Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Caught in a Marketing Trap

They got me. I'm the sucker.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." I am a fan of his, because I went to Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School in the ‘80s, where I also learned he coined the phrases, "Gag me with a spoon,” “Take a chill pill,” “Bros before hoes," and “Party hearty with Bacardi.” If you don’t believe me, you can check my yearbooks.

Anyway, back to me being a sucker. There I was one day, about three weeks ago, mindlessly spiraling down the Facebook rabbit hole when I saw it. A better mousetrap.

Literally. It was an ad for an actual mousetrap.

The design was brilliant. Just a simple plastic lid that you pop onto the top of a five-gallon bucket. The lid came with a little plastic ramp the mice would happily climb to get to the delicious peanut butter I would spread liberally on the underside of the little raised roof in the middle of the lid. They would scamper toward the free meal only to find… what’s this? I foolishly walked out onto an ingenious trap door that was cleverly hidden under the little raised roof, and now I find myself in the bottom of this five-gallon bucket, unable to get out. Woe is me!

The real-life footage in the ad was amazing. A black and white time-lapse video from inside a barn showing mouse after hungry mouse falling victim to the trap door prank. I saw so many mice fall into the bucket in the short video that I was amazed they hadn’t figured out how to make a mouse cheerleader pyramid to get back out.

It was incredible! And so simple.

I immediately beat an internet path to their virtual door and bought one from the random Chinese website linked in the ad. It was a little over $20, and I waited patiently for it for about an hour before I went to Amazon and found the same ones from a different Chinese mousetrap conglomerate that were two for $20 and would arrive tomorrow.

I bought those, too. I mean, I have three buckets, and if one amazing new mousetrap is good, three will be phenomenal.

Well… three weeks, $40, and two operational, peanut butter-baited mousetraps later, I have captured exactly zero rodents of any kind. I have one in the garage and one in the backyard by the shed, and I can honestly tell you, they work as well indoors as they do outdoors.

Someone (not P.T. Barnum) once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I have proven that to be true recently.

And speaking of that old phrase, I just happen to be having a special right now on the most amazing new trap door-style mousetraps. Check out the video! They’re ingenious! Hurry though, because they’re moving fast. I only have three left in stock.

They’re only $40 each!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Celebration Injury

I celebrated too early, and my feelings have been hurt. Along with my gas budget and my will to live.

Seventeen months ago, I thought I was a free man. In my column on April 27, 2022, I was giddy with anticipation. Son Number Two was getting his license the next week and I was beside myself with joy because I was about to be liberated forever from the shackles and chains of carpool. Damn the insane insurance costs, it was going to be worth it.

I did the simple math. At the time, Son Number Two was a junior and Son Number Three was a freshman. That meant that this current school year, if the final exams went reasonably well, they would be a senior and a sophomore. They did, and they are.

Seventeen months ago, it was all so clear. They would be going to the same high school and even playing the same sport. They would attend both school and lacrosse practice together. Son Number Three wouldn’t have his driver’s license yet, but that wouldn’t matter, because Number Two could take him everywhere.

That meant I was officially done with carpool. Forever. I celebrated by not driving anywhere. It was glorious.

Well, I may have done the simple math, but the calculus caught up to me and smacked me across the face in August. (I realize it’s almost the end of September, but it’s taken me this long to be ready to talk about it.) Seventeen months ago I was thinking only about their school days. I never stopped to consider their school day schedules.

Things were great for the entire month of May last year, when Son Number Two was a junior. My plan worked perfectly. Number Three caught a ride with him every day, to and from school. Well, turns out that’s because juniors still have to take lots of classes. Seniors, on the other hand, do not.

Seniors like Son Number Two, who handled all their core class graduation requirements in the first three years of high school, hardly even have to take any classes that have homework or tests. I think on one of his days he has two periods of woodshop, weightlifting, and creative writing. C’mon!

What’s the problem with all this? His ridiculous schedule gets him out of school two and a half hours before his younger brother. By the time I need him to drive everyone home, he’s already been home, eaten two meals, watched a movie, and is at the gym.

That leaves me and the other neighborhood parents still needing to pick up the sophomores. Damn you, schedule calculus! I guess one thin silver lining in my carpool cloud of despair is that we only have to pick them up from school. Number Two still takes them in the morning. But anyone who has ever done carpool knows that is small consolation. Pickup is waaaay worse than drop off.

So, I’ll have to wait another seven months before I get to celebrate for good without injury. Number Three doesn’t turn sixteen until the end of April.

And I’m celebrating no matter what. You can Marc my words, if he doesn’t pass his driver’s test, he’ll be walking home from school in May.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Right, Left, Right, but Circularly

I’m not a big fan of roundabouts. They are a lot like the metric system. Both, when studied objectively, are a much better ways to do things, but I still don’t like them..

The metric system makes complete logical sense. Everything is based on factors of ten. Take the millimeter, keep multiplying by ten and eventually you end up with the kilometer. Multiply the kilometer by five and you have the most grueling thirty-five to forty-five minutes of my year every April at the Run Rocklin.

Whereas with our imperial system, there is no length unit smaller than an inch, there are twelve of those in a foot, three feet (foots) in a yard, and 1,760 yards in a mile. Great. We also have ounces that can be volume or weight, and neither has anything to do with the other. It’s stupid.

What’s even more stupid is buying beer at a bar by the yard, because “three feet of beer” can be any amount of volume ounces they want based on the inner diameter of the long tube, you have to drink it like some idiot blowing a glass trumpet, and you lose most of it to the classic yard slosh down the front of your shirt. But enough about last Saturday.

Roundabouts make complete logical sense, from a traffic flow perspective. Four-way stops are dumb. Why do I need to completely stop my car at an intersection if I’m the only one there? Why do three of us need to wait next to each other at a red light when no one else in any other direction is there to use the same intersection? It’s dumb. Roundabouts solve those problems with a continuous flow pattern that only requires yielding when someone else happens to be there.

But here’s the thing. No one knows how to use either of them. The metric system is complete nonsense when put into context in everyday American life.

“How far away is the movie theater?”

“One and three-quarter kilometers.”

“Never speak to me like that again.”

“How much gas did the car take?”

“Thirty-seven and a half liters.”

“I hate you.”

And just like the ridiculous metric system, no one knows how to use roundabouts. Everyone seems to know what to do at a stoplight, and about half the people seem to be able to operate successfully at a four-way stop sign. The other half have no clue how or when to turn left, but it’s just become a part of our daily routine to swear at those people and then move on with our lives.

Roundabouts, on the other hand, will always have at least one person who can’t figure it out. If they’re not in it yet, chances are good that they will not yield to those who are. And if they are in it, there’s a better-than-average possibility that they’ll stop in the circle to let someone in.

And that’s just the single-lane roundabouts. Don’t even get me started on when there’s an inside lane and an outside. Why the hell do they even build them like that? What could I possibly want to use the inside lane of a roundabout for? I just love turning left and want to do it all day?

We have a new roundabout in my town that has two right turn options for one of the streets. When approaching the intersection, you can stay in the far right lane and bypass the roundabout to make a right onto the street, or you can enter the roundabout and drive 480 degrees around to the left to end up on the same street. For the love of God.

The police don’t even seem to understand them. At least the police in Alaska. OK, to be fair, it was a campus cop at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks who pulled me over when we were on our way to their natural history museum. Their museum comes with my highest recommendation. Their roundabouts do not.

I had just gone through one of their roundabouts when he lit me up. I pulled over and he told me he had stopped me because I failed to use my turn signal in the roundabout.


I was not aware that turn signals were a thing in roundabouts. How does that work, exactly? I would need to approach the entrance to the roundabout with my right blinker on? Once inside, immediately switch to my left blinker for the trip around until I come to my exit point, where I will quickly swap back to my right blinker as I leave the circle? That’s as dumb as getting a yard of beer.

The cop didn’t offer any advice on the matter, immediately switching the subject to my town of Rocklin, California where he had once visited family. We were on his campus in the summertime, and I think he might just have been bored. I didn’t press the roundabout blinker question because it was clear he wasn’t going to ticket me. I think he just wanted someone to talk to.

So, the moral here is clear. If you are going to use a roundabout, do it in a high-crime area where traffic is minimal, yield only when appropriate and necessary, or whenever you feel it would also be the polite thing to do, and just flip your blinker back and forth at random while you are in or near the circle.

And stay out of that ridiculous inner lane.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 6, 2023


As you may have heard, Jimmy Buffett passed away on Friday. He was a legendary singer-songwriter, undoubtedly most famous for the song, “Margaritaville.”

I knew he was a very successful individual, financially speaking, but I didn’t know until this week that his net worth was estimated to be a billion dollars. That’s a lot of dollars.

He parlayed the song, “Margaritaville,” into an absolute empire of a lifestyle brand, which now includes tortilla chips, cookbooks, RV parks, blenders, pool floats, casinos, slip-on shoes, pickleball paddles, drink mixes, retirement communities, patio furniture, hotels, salsa, various frozen shrimp meals, at least one cruise ship, and of course, the Margaritaville restaurant chain that spans the globe. I mean, my goodness, the word “Margaritaville” doesn’t even flag your spell check!

In case there is some scenario involving a time machine or interstellar space travel you’ve endured that has prevented you from ever hearing the song, “Margaritaville,” it’s a heartwarming tale about a man who has been spending some quality time away from home, drinking delicious frozen cocktails, playing his guitar, eating delicious shrimp, every once in a while discovering that he has gotten a new tattoo after a few too many of the frozen drinks, and slowly coming to the realization that he is the one to blame for his failed relationship.

It's a great song with a catchy tune and it’s fun to sing along to with your friends. I never thought too much about it past that until I heard a stand-up comedian describe it as the most depressing song ever written.

Now, obviously, you might argue that there are far more depressing songs out there. Anything from an opera where everyone dies would be a natural trump card to the relatively tame, “Margaritaville.” Or anything by the Doors. There’s a lot of material to counter the claim. That is, until you put it into context with Jimmy’s empire.

In the song, we are led to believe that our boozy hero is somewhere tropical, or south of the border. The refrain that we all love to sing along with is, “Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville, searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt…”

On the surface, it seems to be an almost enviable situation. Leaving all your worries behind on some tropical beach somewhere. When Jimmy Buffett wrote the song, Margaritaville was just an idea. An unknown destination. A far-off paradise.

But that’s not where Margaritaville really is today. Thanks to his incredible marketing efforts over the years, the destination is no longer unknown, and the stand-up comedian might just have a point. “Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville” takes on an entirely different tone when the lyrical scenario is playing out in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

RIP, Mr. Buffett. Thanks for all the great songs.

And this sweet pickleball racket with the parrot on it.




Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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