Checkout line advice 🌴 Peanut butter boards 🥜 Readers respond to my car woes 🗣

Hello, situation normies! It’s been cold and rainy here in Los Angeles, which is good because we always need the water, and some people need an excuse to wear sweaters, hats, and boots. Personally, I nod to the gods of winter by pairing hoodies with cargo shorts and flip-flops and staying inside when it rains. So far, so good!

Now for the main event. I’m excited about today’s Situation Normal because I’ll be responding to the great advice situation normies had about my car troubles. But first, I’ve got some advice for a Trader Joe’s cashier about her relationship and travel woes. Plus, peanut butter boards!


Let’s go!

Checkout line advice

The Trader Joe’s cashier was visibly upset.

“What are you going to do?” asked the woman bagging my groceries.

“I don’t know,” the cashier said. “They won’t even talk.”

“When are you guys supposed to leave for Hawaii?”

“We’re supposed to go in two weeks,” the cashier said. “But now… I don’t know. I think the trip is ruined.”

“Can you get a refund?”

“No, I tried.”

I wasn’t planning to interject because I felt like a child who wanders into the the middle of a movie and wants to know…

“You’re a man,” the woman bagging the groceries said to me. “What should she do about her man problems?”

I wasn’t sure how my gender qualified me to give advice, but I knew I needed more information before answering. So I asked for some context.

The problem was this. The cashier and her best friend had booked a trip to Hawaii for themselves and their husbands. The two couples were looking forward to their Hawaiian getaway, but then a couple of days ago, the two dudes got into a fight “over nothing,” and now both husbands want to cancel.

“I told her to put their butts on the plane,” the woman bagging groceries said. “By the time they get to Hawaii they’ll be fine because you can’t be mad in Hawaii.”

That advice sounded good, but I knew better. It’s a classic mainland fallacy to believe that your problems don’t exist in paradise. The truth is, you can pack anything in your bag that’s TSA-approved, and unfortunately, that includes your problems.

“Have you told them to grow up, make up, and get over themselves?” I asked.

“I did, but my husband won’t even call his friend,” the cashier said. “He’s so stubborn.”

“And the other guy is the same way?”

“Yeah, they’re both stubborn.”

“Well, your coworker might be right. It’s possible that they’ll get to Hawaii, order some tropical drinks with those little umbrellas and forget all of their childish bullshit.”

“That’s what I hope,” the cashier said. “But everyday, he says, I’m not going. He’s so angry.”

This was what I was afraid. Her husband sounded like a total dipshit. Unfortunately, total dipshits are very common, and the only thing you can really do is avoid them like the plague that they are. But I didn’t know the cashier well enough to tell her to divorce the total dipshit she married. Instead, I targeted my advice to the upcoming Hawaii trip.

“Here’s what you do,” I began. “Tell your husband you’re going without him. He won’t like it.”

“He’ll hate it,” the cashier said.

Of course, he’ll hate it, I thought. He’s a total dipshit who can’t see that his childish nonsense is costing him an awesome vacation and maybe costing him his marriage too.

“Every time he complains, just tell him that he’s welcome to come,” I said. “But then remind him that he decided not to go because he can’t be the bigger man. Tell your friend to run the same play on her husband.”

“Do you think that’ll work?” the cashier asked.

I knew the play would work, but I didn’t want to tell her what “work” meant in this case. Either their husbands would fall in line like the man-children that they are, or these two women would enjoy a fun girl’s getaway in Hawaii. That was how it would play out in the short-run. But in the long-run the play might work a different kind of magic—a disappearing spell, if you will, that would make her total dipshit husband vanish for good. After all, aloha means hello and goodbye!


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Peanut butter boards!


When I launched Situation Normal, I had no intention of discussing appetizers. But then one day, my wife sent me to a stranger’s house to buy a cheese board, but it turned out that it was actually a charcuterie board, which led us to snackle boxes, which brought us to butter boards. I thought it would stop there. Actually, I hoped it would end with butter boards. But then TikTok said, “hold my beer.” And while I held TikTok’s beer, it showed me the wonders of a peanut butter board.

Car FAQs

In case you missed it, I wrote about thieves stealing my catalytic convertor for the second time this year. I thought writing the story would be a bright spot in an otherwise shitty experience, but the real bright spot was hearing from so many wonderful situation normies.

Many of you asked good questions that I’m going to answer here. But before I do that, I need to share an update on the catalytic convertor situation.

On Monday, my mechanic called to tell me that I might have to wait seven or eight months for a new catalytic convertor. I’m going to call around to see if anyone can beat the the seven-month estimate, but I’m not hopeful. According to the Ye Olde Google Machine, we’re experiencing a shortage of catalytic convertors. It’s possible the shortage is being caused by a massive crime wave, but it’s also possible that the economic conditions fueling that crime wave (demand for certain precious metals) is hampering production. Either way, I’m fucked.

Which brings me to your questions/suggestions for what comes next. Without further ado, here we go.

What about a motorcycle, scooter, or bicycle?


The two-wheel option is a tempting one for several reasons. First, bikes and motorcycles are a great way to beat traffic. Second, there are electric and human-powered options, which will go a long way to achieving my goal of carbon-neutrality.

But there are also downsides to the two-wheel option. One downside is that you can’t carry a lot of stuff, which is a hassle for a guy who handles the household chores. But the real downside is danger. Motorcycles are inherently dangerous. Bicycles are safe, but not in the suburbs of Los Angeles, where road rage is all the rage and bicycle infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired. Also, I’m a klutz, which isn’t a great trait for a cyclist anywhere.

Why don’t you park in the garage?

Our garage only fits one car, along with boxes of holiday decorations, luggage, a weed whacker, cleaning supplies, our washer/dryer, Christina’s tools, extra chairs for the dining room table in case we ever have a dinner party again, a lifetime supply of Greenies for Mortimer because he buys in bulk, the drink fridge, and several boxes of miscellaneous “stuff.” Basically, the garage situation is a can of worms, but at least the garage door works.

Can’t you just get a new car, ideally an electric one?


Yes, I could always get a new car. But we paid off the Prius in 2020, and our plan was to own the Prius until it died. That’s why you buy a Toyota, isn’t it?

Selling the Prius probably won’t get me enough cash to buy a new car (or new-to-me used car) outright, so I’ll need to finance a portion of the purchase. I was hoping to avoid car payments until at least 2028. So while I could always throw money at the problem, it sort of feels like throwing money away.

Why don’t you just move?

Several people sided with my sister, Allison, by asking about a change of scenery. Suggestions included New York, Chicago, Detroit, Key West, Bali, Amsterdam, and Cleveland. While it’s tempting to relocate, moving kind of feels like I’m letting the thieves win even more. I mean, first they take my car, then they take my hometown?

What about a booby trap?


Several readers wrote in to suggest installing some kind of booby trap on the Prius so that it kills, or maybe just wounds, the thieves the next time they come to steal my catalytic convertor.

I’ll be honest, this option sounds very appealing. But I think there are two things working against it. First, I’m just not that handy, so there’s a very good chance that whatever booby trap I attempt to MacGyver onto my Prius will boomerang on me and send me to the hospital. Second, the legal team advising Situation Normal believes there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll end up in prison, a 100% chance that life will suck for me behind bars, and a “million-to-one” chance of my prison experience being optioned for film or television.

What about better (legal) security measures?

One reader offered some really helpful advice about installing motion-activated lights to scare away the thieves. I love this idea because it’s affordable, reasonable, and it’ll probably lead to a hilarious story about Christina and me installing said lights.

Unfortunately, lighting isn’t the issue. I already park the Prius under a street light, which is something the LAPD recommends. Obviously, the light isn’t a deterrent, but I’m starting to think the street light might be helping the thieves because it’s very difficult to remove a catalytic convertor in the dark.

Isn’t vigilantism dangerous and off brand?


Several thoughtful readers wrote in to warn me about the dangers of vigilantism. They politely pointed out that I am the opposite of tough and that if push comes to shove, I’m likely to get pushed and shoved. Also, they pointed out, writing about the challenges of vigilantism is only relatable to super hero types like Batman, whereas writing about an everyman’s challenges of living in a one-car household are actually super-relatable.

Live that Lyft life!

Many readers wrote in to voice support for supplementing our one-car household with Lyft rides. Several of those readers pointed out that this was a “selfish” request on their part because they just want me to write more Lyft driver stories. But selfishness is a two-way street because I also happen to be selling a collection of my Lyft driver stories. I think this one is a win-win!

Buy your copy of Ride/Share!

A little Substack love for Situation Normal


I’d like to close with some good news. Earlier this year, I wrote about hitting my goal of 1,000 subscribers for Situation Normal. This week, the team included that piece of writing in their roundup of writer milestones. That was a big honor, but it was especially thrilling to be mentioned alongside some excellent newsletters, including , , , , , , , , and !

On Substack
Milestone roundup: Writers reflect on their years on Substack
Writers from Newcomer, The Rebooting, internet princess, Ijeoma Oluo: Behind the Book, Platformer, Community Trail Running, TKer by Sam Ro, Colorado Mountain Running & Living, Situation Normal, and The Problematic Pen share insights that every Substacker could benefit from, from…
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Stick around and chat!

You know the drill. I’ve got questions, you’ve got answers.

What did you think of the advice I gave to the cashier?

Have you ever given advice to a stranger? How did it go?

Will you be serving a peanut butter board this holiday season?

The appetizer board phenomenon will never end. What’s the next board you see trending? Is it a hummus board?

If you’re a Substack writer who attends Thursday office hours, can you give Situation Normal a big old shout out? Thanks!

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Until Sunday, when I’ll post about winning in 2022…


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