Wednesday, July 17, 2024

I'm in a Pickle

My mother-in-law is turning 80 years young in a few months. She taught our family the game of pickleball. She also taught me that saying cheesy things like “80 years young” is far more beneficial to our relationship than saying “80 years old.”

Pickleball, as you may have noticed, is gaining popularity at a rapid rate. Play it once, and you’ll be hooked, unless you are a tennis player.

If you play tennis, and are serious about it, which every tennis player seems to be, you will not like pickleball ever, because you will refuse to try pickleball, because pickleball is loud and adds annoying extra lines to what are supposed to be TENNIS courts, and it’s loud, and the people who play it laugh and shout, and there is no place for that kind of thing on a tennis court, because tennis is a serious and quiet sport and pickleball looks and sounds fun and loud and there is absolutely no place for fun anywhere near tennis courts!

But, if you actually enjoy having fun, chances are great that you’ll like pickleball. A lot of its popularity comes from how scalable the game is. A group of very athletic twenty-somethings can have a lightning-fast game of doubles on the court next to the group of ninety-somethings with only one original hip joint between the four of them, enjoying a much slower-paced game of the exact same rules on the exact same size court.

We are currently spending the week down in beautiful Morro Bay, California, at my mother-in-law’s house. She is the treasurer for the Morro Bay Pickleball Association, which has four dedicated pickleball courts annoyingly close to two dedicated tennis courts. So close, in fact, that you can sometimes almost hear the tennis players disapproval of all the fun over the noise of all the fun.

The MBPA consists of a very large group of retired people all over the age of 70, who can all kick my ass in pickleball.

That’s the hard lesson I had to learn when I started playing. I don’t think we could name another sport that exists that my mother-in-law could beat me at. She is an incredibly active 79-year-old, but I still have every sports advantage over her, simply because of our age, size, and strength gap.

I really can’t think of another sport – even the ones I’ve never played. I mean, neither of us have ever played jai alai – neither of us even really know what it is – but I guarantee I come out on top if we played a match, or game, or set, or whatever they call it.

But then there’s pickleball - the great equalizer. It’s the one physical activity that legitimately qualifies as a sport that I’m aware of where nothing about your size, strength, or age is going to help you gain an advantage over the lady who plays for three hours a day, even though she’s 79, weighs 90 pounds, and has no cartilage in any of her joints anymore.

And I had come to terms with that fact, after playing with her and her friends enough. It was OK. Pickleball is just like that. I don’t play or practice enough to be very good, so it’s OK if I get beat by old ladies. That was fine.

But then the little kids showed up.

There we were the other day, enjoying a loud, fun time and annoying the adjacent tennis players, when a grandpa showed up to the pickleball courts. He had his two grandsons with him, and they were only six and eight years old.

To our surprise, grandpa took the court with the six-year-old as his doubles partner.

An unsuspecting couple who appeared to be in their early sixties were on the other side of the net. They got destroyed.

Grandpa was good, but his grandson was amazing. Covering the whole back court and hitting a two-handed forehand and backhand, he could place it anywhere he wanted. If the couple was playing back, he’d drop it right over the net. If they were too far forward, he’d make them pay for their foolish behavior by lobbing a beautiful shot over their heads right to the back line.

His eight-year-old brother was laying on the side of the court at the net, casually watching the action. I asked him their ages and which one of them was better. With absolutely no braggadocio in his answer, he said, “I’m a little better than he is.” Just stating the facts.

So, what that meant was, if I found the best doubles partner I could come up with from my circle, which would probably be one of my very athletic teenage sons or my mother-in-law, we still would not have stood a snowflake’s chance in hell against these two elementary-school-age brothers.

I have made my peace with taking staggering losses from my soon-to-be 80-year-old mother-in-law, but I draw a hard line at getting embarrassed by a second-grader and his kindergartner brother.

Maybe I’ll take up tennis.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

You'd Better PreCheck Yourself, TSA

When I fly out of Sacramento International Airport and Livestock Pavillion, I usually park in the daily parking lot. It’s a little cheaper than the garage, but only slightly more expensive than the long-term lot, which makes it worth it, because you can walk to the terminal instead of riding a bus.

A lot of people have figured that out, so the daily lot seems to be pretty darn full most of the time, which means the walk can be a little way. When it is hot outside, I tend to sweat a little bit on that walk, and I’m always wearing a backpack and pulling a carry-on bag.

Why am I telling you all of this? Not because you need to know this information, but because the TSA should know this information. The TSA agents that scan the incoming travelers at SMF should be familiar with the local parking and weather situations, since they are local also. None of them fly to work from somewhere else. They all live here!

You’re probably wondering what my point is. That’s fair. My point is this: Why the hell is the TSA operating multi-million-dollar scanning technology that can’t crack the confounding mystery of sweat? I have a theory…

When I arrive at the airport my back is either warm, or warm and sweaty. The TSA scans me in the “stand on the feet marks and hold your hands above your head as shown in the diagram” machine, and needs to do an extra search on my lower back every single time. Summer or winter. Every time.

When it’s extra hot outside, I’m extra warm in other places. On my last trip, one of those places was my crotch.

“Sir, I’m going to need to perform a full crotch search.”

“Go nuts.”

“You’ll need to step over here.”

“You mean on me!? Why?”

“See this big dark spot here in the screen?”

“Yes, I’m sweaty from all the heat outside. I’ve only been inside the airport for 10 minutes.”

“I’m still going to need to perform a full crotch search. Would you like a private room?”

“You’re telling me you want to inspect my crotch, and you’re asking if I want to do that with you privately? I’m thinking no, boss. We’re going to handle this out here with all these nice witnesses.”

“OK, I’ll be using the back of my hand.”

“Well, that sounds just fabulous.”

**Full crotch search commences**

The whole time I’m thinking, is this really what this guy signed up for when he decided a job at the TSA was the move? Because, if the answer is yes, then that’s disturbing, and if the answer is no, then what the hell is he still doing here?

**Full crotch search concludes**

“Well, that was great. Hey, I was going to get some pizza at the gate. Does this mean you’re buying now?”

“Have a nice day, sir.”

“I don’t even get your number?”

“Goodbye, sir.”

Like I said, the TSA has multi-million-dollar scanning equipment. Do you know what else they have? They have a program called TSA PreCheck that lets you bypass the expensive scanning equipment and the impromptu full crotch searches.

Kinda makes you wonder… wouldn’t the TSA want to get everyone on PreCheck so they didn’t have to employ so many crotch guys? You’d think they would, because that would be efficient, but then you remember that the TSA is a government organization, so efficiency is not even a consideration for them.

Do you know what is a consideration for government organizations? The main and really the only consideration? Getting more of your money.

Now, I don’t believe for a second that the multi-million-dollar scanner can’t be set to figure out body heat and sweat, and I also don’t believe they can’t get everyone signed up for PreCheck for the same amount of money they spend on salaries for the multiple layers of crotch inspectors. I mean, have you ever been to a TSA checkpoint that was understaffed?


You can get a TSA PreCheck, but it will cost you. Kinda feels like a tax, doesn’t it?

But it’s a voluntary tax. So how in the world are we going to get people to pay a voluntary tax??

I know! Full crotch searches.

We’ll use the back of the hand though, so it’s not so weird.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, July 3, 2024

We Need More Specific Bangs

We celebrate the Fourth of July tomorrow, so I wanted to send out a quick PSA to all you Nextdoor- and Ring Neighbors-type app users.

The PSA is this: For the love of Pete, KNOW YOUR TOWN!

I live in Rocklin, CA. They’re not gunshots. It’s never gunshots.

When you hear a loud noise off in the distance, run it through a quick logic filter to come up with likely causes. Asking on Nextdoor Rocklin, “Did anyone else hear those gunshots?” is like asking on Nextdoor Compton or Nextdoor Iraq, “Did anyone else hear those fireworks?”

Nevertheless, I could go out onto my front lawn, take my sandals off and clap them together to get the dirt off the soles, and ignite a firestorm of “where’s the gunfire coming from” activity on four different apps.

All that being said, tomorrow is a slightly different story. I have to assume that tomorrow is the one day that you neighborhood app people might have a slightly larger “fireworks” option in your logic filters, but we can’t be totally fooled. There will likely be some unusual gunfire also.

We’re a funny breed, us modern Americans. Even though we’re trying our best not to actually have any of it in a lot of facets of our lives, we’re still quite exuberant about our freedom around the Fourth. So, please expect the unidentified loud noises to begin around midnight tonight.

And, in many areas that don’t usually experience nighttime gunshots, there will be the occasional beveragely-enhanced exuberance in the form of celebratory shotgun fire to the sky.

So, starting late tonight and going until late tomorrow night, we will need you to be a lot more specific about your paranoid questions. Yes, we heard the fireworks. And yes, we may have also heard the gunshots. But we don’t know which you’re asking about.

From your couch, as you peek timidly out of your living room curtains if you dare, we’ll need you to frantically ask very targeted questions over the next day.

“Did anyone hear the gunshots? I think it was the 47th through 53rd loud bang noises just now. Can anyone confirm?”

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

God bless America. And neighborhood apps.

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