Wednesday, June 19, 2024

We Have Ways of Making You Squirm

I had my first pedicure on Sunday. My wonderful wife, who was completely out of ideas for what to get me for Father’s Day, decided to roll the dice and go for a fun first experience kinda thing.

She had no idea what to get me, because when she asked me what I wanted I gave her no help at all and just did the “I dunno” shrug, because I completely forgot that I need a new firepit poker. I also need a pool pump that doesn’t leak, but that’s a little out of range for Father’s Day gifts.

With no help at all from me, she got the pedicure idea and put a mystery event on the calendar for after church. When we left the house, she pretended she wanted to stop at the 7-Eleven for a Diet Coke, but when we pulled in and parked, she said, “We’re actually here.”

“I know. I just parked.”

“No,” she said, “I mean we’re here, for your surprise gift.”

I’m pretty low maintenance, so I figured she meant I was getting one of those 7-Eleven bacon-wrapped hotdogs or something, and I was momentarily pleased. Then she pointed at her nail place, which is right next to 7-Eleven.

“I’m not getting my nails done,” I told her.

“Not your nails, you idiot. We’re getting pedicures!”

“We’re doing what, now?”

I’m almost positive that stepping through the door to Lucky’s Hair and Nail was the first time I’ve ever actually been inside a nail salon. I’ve seen them in movies and TV shows, but I really had very little idea of what to expect.

The line of gigantic leather massage chairs with attached foot baths was pretty impressive. My wife and I each had our own foot technician lady. My wife had her regular nail lady, and I had an older woman, who looked pleasant enough.

We sat down in the chairs and my lady asked about my water. All I heard was “hot” and I didn’t understand the question. My wife told me she was asking how hot I wanted it. She was already filling up my tub, and even when I knew the question being asked, I had no idea how to answer. I don’t have a specific Fahrenheit that I like my foot bath water to be.

I do, however, know that I like my foot bath water to be far less Fahrenheits than what my lady chose for me. Holy wow! I guess the first step in the pedicure process is scalding. Probably makes it easier to remove all the skin off your feet.

The second step is to clip the toenails. That part was welcomed, because I have a hard time breathing while I clip my own toenails. I could breathe just fine while she did it. About that time, I noticed my chair came with a remote control panel.

There were a lot of confusing pictures on the buttons, and almost no words, so I chose the button that just said “Auto,” and immediately regretted it. The seemingly pleasant leather recliner chair was harboring a secret compartment of what I’m guessing was rebar, and it unceremoniously jammed it all into my back, right between my shoulder blades.

I scared both our ladies a little when I flinched dramatically and screamed in pain, but they are pros, so no damage came to my pinkie toe she was operating on at the time. I finally found the off button, and the rebar retracted into the devious backrest.

My lady then picked up a pair of pliers and began to be very unfriendly with my big toenails, both of which have a history of becoming ingrown. I tried to be brave and winced a smile at her, and she smiled sweetly back at me.

The next twenty minutes gave me the impression that prior to working at Lucky’s Hair and Nail – conveniently adjacent to the 7-Eleven - perhaps my lady had had another life as a master CIA interrogator.

I’ve seen those movies where the interrogator swaps back and forth between brutally torturing the captive and pretending to be their best friend. My pedicure was exactly like that.

She started by plunging my feet in boiling water.

Then she cheerily clipped my toenails.

Then she took the pliers to my big toes.

Then she rubbed pleasantly-scented oil on my feet.

Sandpaper heel torture.

Wonderful calf massage.

Stuff my foot in a plastic bag filled with molten wax.

Massage the other calf.

Molten wax the other foot.

Delightfully ticklish wax peel with toenail buffing.

I was a roller coaster of emotions. Does she love me? Does she hate me? The chair is so comfortable now, but is it plotting to kill me?

It was diabolical. I would have given her any information I had, but she never asked me a single question.

I left the building on edge, but with very clean, tingly feet. That being said, I’m almost positive I had my last pedicure on Sunday, as well as my first.

I just can’t take the psychological torture. I’m going to go start a written gift wish list.

1) New firepit poker

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Hot Seat

I had the opportunity to travel to Reno, Nevada this week to present a Positive Coaching Alliance workshop to the amazing people from all the Boys & Girls Clubs in the area. My wife came with me and we made a little mini getaway out of it.

It was a great trip, but I had little bit of a fatherly crisis after we had dinner, which was a tad disconcerting so close to Father’s Day.

If you’ve never been, Reno has an idyllic little cutsie river walk in the middle of the biggest little city in the world. The Truckee river burbles and bounces through the heart of old downtown Reno, with shops, hotels, and restaurants lining its sides. Unfortunately, there are quite a few homeless folks lining its sides as well.

My wife and I were walking off an amazing Italian dinner at Marcolini’s Italia – a small little place that comes with my largest recommendation. My wife said that the owner told us the chef was from Hell’s Kitchen, but I distinctly heard him say she was from Helsinki with my sub-par hearing in the room full of background noise.

We’ll never know which one of us is correct, because there’s just no way to check. But it’s a moot point if she’s from Hell’s Kitchen the cooking show, Hell’s Kitchen the actual New York neighborhood, or the capital of Finland. Who cares, because the lady can flat out cook Italian food!

We wandered across a little wooden foot bridge adorned on both sides with beautiful hanging baskets of flowers, out onto an island in the middle of the river with a little park. We sat down on the large smoothed-out granite rocks on the bank across the river from the West Street Plaza, which has wide concrete park steps that come right down to the water. Mallard ducks were paddling in the current near the steps, patiently waiting for tourist snacks.

We were enjoying the scenery when, from the top of the plaza up by the street, we saw him. He had the classic dirty tan, smudged clothing, and overstuffed backpack of the standard Reno homeless meth guy. But this guy had something else going for him. He had a very expensive office swivel desk chair.

It was the kind with the tight black mesh breathable seat and back, and sixty-seven levers to control all your lumbar/height/swivel/tilt/arm angle needs. He rolled it through the plaza and to the top of the river steps, smiling proudly and swiveling it back and forth, swiveling his head along with it, looking for someone to share his joy.

No one shared his joy.

He was clearly not happy that no one liked his new chair as much as he did – or at all – and his demeanor soon changed. His smile went from “proud dad” to more of a Jack Nicholson vibe, and down the steps he came, dragging his prize possession behind him – much less carefully than before.

It’s an ungainly thing to manhandle an office chair, and he made it look even more ungainly than it is. He lost five of the six wheels on the flight of concrete steps down to the water, so rolling the chair became more difficult when he finally got to the last wide step at the water’s edge.

My wife and I sat on the rocks on the other side of the happy little river, making bets on what he was planning next. I won the bet when he picked it up over his head and threw it into the river.

Our theory at the time was that he was just a jerk.

It was more downward trajectory than outward, and the chair was submerged only a foot or so from the step. As he crouched down to touch the chair, our theory changed to maybe the chair was on fire in his meth-induced hallucination.

Then, in a move no one saw coming, he produced a ten-inch fillet knife with a bright orange handle from his belt under his shirt, and stabbed the bottom of the chair a couple times. That was the cue for the two guys sitting on the steps six feet to his left to call it a night and head home.

Our theory then changed to a possibly flaming chair, but definitely covered with either snakes or baby dragons. When our hero was confident that the chair had been properly extinguished and/or rinsed, and either rid of vermin or just generally perforated, he grabbed the wheel-deficient base and hauled his prized possession back onto dry land.

He carried it back up to the top of the stairs and lovingly slammed it a few times onto the top of one of the four-foot-high concrete pillars that marked the top of the stair flight. This effectively disabled one of the chair arms completely, although it remains unclear if that was an objective or a side effect. There might have just been one more snake or baby dragon hanging on. Who knows?

He left the chair atop the pillar to drain while he went back down the steps and collected all five of the dislodged wheels, returning to the chair to reattach each one to its original position, more or less.

He then righted his swivel chair back to the ground on its newly replaced casters, and rolled it away from us to the side of the plaza area, where he again picked it up above his head and hurled it up into a planter area under a tall pine tree. He then crawled up over the concrete planter wall and joined his swiveling buddy under the tree, where they both melted further back into the undergrowth until we lost sight of them for the evening.

Now, normally, I’d be happy with a great dinner and an unexpected free show. So, why the Father’s Day crisis, you might ask?

Well, last year we sent our oldest son off to college in Reno. For a minute or two on those rocks by the river, I was seriously rethinking the intelligence of that decision.

On the one hand, Son Number One is a big dude, and could probably pick chair guy up over his head and hurl him further out into the Truckee River than the swivel chair made it. On the other hand, the probable hallucinations and the definite fillet knife had me a bit concerned.

But then I remembered two things that put my mind at ease. First, they keep the college in a magic protective bubble that can only be entered by students and staff. (I don’t know how they do it, but they do.)

And second, we released him into the wild already, and he was well prepared for the adventure. Every town has meth swivel chair guy. Reno just seems to have a few more than the national average, but we raised a young man who’s smart enough to steer clear of him, so we’ve done all we can.

A month or so after this Father’s Day, we’re going to release the second young man from the nest. Boise, Idaho probably has a few less chair stabbers than Reno, but that point is also moot. I’m really not worried about these boys, and that’s the best Father’s Day gift I could ever get.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The Real Last Day of School - Repost

Son Number Two is graduating from high school tomorrow, and last Friday we got to go back to his elementary school so the seniors could visit all the kids in their caps and gowns. (The seniors were in the caps and gowns, not the kids.)

It was a fun reminder of the elementary days. Fun for us parents and the seniors. And probably for the kids. But I gotta tell you, those elementary teachers looked tired. They looked worn down. They looked ready to be done. That’s when I remembered what the last two weeks of elementary school are like – a complete waste of time.

It’s a slightly more productive two weeks now that they’re in high school, because at least they have a few finals, but it’s still a lot of wasted hours.

Here's what I had to say on the subject back in 2015 when we were in the thick of it:


We are down to the last two weeks of school, and frankly, everyone has quit trying. I say two weeks, but really it’s eight school days. Seven if you don’t count the last day, which is on Thursday next week. We can’t even make it all the way to Friday.

Next Thursday is officially the last day of school, but the real last day of school was the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend. That was when the last bit of actual learning took place for this school year. Homework has stopped. Spelling and math tests have stopped. Everything educational has stopped. This week and next are just movies and cupcakes and field trips.

And when I say field trips, I don’t mean a trip to a museum or a historical monument. I mean walking to the movie theater and walking to the park. Why walking? Because it takes up more time than riding the bus. They’re just looking for activities to fill the time at this point.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing. I’m not concerned about this at all. I don’t blame the teachers for un-educational time-fillers. I empathize. I feel their pain. And I totally understand the logic behind it.

You have to have the useless weeks at the end.

Here’s the real-world scenario they’re dealing with: Imagine the office where Bob has come down to his last week before retirement. The last five days at a job before he will never go there again. Now imagine you’re Bob’s manager or coworker.

“Hey Bob, can you handle the really annoying and overtime-filled Jenkins account for the last five days you’re here, until you’re gone forever?”

“Sure, I’ll handle it,” says Bob, with a smile on his face.

Bob is still smiling later that morning as he hands the Jenkins file to the janitor and heads out for lunch.

It’s just like that for the teachers, except they have twenty-five little Bobs.

Bob’s last week is filled with sleeping in, leaving early, extended lunches with his favorite clients, spider solitaire, and Facebook and Twitter updates (#FourDaysTillPermanentVacationEqualsFourMartiniLunch, #DontBeJealous, #ImOuttaHere, #9to5OnTheGolfCourse).

Ending a long-term endeavor like a job or a school year is a paradox. It goes like this:

What are we here to do?

Be productive.

Can we really be productive on the last day?


Then should we have the last day?


OK, we’ll get rid of the last day. Now the second to last day is the last day.

Can we really be productive on the last day?


Then should we have the last day?


You see the problem. If we eliminate the useless last two weeks of school, then we have a new end date, which will naturally be preceded by two weeks of uselessness. So, we get rid of those two weeks and move it back again.

You have to have the two useless last weeks or pretty soon we just show up for the first day of school and they say, “Great job. See you next year.”

So here we are. In the eight-day window of time-fillers.

Classroom pajama parties – Maybe if we tell them to wear their pajamas and bring pillows they’ll actually lay on the floor instead of climbing the walls. It’s worth a shot.

Walking trip to the water park – Sounded like a good idea, but in drought-stricken California at the moment, the water park consists of colored pipes sticking out of the ground with no water coming out of them. Whatever, let’s go anyway. It’ll burn a day.

The talent show – School-wide time-filler consisting of 473 acts. The acts have a 100% bravery ratio but, sadly, only a 9% talent ratio. Gets us out of the classroom, so let’s do it.

Walking trip to the movie theater – What’s playing? Who cares?

Day on the green – Put them all out on the soccer field. Activities? They’ll probably figure something out. Just lock the doors so they don’t come back in. Teachers can take turns rotating to their classrooms to sit in the quiet.

And finally…

The last day of school – It’s a minimum day. School ends at 12:20. Why do we even go through the charade of keeping them here for four hours? We’re not going to actually do anything. Shouldn’t we just show up in the morning, check them out on the clipboard, gather up the stuff from their desk and hand them off to the parents?

Come to think of it, why can’t we just check them out when they get picked up on Wednesday afternoon?

That’s a good idea. Next year we’ll just eliminate this useless last day.

Have a great summer, Bob.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge