Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A Light at the End of the Carpool, Part Two

When Son Number One was born, we had to quickly master the baby blanket swaddle wrap. Confining his arms and legs in a blankie, like an eleven-pound Chipotle burrito, was the only way to shut him up at bedtime. It worked like a charm.

A little over sixteen years ago, when Son Number Two was born, our swaddle game was at its peak. I burrito-wrapped him like a pro in the hospital on his very first day.

He cried.

Then, unfortunately, he kept crying. Soon, my wife was crying.

After somewhere between eighteen and twenty-four hours of crying, I was about to cry. I went to his bassinet to do the only thing I knew to do – re-wrap the burrito boy. When I pulled the top locking blankie fold loose, his little arms and legs all went “fwump” down onto the mattress, and he fell instantly asleep – completely unwrapped.

That was the moment that my wife and I came to the horrifying realization that our boys would not be exactly the same.

Neither of us really remember what Son Number Three preferred. Those years are just one big hazy, sleep-deprived fog, with my most consistent memory being Shop-Vac’ing Cheerios and goldfish cracker dust out of car seat crevices.

While all three of our sons being very different creatures has presented many, many challenges over the years, one recent bright spot is the driver’s license situation.

Son Number One didn’t seem to care about getting his license at all. Thankfully for everything except our insurance premiums, he finally became a legal driver a few months before turning seventeen, and takes himself where he needs to be.

Son Number Two, not surprisingly, is taking a different approach. He is on what I would call the more traditional driver’s license timing path. He’s still acting like a psycho and didn’t schedule his test on his sixteenth birthday, but his test in this coming Monday, so he’s at least within a couple weeks of the date.

Assuming – and finger’s crossed – everything goes well on Monday, we will have two teenage drivers. Army generals and insurance companies have known for centuries that the teenage boy is the most reckless and wild animal on the planet, scoring just in front of the honey badger and the Tasmanian devil.

When Number One was learning to drive, we were told to just expect our insurance premium to double when he got his license, and that’s pretty much what happened. I’ve done zero research and asked zero questions about what happens to the premium when you add a second honey badger to the plan. I don’t want to know.

I don’t care at this point, because money doesn’t matter right now when balanced against carpool. I’ve never been freed from a long imprisonment in a POW camp, but I would imagine it’s a very similar feeling to being freed from carpool.

I am currently in the middle of the second-to-last carpool week of my life, and I am giddy. Son Number Two getting his license is a big part of that. With all three boys at the same high school next year, and two of them driving, there is a very good chance that Son Number Three will have a ride to and from whatever school or sports activity he’s involved in, nearly every single time.

Again, it's hard for me to express the joy I feel when I think of never driving carpool again, but to try to put it into monetary terms, it’s totally worth whatever multiple-Tasmanian devil insurance bill is coming my way on Monday afternoon.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

This Survey is a Big Doughnut

Son Number Two turned sixteen yesterday. Pedestrians of Northern California, you have been warned. He had a high school lacrosse game last night, so we bought doughnuts for the team to celebrate after the game.

There are eighteen guys on the roster, so we did the math and figured, conservatively, we’d need about six hundred doughnuts. When I got to the drive thru menu board at Krispy Kreme, however, I realized that, from a long-term financial survival standpoint, we’d only barely be able to afford three dozen, so I went with that.

My giant receipt offered me the opportunity to take a “brief” survey in order to get a free dozen doughnuts with my next purchase of another dozen. Normally, I would have thrown that away, but Son Number Three is turning fourteen on Saturday, and he also has a lacrosse game that day. He was there for his brother’s game last night, so there is no possible way we’re getting out of doing the “doughnuts for the whole team” thing again.

Suddenly, taking the doughnut survey could potentially be the smartest financial decision I make all year.


What food items did you purchase?

Umm… doughnuts. I thought that was implied here.


Please rate your satisfaction with our service, etc.

Phenomenal, except for the price. I was unaware that doughnuts are now priced like Tesla batteries.


Based on this experience, what is the likelihood that you will…

Return to Krispy Kreme in the next 30 days?

Highly. That’s why I’m taking this ridiculous survey.


Recommend Krispy Kreme to others?

I’ll recommend everything except actually paying for them.


When do you plan to purchase Krispy Kreme again?

In the next couple days, but I feel like that answer might be giving you a false sense of my willingness to keep coming back and paying these prices…


What type of doughnuts did you purchase?

I was sincerely unaware that you made more than that one type of doughnut.


After your purchase, how soon was the first doughnut eaten?

Is this a trick question? I had a box of doughnuts on my lap. About three seconds.


After your purchase, when were the majority of the doughnuts eaten?

OK, that’s a little better gauge of what happened. About three hours later.


After your purchase, when was the last doughnut eaten?

Umm… these are high school kids. I don’t understand the question. There was no “last doughnut.” They were all devoured in less than ten seconds.


After your purchase, where were most of the doughnuts you purchased consumed?

Inside a swirling vortex of high school lacrosse players. We went over this already.

How much did you spend on this visit?

Way too much! Again, why do you think I’m doing this survey??


Was this your first visit to Krispy Kreme?

I’m fifty years old. Of course not.


What was your primary reason in deciding to visit this Krispy Kreme?

Umm… is this another trick question? To buy doughnuts.

When did you make the decision to visit this Krispy Kreme?

Umm… right around the same time I decided I wanted doughnuts…


You guys should hire better survey people. I’m not sure your questions are doing you any good, but I sure do appreciate the discount for this Saturday!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

An Open Letter to Life 360

Dear folks over at the Life 360 app,

I am writing you today to ask you to do just a little bit better with your app. Please don’t get me wrong – we love it. As parents, my wife and I just can’t get enough of knowing exactly where our children are at all times. At least, exactly where their phones are.

Your app can cause trouble for people, however.

As an example, one of our police officer friends told us a story about an older gentleman who visited a coffee shop one day, and was seen by one of the employees placing his phone in a Ziploc bag, and tucking it under the outdoor deck. The man then drove off in his car.

The barista was obviously confused and concerned, so he called the police, who came and retrieved the phone, then tracked the man’s car via traffic cameras to a rather shady little strip mall. The strip mall happened to contain a massage parlor of the blacked-out-windows variety, if you know what I mean.

Inside the massage parlor, our friend the cop was able to return the phone to a very, very concerned gentleman wrapped in a cheap towel. A gentleman who not only did not want to be talking to a police officer inside that particular “massage parlor,” but most definitely did not want his phone to be there.

That was a case where your app caused a problem for that older gentleman, and rightfully so. He’s obviously a dirtbag.

My problem is that your app recently caused a problem for me.

No, I was not putting my phone in a Ziploc under a coffee shop’s deck.

You see, Son Number One and Two are in Mexicali, Mexico right now on a mission trip with our church. They are currently working hard, building a house for a deserving family in need of one. We are very proud of them, to say the least.

But their mother and their grandmother tend to worry. They tend to worry a lot. Many times, they will search out things to worry about if life seems to be going too smoothly. So, as you can imagine, two of our three boys going to Mexicali was plenty of fuel for the worry fire.

Your app, however, piled some unnecessary logs onto that fire.

The boys left on Friday, and we followed their progress down south on the Life 360 app as the day progressed. We knew that they would turn their phones off on Saturday morning when they crossed the border. The group leaders hold onto their phones for the week so the kids have no distractions and can focus on why they’re there.

The problem for me here is two-fold.

First is the accuracy of location and the update speed your app provides. Regularly, both of my sons will be riding in the same car to and from school, but it appears on the app as if they are in separate cars and are racing each other, trading the lead back and forth the entire way. That seems like it could work better, but it was always more of an amusing glitch than a problem. Until now. You’ll see why shortly.

The second part of the problem is how your app reacts when the phone gets shut off. For some reason, the app doesn’t just immediately say, “The cell signal has been lost or the phone has been shut off,” or something like that. No, your app holds out hope – for about two days, it turns out – that the user will regain the cell signal or turn the phone back on. While you are holding out hope, that person – my wife’s first- and second-born, in this case – remain frozen on the screen as if they’ve simply stopped and are hanging out there.

In this case, for two days on the Life 360 screen, Son Number Two was being detained at the border crossing and Son Number One was at a hospital a mile inside the border.

A hospital, man!

Do you have any idea what I had to go through to talk my wife and mother-in-law out of storming Mexico to retrieve their babies?

Not cool, Life 360. Not cool.

So, yeah, if you could fix those little bugs, that would be amazing.

Thanks in advance,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

A Twelfth Open Letter to the School District

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

I am writing you today to inquire about getting three or four student loans going. I’m not sure about the process for getting student loans for boys that are still in middle and high school, but I definitely know I want them.

I read the news recently that repayments on student loan debts have been frozen for a few years now, due to people’s inability to leave the house and get to the mailbox during quarantine. The government just voted to extend the freeze a while longer, and they are pushing for total forgiveness of up to $50,000 for any loan.

So, obviously, I would really like to get four separate $50,000 student loans going right away.

Most of the cost of public school seems to be built into my taxes, but with sports, school fundraisers, clothes, food, and the big three – masks, Clorox wipes, and hand sanitizer – educating our three boys has EASILY cost us more than fifty grand each over the past few years, so I should have no trouble qualifying.

I will also gladly sign up for a class or two at our local junior college to get the ball rolling on my own $50,000 pre-forgiven student loan. I’d like to look into a psychology track, but if they also have classes on basic math, personal finances, civic responsibility, compound interest, or what a loan is, I think those could really benefit everyone involved here.

Any information you can give me regarding applying for this fantastic “loan” opportunity would be greatly appreciated.

On another note, I’d also love to renounce my citizenship and become an undocumented immigrant, if that’s possible. Our governor here in California is giving out cool free stuff to them, and from what I understand, I would no longer have to pay taxes. So that seems like something I’d be very interested in exploring.

Let me know if that’s your department, or if I need to contact someone else. I am absolutely willing to cross either one of our nation’s borders and then sneak back in if that’s what’s required.

Thanks in advance!

Yours in educational excellence through continued partnership,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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