Welcome back to “How Should I Know?” – the column that’s #1 in getting readers to say, “I’m sorry I asked.”

Dear Mordechai,

What did we need from the grocery, again? 

Your Wife


Dear Your,

I don’t remember.  I’m more likely to think of things when I see them.  I’m not going to remember, sitting in front of my computer, what we need in the kitchen.  And walking into the kitchen won’t help either, because if we’re out, I’m not going to see it, so I’m not going to remember it.   

The thing that works best, my wife and I find, is to ask the other person on the way out of the house and have them say, “I don’t know,” and then to call them from the store as we see things, asking, “Do we need this?  Do we need that?” and then the other person has to run around the house with the phone, doing a one-handed scavenger hunt.

Some people say that you should go food shopping as a couple, because it’s a night out without the kids, and you can help each other remember what to buy.  But that way, you’re both going to forget.  Sure, you can have your kids stay home and call them, but when have they ever been able to find anything? 

“Do we have any milk?” 

“Where would it be?” 

“In the fridge.” 

“I don’t see it...  Oh, I left it on the table.”

But the best way to remember what you need is to put away groceries and suddenly stop and yell, “Potatoes!” and have whoever’s helping you say, “Wha--?...  Why did you just yell potatoes?”


Dear Mordechai,

I forgot to do my taxes.  Is it too late?


Dear Taxes,

Yeah, you missed it.  Better luck next year.

First off, I’m glad you’re asking me this question, instead of a tax professional. 

You can’t even run it to the post office at this point and just tell them to pre-date it.  The post office gets paid through tax money, so you know whose side they’re on.  You might as well just check yourself into the local prison right now.  They let you do that.  You can make reservations, like a hotel.  Make sure to request non-smoking.

According to what I looked up, though, you might not want to check yourself into a prison just yet.

Firstly, if the government owes you money, nothing will happen.  You’ll just never get that money.  So if your income is baruch Hashem very low, you’re okay.  But if you owe them money, you’re definitely in trouble.  And the only way to tell whether you’re in trouble is by doing your taxes.  That’s how they get you. 

You don’t go to jail right away, though.  If you owe them, they fine you 5% of your unpaid bill every month, to a maximum of 25%.  I don’t know what happens once you hit 25%.  I assume beheadings are on the table.

In the meantime, the IRS will send you several reminders to file, which they should’ve sent you in the first place.  On election day, you get 85 phone calls, but when Tax Day is coming, no one says anything.  It’s like the want the extra 5%.

Also, if you remember within toch kdei dibbur of the 15th, you might be able to file an extension, which allows you an October 15 deadline, because if you forgot to file your taxes Pesach time, you’re going to remember to do it in the month of three yomim tovim and two fasts.  Sure, you’re going to say that there are months in between, but we all know you’re going to wait until the last minute.  You had 3 ½ months to do it on time, but you were all, “I can’t this month because of Tu B’Shvat,” and so on.

But if you do end up in prison, make sure to make up an exciting story as to why you’re there.  Your “I forgot to file my taxes because of Pesach” story is sure to impress all the other bad eggs. 


I have to call my wife.

Dear Mordechai,

The guy in front of me is walking too slowly.  How do I get around him?

Binny T., Lakewood

Dear Binny,

How slow is he actually walking?  The worst is when it’s not actually slow, but it’s about 90% as fast as you’re walking, so you have to pass him, but to do so, you have to walk comically faster than your normal speed or else you’ll be in his personal space for too long, and you’ll basically be walking with him, and you’ll have to make conversation with him, and the only thing you can think about talking about with him at the moment is why he doesn’t walk faster. 

No, I’m wrong.  The worst is when it’s a family of slowpokes walking really slowly and shmoozing, and there’s no way around them or between them, because half of them are holding hands, like a weird game of Red Rover.  What do you do then

Though I do have an idea.  You know how when you’re at a wedding and the chosson and kallah sit down and people perform in front of them, and one guy stands perfectly still and another guy gets a running start and leaps over him, and you’re wondering what kind of use this talent can possibly have in real life?  This is it. 

Note, though, that it might be an ayin hara to jump over them, so whenever you finish whatever you’re going to do, you’ll have to jump back over them from the front. 

“It’s that guy again.”

“The guy we didn’t notice when he said, “Excuse me,” ten times?”

“Yeah.  On the count of three, we’re going to step out of the way.”


Dear Mordechai,

The burglar alarm in my house was set off on Shabbos.  What should I have done? 


Dear J.,

This is not an easy question to answer.  On the one hand, it’s just an alarm.  My alarm goes off almost every Shabbos morning, because I forget to shut it off on Friday, and I have to figure out how to cover it with pillows so it won’t wake up my wife without also hitting the snooze button.  I don’t have enough pillows to muffle it sufficiently, so sometimes I have to wake up my wife and ask for her pillows. 

“Wake up!  Can I have all your pillows so you can sleep better?”

I’m also not going to draft a non-Jew in off the street and hint to him that I need him to come into our room and turn off our alarm.  I am not that socially skilled.  Especially at 7 in the morning.

But with a burglar alarm, it’s not just keeping my wife up, it’s keeping the whole neighborhood up, and having an alarm go off for 20 hours could cause a chillul Hashem. 

“These Jews!  They don’t turn off their alarms.” 

“Hey, it’s not one of our people who set it off.”

And it’s not like you can just cover it with pillows. 

I mean, obviously, you can get a non-Jewish neighbor to come turn it off.  Just knock on his door at 3 in the morning.  I’m sure he’ll be glad to get out of bed for you.  He’s awake anyway. 

So ideally, you’re going to want to find a non-Jew who’s up anyway.  My advice is to ask the burglar.  But I’m not sure you can tell him directly. 

“My burglar alarm is going off!” you should yell over the burglar alarm.

“I know!” he’ll say.  “It’s calling a lot of attention!”

“So what should we do about it?” you should ask.

“I don’t know!” he’ll say.  “What do you think we should do about it?”

“I don’t know!” you should say.  “But my alarm code is…”

When he’s done, see if you can hint to him that he should call the cops.

(NOTE: You also might be able to ask a non-Jew directly in this situation.  Wake up your rav and ask him.)

Got a question for “How Should I Know?” Speak up.  I can’t hear you over the alarms.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.