Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The Chosen Word

It’s fairly simple these days to trip yourself up with online comments. You could comment on how beautiful the blue sky is and someone will undoubtedly accuse you of being a climate change denying rain hater. It’s a wacky world out there online.

Unfortunately, it’s also pretty easy to stick your foot in your mouth out here in the real world. (Not literally – With my level of non-flexibility, I can’t physically get my foot anywhere near my mouth)

Most humans get uncomfortable with periods of silence in a conversation, so we have a tendency to try to fill the void with extra words. Most of the time, those words are not needed, and often, while being well-intentioned and even correct, they can have the opposite effect – torpedoing what you were trying to say.

They say brevity is the soul of wit. It might also be the key to your conversational success.

Now, it’s not to say that some additional words can’t be helpful to you, but you must choose them wisely. For example, with introductions:

Good: This is my boss.

Better: This is my amazing boss.

Wrong: This is my current boss.

While technically correct, it is unhelpful and possibly detrimental to your career.

Good: This is my wife.

Better: This is my beautiful wife.

Wrong: This is my current wife.

Also technically correct, but very unhelpful and possibly detrimental to your health.



Good: You are a strong runner.

Better: You are fast!

Wrong: You’re fast for your age.

Again, while technically correct, it sort of makes it the opposite of a compliment.

Good: Nice haircut.

Better: Ooh, nice haircut. You look fabulous.

Wrong: Nice haircut. Was it inexpensive?

Good: Nice dress.

Better: That dress looks great on you!

Wrong: Nice dress. I hope it was on sale.

Good: Nice car.

Better: Hey, cool car!

Wrong. Nice car. I used to have the same one before I got a job.



Good: Welcome!

Better: Welcome! So glad you made it safe and sound.

Wrong: Hello. How long are you staying?



Good: Hey there. I’m John.

Better: Hey there, I’m John. I’m getting a beer. Can I get you one, too?

Wrong: Would you like a beer? You look alone and sad.


Meeting your date:

Good: You look great.

Better: You look amazing.

Wrong: You look really nice this time.


The wedding:

Good: I do.

Better: I absolutely do!

Wrong: OK, let’s see how it works out.


And finally, marriage:

Good: I love you.

Better: I love you to the moon and back.

Wrong: I love you when you get your clothes all the way into the hamper.

Be safe out there and remember to choose your words wisely!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Hump Day - Repost

My wife is going away this weekend, and while I will of course miss her, I am looking forward to one very special thing. Well, yes, playoff football, but also something else. I knew I had articulated this phenomenon before, so I dug back into the archives – way back to 2019, the pre-COVID days if you can even imagine. Here’s what has me excited about this weekend:


My wife has left us. All alone. For four days.

It’s Day Two and we have already descended into chaos. Pray for me.

I try to see the bright side of situations, but this one is tough. Sure, we get to eat out a lot, but that’s expensive. Sure, we could not shower and spend all day in our underwear, but they require you to wear pants at Chick-fil-A, and will insist that you leave immediately if you aren’t. We found that out the hard way.

As near as I can tell, there is only one pure upside to my wife being gone – I get to sleep on the hump.

You see, I’m in the second half of my forties, or the “complete physical breakdown” period, as it’s known. Some random part of my body is either hurting, aching, or simply not working correctly at any given moment of every single day. The only thing keeping me alive and marginally mobile is sleep.

A good night’s sleep depends on four main factors:

1) Making sure your kids are sleeping somewhere other than in your house.

2) Making sure your dog is sleeping somewhere other than in your house.

3) Having demonstrated the willingness to shoot randomly out of your upstairs windows at the first sign of late-night disturbances, thus eliminating loud parties and street racing in your neighborhood.

4) A good bed.

Of these four essential ingredients, a good bed is arguably the most important factor for an aging male, such as myself, since I’m mostly deaf at this point anyway. But having a good bed is not as foolproof as it sounds. At least not for me and my wife.

We have two main problems when shopping for a bed, stemming mostly from the fact that we’re both “frugal”:

A) Neither of us want to pay the Maserati-ish ticket price for the “premium-grade” mattress, even though we both need the premium-grade mattress.

B) Neither of us want to buy a new mattress after the recommended seven to ten years, because even after fifteen years, “we just bought this one!”

So there, in the master suite, sits a probably ten-plus-year-old “standard entry-grade” king-size mattress that has only one thing going for it – the hump in the middle.

By sleeping on our respective sides all these years, the weight and heat of our bodies have worked to shift many of the standard entry-grade mattress molecules to the middle of the bed. There, due again to the effects of pressure and heat, much like how diamonds are created deep within our earth’s crust, the sub-par mattress molecules have fused together into a magical longitudinal mass of premium mattress molecules, known as “the hump.”

The hump is a mattress within a mattress, if you will. It’s a three-foot-wide section of platinum mattress, hiding in plain sight in the middle of our old, worn out bronze model.

The hump is not available to me on regular nights, because if I tried to sleep there, I would be touching my wife while we slept, which would throw her delicate nighttime temperature regulation system completely out of whack, activating her “kick violently until the temperature regulation system gets back on track” reflex, which puts me in great nighttime physical peril.

So, the hump is only available when the king-size bed is single-occupancy, and this week, that single occupant is me.

When I woke up this morning, my hip didn’t even hurt. I feel like I’m forty-three again!

Happy hump day.

See you soon,




Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Sort of Dumb

We live in Placer County, California. Placer rhymes with gasser, unless you are also pronouncing gasser wrong. Placer County is named after a gold mining technique – placer mining. That’s where you use water to sift through sand, silt, and gravel in order to not find enough gold to pay for the boots you ruined while placer mining.

I’m not sure if the roots of the county name, steeped in the practice of separating things, is the reason or not, but we have never had recycling bins. All the houses in Placer County get one big 96-gallon rolling green bin for the yard waste, and one big 96-gallon rolling gray bin for everything else. (Unless you’re my neighbor two doors down who pays to have a second gray bin and both of them are always overflowing and I still can’t figure out how one family could possibly produce that much trash each and every week unless they are importing it from other houses in some sort of weird money-making scheme but how would that work?… but I digress…)

The Western Regional Sanitary Landfill and Materials Recovery Facility, aka The Dump, employs a bunch of people to stand on either side of a huge conveyor belt and manually sort, Placer-style, all of our trash. #TopTenJobsIDon’tWant

I still don’t know why they do it that way, but it might have something to do with those sorting trashcans at the airport and in some fast-food places. You know – the ones with multiple small holes at the top labeled like this:

Paper | Cans | Plastic | Landfill


Mixed Recycling | Landfill | Compost


Bottles/Cans | Paper | Trash

Have you ever, since those came into existence, fully understood how to categorize every single thing you’re throwing away? The waxy paper under my cheese fries, for instance. Is it considered paper? You sure as heck can’t write on it. And if so, should it go in the paper section even though it’s soaked in oil and has cheese stuck to it? If not, is that now compost, landfill, trash, or recycle? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that I should probably lay off the cheese fries after looking at the paper.

And have you ever agreed with the categorization made by the person before you, whose paperboard drink holder is sticking out of the trash hole, or the paper hole, or the compost hole? No, you have not.

My guess is that Placer County decided if we can’t even use those right, how are we going to properly sort an entire week’s worth of household waste? I think they have a point.

Which is why I was a little shocked when I got the latest news from our school district. Seems that the California legislature passed a fun new bill requiring all schools to step up their recycling game, which leads me to believe that the California legislature does not understand that schools are full of kids. For whatever reason, the schools here in Placer County are going to break with Placer tradition and try something new.


Dear Rocklin Unified Students, Families and Staff,

Following the passage of California Senate Bill 1383, all school districts need to implement trash separation systems to recycle food waste. While Rocklin Unified has focused initial efforts within campus kitchens, the next round of implementation includes students separating organic/food waste into a green waste bin.

Elementary school students will participate in hands-on lessons to learn more about green waste recycling and then be asked to separate food scraps from non-food items when they finish eating snacks and lunch.  

Please contact your child’s school if you have any questions.


Rocklin Unified School District


Um, yes, I do have a few questions. My first one is, were you drunk or high when you wrote this?

You’re going to train the elementary school kids, but leave the middle- and high-schoolers to just figure it out? Have you met them? Although, the alternative idea of holding a “hands-on lesson” about food scraps with middle and high school kids is equally asinine. I can already see the airborne mozzarella sticks covered in marinara sauce.

And have you ever been to a school? The kids can’t get more than 60% of the trash all the way into the actual trash cans when there’s only one kind. 

I mean, best of luck with this plan, but I’m going to tell you right now, a lot of things are going to end up in those green waste bins, but fully separated organic/food waste is not one of them.

After the hands-on lessons, you can check the bin for Jimmy’s package of carrots, still in the package, Jimmy’s milk, still in the carton, and possibly Jimmy’s backpack, if he’s missing it.

And if he has any enemies, you may also want to check the bin for Jimmy himself.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Happy New Year?

We went over this last year at the beginning of February, but I thought I’d bring it up a little earlier this year, for reasons that will become obvious.

I’d like to once again review our standard nationwide protocols when it comes to saying, “Happy New Year.”

As a general rule, you’re pretty safe just shotgunning “Happy New Year” out into the world until around today, the 10th of January. With friends and family, you’ve got a much more relaxed timeline, depending on the first time you see or talk to them after New Year’s Eve. A close family member or a really good friend can comfortably receive a HNY well into January.

With work, you’ll want to keep the 10th in mind as a good guideline. Even before the 10th, however, you’ll need to exercise caution in the workplace. Hopefully you took heed after last year’s discussion and have done so.

It can be a major business faux pas to wish the same colleague a HNY more than once in the office or on a Zoom call. Similarly, wishing a client or vendor a HNY for a second time on a call can lead to awkwardness. You’ll either want to keep a list of all the people you’ve wished a HNY to, or have an earlier cut-off date.

I would suggest the earlier cut-off date, since someone else finding your list can lead to more awkwardness during your embarrassing explanation, or a trip to HR if you refuse to give a plausible one. It makes people nervous when Bob in accounting has an unexplained list of officemates with some of the names crossed off.

If you are on the receiving end of an embarrassingly late or doubled-up HNY at the office, you have a few options. You can go with the friendly “Right back atcha,” or the more formal, “And also with you.” Whatever happens, try your best not to embarrass the ill-timed HNY’er. Maintain decorum, plow forward with the conversation, then casually send them this column in about a week.

Wishing a HNY to the clerk at the grocery store, the person behind the counter at the coffee place, or your server at a restaurant needs to end right around the 4th or so. You might still be in the holiday mood and want to be friendly and wish them a HNY, but they’ve had the HNY exchange six thousand times by then and they’re just done with it, so have a heart and let them off the hook.

If you’re a friendly sort, and like to wish random passersby on the street a HNY, stick with the 10th as your guideline. Anything past that and it’s getting weird. If you want to say HNY at the end of January, it better be to your immediate family members, and even then they’re going to think you’re being weird.

And for the love of Pete, under no circumstances should a HNY come out of your mouth or land in a text or email after January has ended. This is the official, 100%, no wiggle room, cease and desist, cut-off day.

February is a strict HNY no-fly zone. No one wants to hear it. It’s cold, many people have started their taxes, and pretty soon we all have to figure out what to do about Valentine’s Day.

Happy New Year!



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

About the Author, 2024

Here at Just a Smidge, we like to start the new year off with a little meet and greet, since we continue to gain new readership each and every year. In 2023 alone, we documented as many as three new readers! Let’s get to know each other, shall we?

Hi. I’m Marc Schmatjen, aka Smidge, and I’m the lone staff writer and chief pool boy here at Just a Smidge. Based on how much money I make writing this column, it would be highly inaccurate to call this my job, so let’s just go with “hobby.”

I am a fifty-one-year-old husband of one, father of three, and legal custodian of one Labrador retriever. We affectionately refer to our boys as Son Number One, Two, and Three. Two of them are still here at the house, being loud and eating everything in sight. We have successfully relocated one of them to college, where he is no doubt loud and eats everything in sight, but we don’t have to be involved. The state says we have to keep the other two here until they are allowed to go to college, so we continue to wear ear plugs and make near daily trips to the grocery store.

My wife is an amazing woman who teaches math to teenage high school kids, and, since we have teenagers ourselves whom I spend quite a bit of time with, I am constantly amazed that she is able to maintain her sanity. (I am using “sanity” on a relative scale here. She’s human, after all.)

Anyway, enough about my wife and kids. Let’s talk more about me. Here are twenty other things that you should probably know about me, in no particular order:

1) I would be aging incredibly well if I were ten to fifteen years older.

2) My grandfather killed General Patton's dog. That is the single most historically significant thing anyone in my family has done.

3) Walking out into bright sunlight makes me sneeze. I am one of only an estimated seven people in the world with this disorder. We have a club. I inherited this trait from my grandmother, whose husband once killed General George Patton’s dog.

4) I am distantly related to U.S. president Grover Cleveland on my maternal grandmother’s side, whose husband (my grandmother’s, not Grover Cleveland’s) - I believe I may have mentioned this - killed General George S. Patton’s beloved English bull terrier, Willie.

5) Dave Barry is my humor column hero, and I hope to be as cool as him someday, although his grandfather wasn’t connected in any way to General Patton’s dog, as far as I know, so I’ve got that going for me.

6) Toilet paper should come off the top of the roll. I’m not stating that as a personal preference, but simply as a fact.

7) Son Number Three is just a few months away from getting his driver’s license. The joyous emotion of not ever having to drive carpool again is oddly balanced against the crushing dread of an insurance bill with three male teenage drivers. It is a feeling that I don’t think can be properly explained unless you’ve been here.

8) My face is going numb. Why does this happen to men? You see old guys all the time eating dinner with food stuck to their faces. We just can’t feel it on there anymore. My chin is completely dead at this point.

9) My three favorite flavors are burnt pepperoni, slightly burnt bacon, and well-toasted sesame seeds. Basically, if it has caught on fire, I want to eat it. Except for my s’more marshmallows. Those should only be browned. (And they will end up stuck to my chin, where they will remain until my wife scolds me.)

10) I was in shape once. I swam 100,000 yards in one week when I was in high school. (That’s 57 miles, for you English majors). I could not swim more than 57 yards today without needing a floatation device, an oxygen tank, and a defibrillator. See number 11.

11) I love chocolate and bacon. See number 10.

12) I constantly get my left and right mixed up. This makes driving directions with my wife fun.

13) I am a recovering engineer, so I know there are only 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

14) My favorite joke of all time is: A guy walks into the psychiatrist’s office wearing nothing but underwear made out of Saran wrap. The doctor takes one look at him and says, "Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts."

15) After a twenty-one-year hiatus, I began snowboarding again three years ago with our boys. So far [sound of me knocking on every wooden surface I can find] I have not hurt myself. This could be my most impressive athletic feat to date, and I once swam 57 miles in a week.

16) I like most foods (see number 10), but I have a deep, abiding hatred for cantaloupe. If bacon is a 10, cantaloupe is a negative 3000.

17) I once pointed out that Van Gogh’s “girlfriend” was actually a prostitute during a fifth-grade art docent lesson. It was not helpful to anyone involved.

18) My absolute favorite thing that has ever happened on this earth – and I am including my marriage and the birth of my children in that – was when the Oregon State Highway Division tried to disintegrate a dead whale with a half-ton of dynamite in 1970. I wasn’t around yet, but thankfully they had video cameras back then. (Just Google “Oregon Exploding Whale.”)

19) I hope to one day be in charge of detonating something as large as a dead whale, but so far, my wife has not let me.

20) I only type with three of my ten fingers, so this is all very impressive, if you stop and think about it.

So, there you have it, folks. You now know everything you need to know about me. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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