Wednesday, October 28, 2020

There's a Trick to Wearing a Mask

This is it, school-aged children of America. This is your time to shine! Halloween is upon us, but this year at school is like none other.

Every Halloween of your life has been the same thing at school. “Please wear your costumes to show your school spirit, but remember the safety rules – no masks allowed.”

Well, my young friends, this year is different. Due to all of our adult COVID concerns, you are being required to wear masks at school! If a surgical mask over your nose and mouth is good, then why wouldn’t a hairy rubber full-head werewolf mask be even better? The answer is simple. It is better, and no adult working at your school can argue that logic.

In years past, you have had fun activities filled with delicious candy at your school’s Halloween celebrations. The only thing you’ll get this year is an extra squirt of hand sanitizer. Does that seem fair? No, it does not, but you don’t know what to do about it.

That’s because you have grown up with the tame, watered down, Disney version of Halloween, so chances are, you never really even understood why you say “Trick or Treat” to get candy. You need to understand that Halloween wasn’t always a national month of cute costume-themed parties. Halloween used to be a night to be dreaded by upstanding, tax-paying adults.

The phrase “Trick or Treat” is actually a question, and it’s a time-honored threat that your forefathers and foremothers leveled at helpless homeowners. It means, quite simply, “Do you want to give us candy or do you want our masked, anonymous mob to trash your house?”

It’s time to get back to our roots, kids! The reason the school never wanted you to wear masks is the same reason that when the spinster tried to give out twist-tied baggies of granola as “healthy treats,”  your ancestors were able to egg her house and soap her front windows with impunity. Masks hide your identity.

It is time for the natural, historical consequence of people not providing you with your well-deserved candy. It’s time to don that storm trooper helmet and head to school. If they don’t have a treat for you, well, then it’s time for a trick, isn’t it?

Are you going to go to your own classes? Of course not. Find a friend of similar height and make the switch. Always wanted to throw that plastic cup of watery canned corn that came with your school lunch back toward the kitchen from whence it came? Warm up that arm! Not allowed to play full-contact dodge ball at recess? Well, click the safety off that red bouncy ball and light that annoying kid from third period up. Always wanted to release 5,000 crickets into the front office? Just walk on in and dump the box.

Whatever you want to do! Use your imagination.

“But, they’ll catch me. They’ll just walk right up and take off my mask,” you might say, shaking in your hairy rubber werewolf feet.

Of course they won’t, if you learn one simple sentence. Repeat after me.

“Excuse me, responsible adult in charge of my safety, kindly maintain a six-foot distance from me to prevent the spread of any infectious disease that I could inadvertently bring home to my lawyer parents.”

The world is your oyster this year.

Will it be a Trick or a Treat?

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Dangerous and Disingenuous DMV

Yesterday I took my first steps into the valley of the shadow of death. Yes, that’s right. I logged into the DMV website to set up a driver’s permit test for Son Number One. Please pray for our family.

I would love to be optimistic about what’s about to happen, but let’s be serious. This is 2020. The year of the train wreck. And never mind the calendar, DNA simply is not on our side at the DMV. I was a horrible driver as a teenager. I couldn’t stop wrecking cars, and my wife was no better. There are auto salvage yards across California named after our family, and not because we own them.

The only good news here is that as far as our kids go, I think Son Number One is probably our best bet to be the safest driver. He’ll probably only wreck a couple of our cars while he’s in high school. The other two are going to be far worse.

Son Number Three is really the one we all need to worry about. Fair warning to all drivers and pedestrians of Northern California – you have three more years to get your affairs in order.

Because it’s 2020, the DMV isn’t making any new appointments, so Number One and I get to go take a number with the unwashed masses. Six feet apart wasn’t far enough at the DMV before COVID. But possibly worse than actually going there to wait in line could be the experience of navigating the website to figure out what we had to do in the first place. I would blame COVID for that, but we all know better.

It only took me a couple hours to finally have a vague idea about what forms we needed to fill out and which documents we needed to bring to prove that our son who lives in California with us at our house is related to parents that live in the same house and can vouch for the fact that he lives in the house that is located in California, provided we bring documentation proving that the house is in fact in California, the fact that we own it, the fact that we also live there, and the fact that he is, in fact, a human who was born. And also passports.

About an hour and a half into my online adventure, lost somewhere in the circular rat maze of non-informative information pages, I came across something that shocked me to the core. The dangers of COVID are far worse and more widespread than we ever could have imagined.

Due to COVID-related scheduling issues, the following temporary changes are in place:

• License holders 69 and younger (Beginning March 1, 2020): Most drivers now qualify for online renewal

• License holders over the age of 70 (March-December 2020 expirations): Automatic extension valid for one year from original expiration date.

Holy crap, people! The ninety-five-year-old man who went blind at the beginning of the year and is still driving because none of his kids want to be the one that told him to stop gets to keep his license for another year! That guy, hurtling blind down your neighborhood street in his ancient Cadillac is dangerous. He’s nearly as dangerous behind the wheel as a teenage boy!

That’s really the thing I don’t understand in all this. Why are they even letting him get his permit if they’re still worrying about COVID? That seems like disingenuous concern. I mean, they are even letting them go back to school part time now.

There is no question in my mind that letting high schoolers drive themselves to school is far more dangerous than COVID ever could be 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! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

COVID-19 Shutdown Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 145

Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 145

We are a new color! Besides being green with envy at the other states where kids get to receive an education, us Californians are operating on a critical COVID color convention code criteria, or CCCCCCC, as it’s known locally.

Each color represents a new phase where kids still don’t get to go to regular school for any sort of organized learning, but the color changes, which is fun. The phases are a step-by-step “reopening” plan. We are currently on day 215 of reopening from our 14-day shutdown to “flatten the curve.” I wish I were making that up.

So, each color represents a new reopening phase, and each phase is defined in weekly briefings from Sacramento. Unfortunately, the weekly briefings are made up on the spot by a politician who is actively huffing metallic spray paint from one of his Ralph Lauren dress socks, and the characteristics of each phase, as well as the color spectrum, change as required based on what is happening with COVID in eastern Europe. Each California county has been assigned a fun Slavic country to get our new case rate numbers from.

I believe Placer County was a very dark purple for the past few weeks and we are now deep magenta. Shout out to Latvia! Thanks, fellas. These are exciting times.

Unfortunately for students and their parents alike, we need to get all the way to “golf pants lime green" before the kids can go to school five days a week. And even then, they are required to continuously squirt hand sanitizer out in a six-foot radius in all directions when on campus, as is Latvian tradition.

I'm not sure what the state has planned for an educational catch-up after we get to the final "fully back to normal" color of UPS brown, but I'm hoping it's something good. We just finished the first quarter of this school year with a tenth grader who never finished his freshman year, a ninth grader who never finished middle school, and a seventh grader who can't figure out how to make it to a daily Zoom check-in meeting that happens at the same damn time every damn day.

Pray for our next transition to the burnt cyan phase as soon as possible. These kids are getting dumber by the minute.

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, October 7, 2020

HIPAA Critical, Part IV

It has already happened twice at our house, and it still caught me off guard this week. No, not one of our teenagers saying, “I’m full.” Don’t be silly. That never happens. I’m talking about medical independence day.

Yes, that time-honored tradition of becoming completely in charge of all your own medical decisions with no input whatsoever from your parents at the ripe old age of twelve. You guessed it – I got blindsided by HIPAA, yet again.

You’d think I’d learn, but I suffer from a lifelong problem with being logical. Unlike the drooling, booger-eating bureaucrats who authored the HIPAA bill (most likely with crayons), I have met an actual twelve-year-old. As such, it just wouldn’t ever occur to me to put them in charge of what they should have for breakfast, let alone their medical decisions.

Waiter – “Good morning, what can I get you?”

Standard twelve-year-old – “Yes, good morning, I will have a fudge brownie, an empty glass, and a large bottle of syrup, please. And I do not believe I will be getting a tetanus shot this year. Or any other year. Thanks.”

So, there I was Monday morning, making a non-brownie and syrup breakfast for the boys, when my cell phone buzzed a calendar reminder. I glanced over to notice that I had ten minutes before Son Number Three’s doctor’s appointment was scheduled to start. His doctor is twenty minutes away from our house.

Holy crap! GET IN THE CAR!!!

I called the doctor’s office and had a stressful conversation with the appointment desk. They were really cool about it. The only reason the conversation was stressful was because I was having it while going 125 mph and sliding a Suburban sideways through intersections.

After I hung up and narrowly avoided an oncoming cement truck, I started to wonder, how did this happen? Why did I completely forget about this appointment? I obviously had it on my calendar, but why wasn’t I thinking about it. Why didn’t I wake up that morning with getting to the doctor on my mind?

Then I realized the answer. Usually when we have an appointment, I get about six emails and two or three text reminders ahead of time. “You have an upcoming appointment. Please let us know if you’re still able to make it.” “We’re looking forward to seeing you! Please fill out the pre-appointment health survey.” “Please let us know if you’ll need special assistance at your appointment, or an interpreter.” Yadda yadda.

I didn’t get a single communication before this appointment. I put it on my calendar six months ago and never heard from them again.

Well, we slid into the parking lot and ran to the waiting room, stopping only briefly for a nice lady at the front door to shoot our foreheads with the “you obviously don’t have COVID” laser. They saw him right away and I finally relaxed on the little spouse/parent chair in the corner of the exam room.

I apologized to the nurse for being late, thanked her for getting us right in, and then remarked how I had just realized I never received any emails or texts ahead of the visit.

She said simply, “Well, that’s because he turned twelve.”


Why was I even stressing? It wasn’t me that forgot the appointment after all. It was him! My irresponsible, medically-independent twelve-year-old son forgot all about his own appointment. C’mon, bro! Get it together. Why am I here at all, anyway? How come you didn’t set an alarm and jump on your bike at 5:30 A.M. to get yourself over here for your 7:00 appointment? For Pete’s sake, man.

When we were all done the nurse told me we could stop by the front desk on the way out and he could get his new twelve-year-old account all set up.


We set up the other two boys’ “private medical accounts” online, but I think I’ll skip it for Son Number Three.

They have no email address for him, and no phone number. So, whatever internet black hole they sent all the appointment reminders to, I want them to send the bills to the same damn place.

Let’s see how long they want to abide by the HIPAA rules then.

And if anyone out there is working to repeal these idiotic regulations, you can add “causes reckless driving” to the long list of things that are hazardous about letting a twelve-year-old be medically independent.

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!