Wednesday, February 24, 2021

This Round Finally Goes to the Husband

My wife and I had a major breakthrough in our marriage on Monday. And by breakthrough, I mean I won a round.

As you have no doubt heard at countless weddings, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is patient, love is kind, blah, blah, blah, “love keeps no record of wrongs.” That part is not true. Every married couple keeps records of wrongs, and I am WAY behind in the count.

But on Monday, my wife actually conceded that she had been wrong about a long-held belief regarding the messiness of one of my personal hygiene habits. I am talking, of course, about my weekly high colonic. Ha! No! Just kidding. Don’t stop reading. I’m actually talking about brushing my teeth.

If you are married, or share a sink with anyone, and that sink has a mirror above it, then you are all too painfully familiar with the toothpaste-spittle-splatter-on-the-mirror debate.

Wife: Look at these spots all over the mirror!

Husband: OK.

Wife: That is gross!

Husband: Not really.

Wife: Yes it is! They’re from toothbrushing and they’re all from you!

Husband: No way those are all from me.

Wife: Yes they are! They’re not from me, so it must be you.

Husband: Oh, OK.

Wife: OK? Is that all you have to say about all these gross spots on the mirror??

Husband: [runs away, if he knows what’s good for him]

My beautiful wife was so convincing in her denials of spittle culpability and so adamant about my overall toothbrushing grossness, that I never even questioned her. (That probably comes from a veteran husband survival instinct, more than anything.)

But the pearly white dental tables have turned. We were talking with friends the other night who were raving about their activated charcoal toothpaste. Yes, for those of you like myself who had never heard of this stuff, I mean jet-black, Kingston briquette, charcoal. In toothpaste.

They convinced us that it tastes just like normal minty toothpaste, even though it looks like a tube of graphite grease, but in a completely opposite-of-what-you-think-is-going-to-happen way, actually whitens your teeth. So my beloved wife made a special trip to Target just for charcoal toothpaste, and naturally came home with a couple workout shirts, some leggings, $349 worth of makeup and shampoo, some throw pillows, and a food processor.

Oh, and the crazy black toothpaste.

She brushed her teeth with the new toothpaste Monday night while I was also in the bathroom.

After smiling at me, mid-brush, to show me that she looked like she had just licked the inside of a barbecue, she rinsed and checked out her teeth in the mirror to gauge any immediate change in whiteness.

And then the miracle happened. No, she did not go back to Target to return everything. She stopped looking in the mirror and started looking at the mirror, and boom!

She said, “Well, I guess I can’t blame you for the toothpaste mirror spots anymore.”

Score one for the husbands of the world! Can you believe it? We got a win, boys!

She actually called herself out on it! She had dark black toothpaste spittle spots on the mirror, and they were most undeniably hers. I didn’t even bother to inspect the mirror. I just played it totally cool and gave her a small laugh and a shrug, like, “Whatcha gonna do?” (More veteran husband survival instinct there. Take note, new guys.)

The record of wrongs is not a written document, you see. It’s a mental tally, and by playing it cool I scored more points than I ever could have if I had been the one to point it out. Of course, I could never be the one to point it out, because as a man, I am physically incapable of seeing the spots on the mirror in the first place.

And that is the main reason why I will NEVER use the charcoal toothpaste myself. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind having whiter teeth. I’m just scared to death of what the mirror is going to look like when I’m done. All my new plus points would be instantly erased.

Good luck out there, gentlemen.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

This Column is Going Downhill Again

Our regularly scheduled column has been rudely preempted by Ski Week, again!!

Yes, that’s right, I said Ski Week. Instead of celebrating the glorious birthdays of Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison on two separate Mondays in February, like we all did when we were young, our school district changed things up a few years ago. Apparently, they think we’re all rich.

They tacked on three extra president’s days to the previous two, and lined them all up in a row this week. This phenomenon is nicknamed “Ski Week,” so the idea, apparently, is that we’re all supposed to head up to the slopes and spend the education-free week on a ski vacation. I guess I forgot to let our school district know that we don’t have thirty-eight thousand dollars lying around for just such an occasion.

And our school district failed to check with any of the surrounding districts to see if they were also populated by the idle rich and doing the same thing. Turns out they’re not. Since my wife teaches in a neighboring district, our ski week, could we afford it, would be momless.

Sure, we might be able to shave a few thousand bucks off the total cost with one less lift ticket and no overpriced ski lodge chardonnay, but if you think I’m taking these three monkeys skiing by myself, you’ve obviously been drinking something a lot stronger than wine.

So, what I’m telling you is, the kids in Rocklin, which unfortunately includes MY kids, have the ENTIRE damn week off. And not only that, but this particular week has weekends on BOTH sides of it! Do you know what that means? It means my three boys have been here at home with me now for five whole days in a row already, and we still have four more whole days, also in that row, left before they go back to school.

Those of you with kids, or those of you who have met kids before, should now understand the fact that I’ve got nothing done in the last five days, and that trend will continue for the next four. In particular, I haven’t been able to write this column. I haven’t been able to do anything useful. (Author’s note to aspiring writers: Take notice of how I deftly implied that this column is actually useful through the trickery of italics, even though there is absolutely no historical evidence that would support that claim.)

So, to all of you who are not currently on a weeks-long ski vacation, I apologize for not having a column for you today. I don’t know why our school district is choosing not to celebrate the President’s Days as our forefathers intended, but one thing is certain – our distinguished eighth and ninth presidents are rolling over in their ornate, gold and diamond-encrusted graves.

As for you folks who are swooshing down the slopes this week and sipping expensive ski lodge cocktails in plush leather chairs in front of magnificent fireplaces while I spend another day eating cold pizza and refereeing at the World Brothers Wrestling Federation, I’ll say this:

I am NOT sorry that I don’t have a column for you this week. You’re probably too busy to read it anyway, what with all your swooshing, and expensive sipping, and plush fireplace sitting, and stacking gold coins in your Rolls Royce, and snorting caviar, and whatever else it is you people do.

But I’m not bitter. I would never wish for you to have a skiing accident and break a bone or anything like that. That’s just not right.

But I do kinda wish you’d fall off your wallet in the lodge and get a mild sprain.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

There's a Problem with Facebook

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to report on a potentially serious problem I discovered last night. No, not that I’m so old I can hurt myself by sleeping wrong. I already knew about that problem. I’m talking about Facebook. I think it might have a huge glitch.

I got into bed last night, and as usual, said my prayers for an injury-free night of sleep. I was just about to close my eyes when I noticed the blue glow of a computer screen coming from my office down the hall. Realizing I had forgotten to shut my computer down, I hauled myself out of bed and headed down the hall to turn it off.

I got back into bed forty-five minutes later.

When I got to my computer, Facebook was up on the browser. I went to shut the computer off, but Facebook made me name my rock band first by combining the color of my underwear with the last thing I ate. We are the Blue and White Nachos. I was then forced to pick between four different trays of delicious fried food. There was a crawfish and fries tray, a wings and tater tots tray, a garlic bread and mac ’n cheese tray, and a mini burgers and fries tray. It was a very difficult decision that I agonized over for a while, but ultimately I had to go with the wings and tater tots because of my love of the tot.

I was then told that my earlobes were the same distance apart as my nipples, so I had to go check that in the mirror and it was a lie. I went back to shut off the computer but I had to take an ‘80s movie challenge first. The question was simply how many of the twenty movies listed had I seen, but the average score was shown as thirty-nine percent, which was ridiculous. I murdered that score. I had seen all of them except one. I then had to email myself a reminder to finally see Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

I went back to the browser to shut off Facebook but before I could I had to watch a ten-minute animated video on how Pablo Escobar spent his billions of dollars in drug money. That was followed by a Mexican restaurant life hack video where you get a Styrofoam to-go container, but instead of taking your tacos home, you pour your margarita in there and then punch a little straw hole in the top of the lid. I was making a mental note to tell my wife about the margarita trick, and also about how Pablo Escobar had two submarines and his own zoo, but got sidetracked by some kid going absolutely crazy at a Georgia Tech welcome speech, followed by the first seven minutes of Conan O’Brien’s 2011 Dartmouth commencement address.

The rabbit hole had quite a few twists and turns from there, ultimately terminating in a video of a guy cutting a frozen bass out of an iced-over lake with a chainsaw. When he got the chunk of bass-filled ice free and pulled it out, there was a frozen pike underneath with its teeth clamped to the tail end of the bass.

At that point, as I glazed over wondering just how fast that lake actually froze over, my mouse cursor was finally able to reach all the way up to the log out button, and I was finally able to shut my computer down. I’m not even sure how it happened, but I was simply unable to get out of the Facebook program until that point. Due to this programming flaw, whatever it is, I lost almost a full hour of sleep.

I hope you’re not experiencing the same problem with your Facebook account, but being that it’s a web-based program, I suspect you might be. I really think we ought to let someone over there at Facebook HQ know about this so they can look into it.

I think they’ll be genuinely surprised at how much of our time they’re accidentally wasting!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Ask Smidge - The Groundhog Edition

Yesterday was Groundhog Day, a magical day when we finally get an accurate weather report from a truly trusted source: the ghost of Willard Scott. Just kidding. (A quick Google search tells us he’s somehow still alive.)

No, obviously we get our weather predictions from a huge rodent. Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow after a long winter’s hibernation, saw a news report that 2021 was still just as bad as 2020, and immediately went back down in for six more weeks of hiding from it all.

Our inbox has understandably been flooded with groundhog-related questions. You don’t know how this odd tradition works, who is in charge, what a Punxsutawney is, or even what a groundhog is. We are here for you, and let me be the first to reassure you all – you have come to the right place.

The Ask Smidge advice column should always be your first stop for any questions about meteorology, zoology, geographology historology, or rodentology. We went to college for far longer than you’re actually supposed to, after all.



What exactly is a groundhog? We don’t have anything like that in Hawaii.

Wondering in Waimea

Dear Wondering,

You have rats and mongooses in Hawaii, so just imagine if those two species somehow got together and produced a very fat, slow, drunk uncle. That’s what a groundhog is.




Are groundhogs and woodchucks the same thing?

Questioning in Queens


Dear Questioning,

Yes, groundhogs are also known as woodchucks. Good call. So, once you know that, it begs the question of how much ground would a groundhog hog, if a groundhog could hog ground. (And I believe they can hog ground better than they can chuck wood.) Groundhogs are related to squirrels and are a member of the marmot family. Not to be confused with the Marmot company that makes insanely expensive jackets, using, as far as we know, no part of the marmot family. Amazingly, groundhogs are also called whistle pigs. (We are not making that up.) Not to be confused with the Whistle Pig company that makes insanely expensive whiskey, again, as far as we know, using no part of the whistle pig itself.




Why is Punxsutawney Phil named Punxsutawney Phil? What the hell is a Punxsutawney?

Confused in Columbus

Dear Confused,

Punxsutawney is actually the name of a town in Pennsylvania, roughly sixty miles northeast of Pittsburgh, which is another town in Pennsylvania that has never sounded like somewhere you’d want to live. Or even visit. Punxsutawney is where Phil lives and was named when they completely ran out of normal names for towns in Pennsylvania and just decided to dump all the Scrabble letters onto the table and see what lined up. Much like how my forefathers came up with Schmatjen.




Why do they use a groundhog to predict the arrival of spring?

Perplexed in Peoria


Dear Perplexed,

It was an accident. The people of Punxsutawney are constantly drunk. I’m talking like 24/7 hammered. They originally thought it was a small, fat, magical weather dog.




Has the pandemic affected Phil’s prognostication?

Quarantined in Quebec


Dear Quarantined,

While the American whistle pig and its weather predicting abilities seem to be immune to COVID, the pandemic did put a big damper on the annual hoopla in Punxsutawney. The Groundhog Day Festival normally takes place at a hill called Gobbler’s Knob. It is the highest point in Pennsylvania and was named after the town’s founder and Scrabble game owner, Phil Gobbler. (No relation.) Literally hundreds of tourists from as far away as the next town over usually gather at Phil’s burrow (the woodchuck, not the founder) to watch the weather-predicting rodent do his thing. This year’s event had to be done virtually, which presented two major problems. First, the town council had to purchase a computer and get Wi-Fi, neither of which are readily available in Pennsylvania. The second issue was the economic impact, not only of the cost of the laptop and the Wi-Fi, but also the loss of tourism dollars. Sadly, the town of Punxsutawney is not expected to financially recover from the loss and is expected to declare bankruptcy as early as tomorrow.




How old is Phil? How many “Punxsutawney Phil’s” have there been over the years?

Curious in Cape Cod


Dear Curious,

This is from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s official website:

There has only been one Punxsutawney Phil. He has been making predictions since 1886! Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking the "elixir of life," a secret recipe. Phil takes one sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.

See what I mean? I am serious when I say they are drunk all the time. The “elixir” they are talking about is Rolling Rock beer, brewed right down the road in Latrobe. They are constantly hammered. “Phil” was actually a ferret this year and they didn’t notice. That’s how drunk they are.


Well, there you have it, America (and Quebec, wherever that is). You asked and now you know everything there is to know about weather vermin.

We’ll wait this winter nonsense out, whenever it is scheduled to end, and I’ll see you at the big Groundhog Picnic this summer! We’ll all raise a green bottle of “elixir” to Phil. Who knows? He might even be a groundhog again by then.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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