Wednesday, May 26, 2021

49 at 49

I turned 49 years old two days ago. I was feeling a little down about entering the last year of my 40s, but it didn’t last past the afternoon. I ended up needing to make a trip to Walmart that day, and five minutes of mingling with the regular clientele had me feeling just fine about my life. I would highly recommend this form of self-care.

Now, getting old obviously has some disadvantages, but they do say that with age comes wisdom. Unfortunately, I wish that were more true. Nonetheless, in honor of living through another trip around the sun, I have added to my list of thoughts, observations, and acquired “wisdom.”

Here it is - one for each year. You’re welcome, America.


1.  I have coined a new term based on 2020-2021: “Bummerang” – When the same bad news or depressing situation keeps returning again and again and again.

2.  The recent advent of axe throwing places that serve alcohol could very well be the thing that brings this country back from the brink of bubble-wrapped, snowflake entitlement and saves the America we know and love.

3.  There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who prefer the toilet paper to come off the top of the roll, and those who are wrong.

4.  Things would be a lot better if everyone just drove while driving.

5.  I don’t understand the debate about vaccinations. It’s sort of like worrying that birds are getting into your cat's dish and eating the food. It seems like an issue that will eventually just take care of itself.

6.  Pi and the circumference of a circle have a similar relationship to pie and the circumference of a person.

7.  Here’s one of the main differences between men and women: Men can look at an ad for women's underwear and get excited. I’m not talking about women in underwear, just the underwear itself. Women do not get excited looking at pictures of boxer shorts.

8.  You are wholeheartedly fooling yourself if you think the government is efficient at anything except taking your money.

9.  The clearest evidence that capitalism beats communism is that Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos both own multiple space rockets. Suck it, North Korea.

10.  The three-second rule has a lot of leeway depending on if what you dropped was the last one.

11.  Owning a pool in the winter is like making payments on your new snowmobiles all summer.

12.  You cannot use the phrase, “To be honest with you...”  without giving the listener the impression you aren’t always being honest.

13.  When pulling a stump out of your front yard with a chain and your truck, make sure the roots don’t have ahold of your water main. Trust me.

14.  When packing thirteen suitcases into the car for your wife, is it impossible to have ten of them be “on top” so she can get to them easily.

15.  If one of my boys saw their brother in a fight, I'm certain they would jump in and help. I'm just not sure which side they'd be on.

16.  You can ask someone to do something, or you can tell them how you want it done, but you can’t do both.

17.  A good indicator of where you are in life is this: Does the advertisement of free food still affect your decision making?

18.  Fabric softener sheets go in the dryer, not the washer. Just FYI. I’m not saying I didn’t know that.

19.  There is no “t” or “t” sound in the word across. There is no “b” or “b” sound in the word supposedly. Please pronounce accordingly.

20.  Men are far more likely to clean things with spit than women are.

21.  Money and toilet paper have something in common – They’re both easy to take for granted until you run out. Also, in totally opposite, but equally dire situations, they can be substituted for each other.

22.  There are very few things in life that can make you feel as special as the phrase, “or current resident.”

23.  If you ask any guy to tell you a story about a time he almost died, he will have four stories just off the top of his head, and one will be from this year. If you ask women the same question, most of them will look at you like you’re crazy. We guys are much, much dumber.

24.  Nothing says I never want to have a real job quite like a neck tattoo.

25.  Guys: Sitting down to put on your pants is one very clear tipping point toward old.

26.  In life, it is very important to remember where you are and why you're there. That way, when your podiatrist tells you to drop your shorts, you’ll ask some questions first.

27.  Your dog has saved you from being murdered at least a thousand times by barking at the front window, and yet you remain completely ungrateful.

28.  Hold out as long as you can before putting on your first pair of magnifying “reader” glasses. The second you do, your eyes give up like a tired marathoner crossing the finish line.

29.  People who don’t use their cruise control on the freeway should be pulled over and waterboarded.

30.  You can't take bell peppers off a pizza.

31.  Pointing out that Van Gogh’s “girlfriend” was actually a prostitute during a fifth-grade art docent lesson is not helpful for anyone involved. I’m not saying I did this, and I’m not saying I didn’t do this – I just want you to know.

32.  It’s hard to claim to be a grown woman, fully capable of taking care of yourself, and also claim that you do not know how to operate a toilet seat.

33.  The fact that there is such a thing as the American Cemetery Excellence Award is proof that there is no industry that will not self-congratulate.

34.  Don’t waste your time trying to have a logical conversation with a teenager. Their brains are physically incapable of sustained logic. Instead, just give them healthy food in large quantities and cross your fingers that they leave your house at some point in your lifetime.

35.  “To be or not to be” is not the question. The real question is which towel in the guest bathroom am I allowed to use to dry my hands?

36.  Give a boy enough time with any object, whether it be a stale Cheerio, a bouncy ball, a doll, or a book, and he will eventually turn it into a weapon.

37.  Its not interchangeable. (take all the time you need)

38.  If you get a paper cut while reading a book about Navy SEALs, you’re not allowed to say ouch.

39.  The idiots who wear their pants down below their butts and have to waddle with their legs spread to keep their pants from falling to the ground are the same idiots who are most likely to try to run from the police at some point. That makes me smile.

40.  Scientists recently discovered that female dragonflies will fake their own death to avoid mating with males. I’ll bet all the married scientists were like, “Yup.”

41. We would be in much better financial shape as a nation if we just instituted my new $100 Million Rule. No matter what the project – bridge, building, plane, ship, department of department compliance, whatever – you get a one-time check for $100 million and if you can't get it done for that, too bad. It obviously wasn’t meant to be. No more money for you, ever.

42.  The problem with raising independent, strong-willed adults is that you have to live with independent, strong-willed children.

43.  Guys, do you ever have trouble figuring out if you’ve had too much to drink? Here’s a handy guideline:

“There is no way I can scratch that itch on my ankle while I’m standing here peeing, so I will not try.” – You’re still OK

“I can totally do it without peeing on myself.” – You’re drunk

44.  Be wary of any celebrity’s restaurant endorsements if that same celebrity also does ads for Prilosec.

45.  No matter who you are, no matter where you're from, there is one shared experience that binds us all together as one people: The sheer horror of the ketchup or mustard water falling from the unshaken bottle and ruining your perfect bun. I feel your pain.

46.  If you are looking to try it, kombucha is an acquired taste. Meaning you have to acquire one of those long skinny cheese graters and completely scrape all the taste buds off your tongue. Then you can drink it.

47.  If you have to choose, it makes more sense to become a strong swimmer than a strong runner. You don’t automatically die when you stop running.

48. It’s time for text-in radio contests to stop saying, "message and data rates may apply." At this point, if people don't understand how their text and data plans work, they should learn the hard way.

49. You can give a teenager reminders about your departure time every fifteen minutes for hours ahead of time, but they still will not start looking for their shoes until you are sitting in the car.


See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Symphonic Sneezes

I Googled myself yesterday. I do that every few months to check on all those arrest warrants and bad credit claims that may or may not be against me, but I can pay just $9.95 for the Premium Plan to find out for sure.

Also, as an author, I always enjoy seeing what crazy German, Arabic, and Indian book websites are selling my books, which are all in English. You can pick up a copy of Bullies & Bagels for just under 3,800 rupees. Can you believe it?

There are nine pages of me on Google, and yesterday I scrolled through all of them for fun and a couple of new items caught my eye, besides the possible impending credit and legal actions.

I am now actually quoted on under the “quotes about spit” category.

Men are far more likely to clean things with spit than women are. ~ Marc Schmatjen

I am definitely the originator of that quote, and while I appreciate them including me in their stable of quoted folks, I do have to take issue with the name of the website and its implied description of the website’s contents. In my opinion, “” should probably contain only wise quotes by famous people, or famous quotes by wise people, or some combination thereof.

My quote about spit is not wise, and I am not famous. Simply having a quote category named “quotes about spit” calls the entire “wise and famous” premise into serious question, don’t you think?

Still, it was fun to see.

The one that really made my day, though, was a calendar event at The Virginia Discovery Museum. From their website:

The Virginia Discovery Museum is proud to partner with Charlottesville Symphony to offer virtual musical storytimes and instrument demonstrations. Meet a new musician each month as we learn about instruments from the brass, percussion, string, and woodwind families.

On December 4th, 2020, Katy Ambrose, who is the Principal Horn (Brass) for The Charlottesville Symphony, located at The University of Virginia, read (and played) the kids my book, The Very Sneezy Garbage Truck, and apparently introduced them to a DIY instrument called the Hose-O-Phone.

I spit out my coffee when I read that.

What happens when Sneezy the garbage truck picks up his weekly load at a new factory? Meet principal horn Katy Ambrose, from Charlottesville Symphony, and learn all about brass instruments as she brings “The Very Sneezy Garbage Truck” by Marc Schmatjen to life through sound during a virtual musical story time.

I clicked on their link to the DIY project and I could not be more sad that I only just found out about this and I didn’t have the chance to Zoom into the reading back in December. I would have loved to see and hear a professional musician, so skilled in her craft that she is the leader for her instrument in an actual symphony orchestra, make garbage truck sneezing sounds and air horn noises with a makeshift horn constructed from a funnel, a garden hose, and a water bottle cap for a mouthpiece.

I mean, I guess she could have used her actual symphony instrument, but in my mind, she’s reading my goofy book to a bunch of kids and making glorified farts noises with a hose-o-phone.

I emailed the director of programming at the Virginia Discovery Museum, first to tell him or her that they are a genius, and second to request a copy of the recording if it exists.

You can rest assured that when I return to in-person school visits and finally get to read to kids again, the kindergartners and first graders are going to see me walk into their classroom wearing a DIY Hose-O-Phone across my chest like a bandolier!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

A Ninth Open Letter to the School District

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

I never thought I would need to write you again so soon, but your power to disappoint me apparently knows no bounds. Literally the day after I wrote you about the ridiculousness of “quarantining” Son Number Two, you went ahead and “quarantined” Son Number One.

(I am putting quarantine in quotes here because they are both perfectly healthy with no symptoms of anything, so we haven’t exactly locked them in their rooms, if you catch my drift. School is currently the only place being made off-limits to my school-age children. Crazy, huh?)

Son Number One plays water polo, which is basically wrestling in a pool. The water polo team was not required to get COVID tests last week, because “case rates” (whatever the hell that means) in our county were below a certain, very arbitrary, not chosen by anyone with an IQ higher than room temperature, level. The badminton team, if we had one, would still have been required to test, since badminton is an indoor sport. Same for all other non-contact badminton-esque indoor sports, including the sport in question today, which we will call Sport X.

So just to recap so far, since I know you are slow on the uptake, the completely, by definition, non-contact Sport X was required to get COVID tested because they play in a cavernous gymnasium, but a sport where it is impossible to wear a mask without literally dying, and you guard your opponent by putting your chin on their shoulder was exempt from testing because the pool they play in is in the sun.

As it happens, one of our water polo players also plays Sport X, and his test last week came back positive. So, in case you missed the memo, you sent the JV and Varsity water polo teams home, in addition to the whole team from Sport X. Thankfully, under your insane rules, we were dealing with a kid who actually got a positive test, and not just a “close contact.” And thankfully his parents weren’t having any of your BS and took the time to get him tested two more times, on two separate dates, as is your inane policy.

I guess they went to two labs that aren’t affiliated with the school district and use actual scientific lab equipment, because he came back negative both times. So, once again, you shut down three teams and sent 40+ kids away from classes for 5 days (instead of 14 – thank you awesome parents), canceling 20% of the water polo team’s games in an already shortened season for absolutely no reason at all.

Again, just to recap, 424 days after you shut schools completely down, you are still making the very life-altering decision of sending perfectly healthy children away from school and sports based on the findings of a lab that apparently gets their testing equipment from the Fisher-Price Lil’ Science Person collection at Walmart.

And again, to keep you up to date on your own policies, because I know none of you wrote any of them down, if he had just been “close contacted” in class, the negative test – like the one that Son Number Two got last week from Walgreens – would mean nothing. Like I said, thankfully under your “policy,” he had a positive test, which can get reversed by actual professionals. Simply being in the same room as someone who got a positive test from your source, Chuck’s Rapid COVID Testing Facility and Kosher Hotdog Stand, is irreversible. That’s neat.

A news article popped up in my feed last night that made me immediately think of you. The KCRA 3 headline was “Police arrest man after stolen sailboat gets stuck under Tower Bridge.”

Seems a gentleman down on the Sacramento River thought highly enough of his skillset to declare himself captain of a boat that didn’t belong to him. But when put to the test, it was revealed that he lacked the basic seamanship to understand the height of his vessel, the height of a lowered drawbridge, how drawbridges work, or even how to steer a sailboat.

It occurred to me that you are that so-called captain. You think highly enough of yourselves to take the job of shepherding our schools, but when put to the test by a flu bug that has been shown time and time again to have basically zero effect on students, you are still sailing into that drawbridge, week after week, month after month, and tragically for everyone involved, now year after year.

Captain Merrill Stupiding of the S.S. Dumbass was promptly arrested on the river last night and thrown in the brig. Sadly, in your case however, you sailed this boat square into the bridge, but when it get’s pointed out that you have no idea what you’re doing, it goes like this:

It’s not our fault. The state controls all bridge policy. It’s the state’s fault for putting the bridge there in the first place. It’s not our fault that the drawbridge wasn’t up when we got there, since there’s no way for someone to control one of those bridges or one of these sailboat things. I mean, we’re surrounded by water, for goodness sake. And besides that, the water is moving! And this big bridge right here came out of nowhere and hit our mast. Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to go collect our paychecks from the owner of this boat.

I really think we can do better than this, don’t you, skipper?

Yours in educational excellence through continued partnership,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

An Eighth Open Letter to the School District

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

I realize that on Cinco de Mayo, you would normally expect this column to be about my love of tacos and beer with limes, and the amazingly awesome tradition of the U.S. celebrating another country’s holiday with far more enthusiasm than they do, but alas, you have taken that away from me.

I was forced to write to you again today because yesterday, you sent Son Number Two home from school for two weeks. Yes, 417 calendar days after we began our 14-day curve flattening, school is still at my house.

To say that I don’t understand the reason for you “quarantining” my son is more than just a vast understatement, because to understand something, it first has to make at least some shred of sense. Let me walk you through what happened here and see if you can follow me:

Apparently, a kid in Son Number Two’s Spanish class tested positive for COVID. I have to assume it was COVID-21, because we can’t still be using the old COVID-19, can we? I mean, by definition, that thing is three years old already.

Now, I’m sure that kid was socially distancing from my son, as is the requirement on campus, and they were both wearing masks, as is also the requirement.

No pencils, pens, paper, erasers, computers, vapes, needles, water bottles, etc. were shared between the two, and they obviously did not touch each other’s desks, because that is strictly forbidden.

However, since my son was identified as one of the students at a desk most closely properly socially distanced from the lad with the positive test, my son was sent home to quarantine. (You will note that I said, “positive test,” and not “sick,” “ill,” or “contagious.” Those are important distinctions that are obviously lost on you.)

My son was not tested, nor did he have any symptoms of anything at all, other than a teenage attitude, but he was sent home, just in case.

Soooo… I have some questions.

First, the very obvious one. Why would my son be in danger of getting a virus from a kid if they were socially distanced and both wearing masks? I mean, it was safe to go back to school if the kids did those things, right? Do those things not work? Or are you unable to get the kids to comply with those rules?

Second, we have another son that attends the same school. Son Number One, who actually lives with Number Two, and doesn’t just sit adjacent to him at a desk with a mask on, is still allowed to show up on campus to learn. That luxury has been taken away from Son Number Two because you think he might also have the VID. So, we’re being super careful with Number Two because he may or may not be a ticking time bomb of disease, but I mean, what the hell – the kid he actually wrestles with at home can come on campus all he wants.

Thirdly, along the exact same lines, I am a water polo coach at the same school. I am also required to wear a mask and socially distance from the players (and we totally do that, by the way!). I also live with the ticking time bomb, yet you are totally cool with me showing up and coaching lots of kids from the school in my apparently useless mask.

And, not finally, but the last point that I have the patience to make – you require him to get tested around seven days after the date you said the alleged masked, distanced contamination occurred. If his test comes back positive, obviously he will be sealed into small, plastic-lined box and shipped overseas. But if it comes back negative, you will let him come back to school. You quarantined a perfectly healthy child, not knowing if he was secretly sick, but you’re going to let him back into school with that exact same amount of information.

You see, a negative COVID test tells you that the kid didn’t have COVID at the exact second the nasal swab left his nose. What if he got it while leaving the testing facility, by walking six feet apart from another masked kid there to get tested? And it takes anywhere from two to six days to get the results back from the lab, depending on how good the testing company’s governmental lobby is. That’s quite a bit of time for him to suck in some VID through one of these masks that block the virus or don’t.

I don’t have the energy, or enough crayons, to explain to you why none of this makes any sense at all. Just please know that the fact that you are making policies like this, coupled with the fact that you are in charge of the education of our youth, concerns me deeply.

I know I used a lot of big words there, so maybe you should take this to a teacher and have them explain it to you.

Yours in educational excellence through continued partnership,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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