrobe with the heavy artillery is walking past the pizza place, toward the cop, but neither one of them can see the other yet. We are parked across the street and have a clear view of both of them, and a pretty good idea of what is about to happen. Between the five of us, we are the only people still awake in the whole town, and two of us are a whole lot more awake than we were a minute ago.

The bathrobe-clad gentlemen rounded the corner and came into view of the police officer, and they saw each other at about the same time. We were positioned at just the wrong angle, so when the cop drew his weapon, he was pointing it right at us. We both did that thing where you slide down below the dashboard in case the bullets start flying, but foolishly keep your head up high enough to see, because you don’t want to miss the action.

The policeman immediately started asking the nice man to kindly set his shotgun down. By “kindly asking,” I mean he instantly began shouting, “Drop the #$*%&@ gun right now! Drop it, #$@*&%!!!” I thought he was handling himself very well given the surprising circumstance he had just found himself in. The bicyclist he had been talking to before the rude interruption did something that still to this day I cannot believe, even though I saw it with my own two barely-visible-above-the-dashboard eyes. He dropped his bike to the ground and fit himself completely underneath the front bumper of the police cruiser. Next time you see an old 1990s police cruiser, take a look at the ground clearance. I think it might have been Houdini himself in that bike helmet.

Well, the nice man with the twelve-gauge didn’t drop his gun right away. He just sort of stood there, trying to have a conversation with the cop. He was holding the gun at a forty-five-degree angle toward the ground, not exactly pointing it at the cop, but not exactly pointing it away from him, either. As the police officer walked closer and closer to the man, yelling commands louder and louder, I was sure we were about to witness something very unpleasant on what had, otherwise, been a really nice night.

Thankfully, for everyone involved, the man finally decided to set his shotgun gently on the ground, and seconds later, the police officer set his knee not-so-gently on the man’s neck, and the stand-off was over. As Captain Bathrobe was led to the police car and Harry Houdini extricated himself from underneath the Caprice Classic, I started the truck and drove my date home in stunned silence.

Fortunately, she didn’t hold the incident against me, and we continued to see each other. We searched the local paper for two weeks straight after that night for some mention of the incident, partially to prove to people that we weren’t making it up, but mostly to find out for ourselves what we had seen. Why was there a man firing a shotgun in sleepy, downtown San Luis Obispo, and why was he then walking the streets with that shotgun, barefoot, in a bathrobe? We never found a single mention of it, and to this day, have no idea what happened.

We graduated, parted ways, and met again six years later at a mutual college friend’s housewarming party. We have been together ever since.

After meeting her father, I finally understood her knowledge of shotguns. And after getting to know my father-in-law, I had a strong suspicion that he and my wife might have known more about that night than they were letting on. He was a great guy, and he may have been accused a time or two of being “slightly overprotective” of his only daughter.

Now, he certainly wasn’t a bathrobe type of guy, but he did own a number of twelve-gauge shotguns, and if he was in town visiting and staying at a hotel, he would have had easy access to a nice terrycloth robe.

Where exactly was he that night? Out looking for his little girl, perhaps?

She still claims it wasn’t him, but she always smiles when she says it… I remain skeptical.

I also remain very thankful to have lived through that night and been able to celebrate eighteen amazing years of marriage.

Happy anniversary, baby!

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, July 1, 2020

Low Percentage Mail

I got a letter from Norma the other day. I don’t know Norma, but she told me in the letter that she was disappointed that she couldn’t come visit me at my home. She had planned to show up at my door, but unfortunately, COVID-19 is keeping her away.

I say “unfortunately” in the sense of unfortunate for her, not for me. I wasn’t interested in ever having Norma come to my door, because in the third sentence of her letter she explained that she’s a Jehovah’s Witness.

Had Norma’s wish for a home visit been possible, I would have had to get up from my desk at 10:30 in the morning, gone downstairs and told the dog to be quiet, answered the door with the anticipation and excitement of getting an Amazon package that I’d forgotten about ordering, been wildly disappointed in seeing that Norma was not wearing a reflective vest or holding a mysterious Amazon package, been even more disappointed when I learned that Norma was a Jehovah’s Witness, and then been forced to make up a lie about why I can’t talk right now but would love to have a pamphlet.

I’m too naturally polite to just say “scram,” so I always have to manufacture a lie instead. I usually go with “horrible communicable disease ravaging our home,” which is rather ironic with regard to Norma.

Instead of having the pleasure of being shooed off my porch with the fake threat of infection, an actual threat of infection has forced Norma to find a computer font that appears as if she actually penned me a letter in lovely cursive handwriting. I don’t know how much of her day that took up, or if has a bunch of fonts they can use, but either way, it’s a big deal. Printer ink is much more expensive than pen ink.

In addition to the huge financial outlay on printer ink, Norma had to pay for postage to send me the nice note letting me know that the bible is great, but is even better. Then Norma had to take my letter to the post office to mail it. Ostensibly, that would not have been a huge burden, since her return address is a local post office box, so she should have been going there anyway to get her mail.

But the way she wrote her return address made me think that Norma might not even be from my state, let alone my city. She abbreviated California "Calif."

That is a dead giveaway. I am fairly certain that there is no Californian, living or dead, that has ever used "Calif" to abbreviate our state. And if they have, they should be forced to move. Perhaps north, to Orego or Washi.

And honestly, even if Norma is local and she just didn't notice the insane “Calif” autocorrect error on her hand-written letter, I don’t know if she really wants to come to my door or not. But as a member of the JW’s, she is certainly obligated to do so. But with so much time at home now, spending presumably less than half of her day typing out hand-written letters to non JW’s, I would have thought Norma would have had time to reflect and come to the same conclusion I came to a long time ago. Namely that it just doesn’t make any sense for Jehovah’s Witnesses to try to recruit new members.

Once I learned what they believe, I've never understood why they continued to show up at my door. One of the main beliefs that separates the JW's from everyone else is they think only 144,000 people actually get to go to heaven. Not 144 billion or even 144 million. One hundred and forty-four THOUSAND. I mean, never mind how many people were JW's that have already died, what about just the current membership?

Based on how often they come to my door during non-COVID months, I have to assume we have at least six thousand of them just in my little town in California. I mean, how plain do the numbers need to be?

What do the strategy meetings sound like? “Hey everyone, let's get out there and severely reduce our already 0.00000000000000001% chance of getting into heaven. Goooo team!”

I’m just saying, Norma, if I was part of an organization that told me my job was to do as much as possible to narrow my odds of getting into heaven, I don’t think I’d be part of that organization for long.

I certainly wouldn’t spend my own money on printer ink and postage for them!

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!