4549…Broccoli, It’s Just A Number

I could see he was fumbling for it, so I blurted out, “4549”!

“You know this stuff, eh”, he acknowledged with a grin.

“I should, I get broccoli every week. Yams, 4817, cauliflower 4079. Every week, they’re on her list. Grapes, 4023. Every week, same thing. And I don’t deviate. It’s one of the benefits of coming here, brain training”.

With a smile of approval and freshly printed price sticker, he steered his small cart to bananas, 4011, but not before professing his status as a neophyte in this grocery shopping game. Professing wasn’t necessary, not knowing the broccoli code was a dead giveaway.

It’s true, though, grocery shopping is a game, a numbers game and a theatre game: codes, weights and measurements, BOGOs, coupons, increases and decreases, mostly the former as inflation becomes an even bigger number. Know the numbers and you’ll save time.

A theatre game, too, almost a contact sport, with participants panning out around the partitioned layout like pawns on a puzzle board. Step back, yourself, and watch.

Some shoppers attack the store with, seemingly, no semblance of order, helter-skelter, snaring items off the shelf and into the cart, sometimes without even looking. Always in a hurry.

“Out of my way, where’s the Guiness”, I imagine them saying.

At $10.99/6 pack, 72 ounces, that’s a much higher number than gas at $4.07/g, 128 ounces. Oddly, no one complains. It’s beer!

Others shoppers, like me, take their time. I’m deliberate because I’m a gabber, I’ll talk to anyone who might slow down or be idling nearby. The speeders detest my type, we interfere with their plan, ‘get in, grab it and get out’. My MO is ‘stroll in, search for stuff and socialize’. That’s why I save frozen to the end.

Then, there’s the checkout. I have favorite cashiers, they know my act.

“Paper, please, and every space is a new bag”, as I empty my cart.

The smart cashiers like my system, it’s one less thing they have to think about, the bags weigh less, and I can transfer items into the fridge and cabinets faster at home because I organized it on the belt. I might pay a couple of extra nickels for bags, but that, too, is part of the numbers game, time management.

Shoppers behind me often change lines. Probably the speeders.

Last stop, the Service Desk to pick the winning numbers.

“Two lottery tickets, please. looks like a big number for tonight’s drawing”,

“Sure is, but you know the odds for winning don’t favor you”.

I didn’t have to be reminded, of course I know the odds, I’m a numbers guy. But you don’t win if you don’t play. And, if I do win, well…..

…that’ll be the biggest number.


April 2022

To fellow shoppers who enjoy the game and know your numbers. If you see me at Wegmans, stop and chat.

WordPress: srbottch.com

Instagram: @srbottch

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Retired in 2013 after 5 years as an elementary school teacher and 40 years as a sales representative to begin anew as a school crossing guard. SMy essays/stories are a way to communicate through the telling of personal experiences. One reader said about my blog stories, "...these are like a cold sip during a marathon run, simple, real life events". Another offered about my blog, “it brings some sense of normalcy not easily found in the modern world.”

32 thoughts on “4549…Broccoli, It’s Just A Number”

  1. I love this. I’m an organized shopper too and put things on the belt the way I want them in the bag or bags. Although we bring and pack our own bags here. And I always use a list, no impulse buying unless it is a very good sale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent. I see shoppers without lists, mostly young ones. I’d be lost. Of course, I still bring something home that wasn’t on the list. By the way, I’ve e been curious about ‘Someone’, do I know you? C’mon, open up 😂


    1. Liz, I do the shopping but she makes the list. Otherwise, I’d be lost. I’d rather go myself because she’s a ‘speeder’, ‘get in, grab it and get out’. And you know, that’s just not me style. I like to schmoooooze. (You can take the salesperson out of a territory but you can’t take the sales out of the salesperson…or something like that)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a pleasant read, Steve. People seem more rushed (and more annoyed) at the grocery store than at any other retail store. Our cashiers change too often to see familiar faces – except at Fresh Marjet. It is the best store to leisurely shop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As for cashiers, some are terrific , others must have been sick on customer service training day. By the way, I’ve never won more than a couple of bucks on the lottery, a dismal number. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha, good one, Maggie. I only play it when it’s in the stratosphere. I mean, why bother with 50 or 100 mill, they’re only numbers. Let’s ‘go big or go home’.

        Goodnight for now. I’m reading a biography of Van Gogh ( such a depressing life, at least the early stages, and such a big book. I read s few pages and fall asleep…🥴. Have a great evening, yourself.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Peter, I’ll do that on a small list day but on Monday morning when the cart is full, I can’t be bothered. Besides, I like to kibitz with the cashier. A terrible habit😂. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We were doing that during the initial stages of the pandemic but it was adding about $15 to my bill after the slightly higher prices and tip. I was a sucker for giving a decent tip. So, I stopped. It’s a trade off. Save money and get COVID or pay more and be worry free. I chose the latter, duh🙀. (Seriously, no COVID, yet, and enjoying getting out of the house). We try to make the store run just once a week. Of course, that never happens. Thanks for commenting, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a long time since I’ve done a Big Shop; we used to go round with separate trolleys to avoid arguing. I would get the sensible stuff we needed while he would get the fun things which could be anything from cheese to alcohol. It was alright for him to throw in some chocolate for me, but if I spotted factory farmed processed meat when we met up at the till I would remove it pronto from his trolley. Then he would concentrate on paying as I did not want him wrecking my packing system…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A packing system is a good thing, isn’t it. Yes, we husbands will do the wildest things unless we’re assigned a task. Thanks so much for contributing.


    1. Jim, and entertaining as you observe fellow shoppers on your next visit. You know you will. Watch for the young couples who plan their meals as they shop… 😉. Thanks for commenting, Jim.


  4. I love everything about this post, Steve. I have always been a numbers guy, but I have to admit that I don’t know the grocery store codes. I have many numbers memorized (some of them helpful and others that serve no real purpose). I can repeat many useless sports statistics. (i.e., Ted Williams was the last major leaguer to hit for a batting average above .400. He hit .406 in 1941.) They might win a bar bet but otherwise are pretty useless. I also know my credit card info, first car license, California driver’s license memorized, and the codes for everything in my daily life.

    The father-in-law of one of my best buddies has a funny statement about him. “Bill, you know more useless s*** than anyone I know.” 🤣🤣🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And, correct me if I’m wrong, Teddy ‘Ballgame’ Williams, the ‘Splendid Splinter’, started the last game of the season just above .400. When his manager gave him the opportunity to sit out and protect his average, he declined, played and increased the average. What a player and he lost five years to the Korean War during the strongest years of his career. Yes, I grew up near Boston and actually saw him play.

      As for useless stuff in my head, believe me, I’ve had lots of it and, believe it or not, in my sales career, it would come in handy during idle conversations. But these grocery codes, I’ve actually made the effort to learn them, as s mental challenge, partly. That’s one reason I write, the actual mental challenge. I envy the prolific writers on WP because it takes me a long time to get a good story finished. And when I get a great comment like yours, I’m thrilled. Thanks for contributing, Pete. And watch for those codes the next time you shop.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you might be right about Ted Williams. I remember that the Red Sox were playing a doubleheader on the last day of the season. Lots of guys would have sat out to protect their average. Williams played in both games and went 6 for 8, thus raising his average.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that he may have been the first $100,000 player. Chump change to today’s lot. Great conversation stuff. Thanks, Pete. Lights out for me now. Up at 5:30 for a good walk. Have a great day, yourself, tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha, I just looked at the note I sent you and, for the life of me, can’t figure out what I was trying to say when I typed ‘dogs’. But you answered anyway. Very good! 😂😂


    1. I’m heading to Wegmans now, Jennie, for my weekly ‘brain training and gabfest’. I might skip bananas this week, that would be 4011. By the way, the banana was easy because it has two straight numbers at the end , ..11, tall like bananas. Only thing taller is the straight and pointed 🥕. They’re organic and organic shave different codes. I’ll learn that today. First, a stop at Costco’s. I bet I’m making for gas, a number that’s getting scary. I bet I’m making you laugh more. That’s a great way to start your day, with a laugh 😂. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

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