‘Cheeky Business’

What’s the saying, “every dark cloud has a silver lining”? It’s true, with the right circumstances, one can find it, even in something as daunting as COVID.

Like many of you, I’d been jabbed once, twice, quadrupled even. Nevertheless, as we’ve learned and as medical science has confirmed, jabs don’t guarantee immunity to COVID and all its permutations, but the extra protection…well, it’s just extra.

And if a little extra is good, then why not have more? Thanks to a challenging immune system, I became a candidate for more, Evushield.

Evusheld is meant for candidates like me, those with immune system issues who willingly follow a trusted doctor’s advice for the promise of an extra barrier against COVID, albeit for a brief period, 6 months, I believe.

But that’s not the silver lining.

Evusheld is a two shot process, one in each cheek, the big cheeks. This story is enjoyed best if you visualize it.

If my memory serves me, my last cheeky injection was from a pediatrician. And the last ‘double shot’ may have been in a bar in Cleveland. Before that, Uncle Sam protected me with two shots, one in each arm as I walked the ‘gauntlet’ of medics at the Fort Ord Army reception center. I was protected against everything except the harassment.

With Evushield, the shots were given by two very affable and capable young nurses, positioned behind me, kneeling, I assume. But that’s not the ‘silver lining’. In fact, truthfully, it made me a bit anxious.

Here’s the real ‘silver lining’. The good humor nurses explained the process and wiped away any trepidation and what was a serious discussion initially, quickly turned into light banter, as they prepared two needles. Humor is the great relaxer.

When the order was given, “stand up and turn around”, our banter continued. I was relaxed, even as the feel of latex gloves grabbed hold to keep me in place.

Then the countdown began. ‘3-2-1-jab!” I thought I was listening to a SpaceX launch.

Why the countdown and why two nurses? The shots have to be given simultaneously, one in each side. The serum must meet in the middle and blend, right?

An hour in recovery followed and I went home with a good story. Butt for the early hour, it was just another chapter in my notebook of COVID stories, this time, a story of good people and good humor.

(photo courtesy of Internet)

And I love a good story.

Steve B

To nurses on the front line who do remarkable work under stressful conditions

Listen My Children…

Listen my children and you shall hear of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

Twas the 18th of April, ‘75, hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year

As he said to his friend, “If the British march by land or sea from the town tonight, hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch of the North Church tower as a signal light.

One if by land, and two if by sea, and I on the opposite sure shall be ready to ride and to spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm for the country folk to be up and to arm” (Longfellow)

Miss Meehan, my 5th Grade teacher at Woodland Street School in Worcester, MA wrote this on the chalkboard and had the students memorize and recite it. I’ve never forgotten it. Of course, there’s lots more to the poem.

About 1981, on April 18th, was driving along the New York State Thruway, Rte 90, at an excessive speed. Why so fast? Because I was reciting this poem out loud, caught up in a bit of patriotism. At least that was my story to the state trooper who commented, “I bet Paul wasn’t going this fast”, as he handed me the speeding citation.

I will never forget the poem, the officer, the patriotic deed by Paul snd friends, nor Miss Meehan.

Steve

Happy Patriots Day to all Bay Staters today, as well as Boston Marathoners and my beloved Red Sox (who are losing as I write this post)

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.

Steve

April 2022

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

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“So, Then, You’re The Screw Man…”: A Manufacturing Story

The ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ cocktail party may not have been the best place to discuss one’s occupation, but she asked. I answered, diplomatically and technically, at first. However, in my work, the description eventually gets down to the basics and then things can go ‘off the rails’. “I sell screws’”

“So, then, you’re the screw man”, she replied with a wink and a snicker.

“Yes, I guess you could say that, I am the screw man!”

That brief exchange about sums up my ‘not so formal’ introduction to our new neighbors. Thirty years old at the time and with an immature sense of humor, I thought it was funny. My wife, not so much.

Let me backup a bit. I worked for a fastener (screw) manufacturer in a northern Illinois city, Rockford, known as the ‘screw capital of the world’. No, not that, I learned later. It actually earned its moniker from the bevy of fastener (screw) manufacturers operating there, many that sprung from the original, the ‘granddaddy’ screw man, so to speak.

These manufacturing companies thrived for years, providing fasteners and other special metal parts to industries across the US for their cars and big trucks, compressors and air conditioners, aircraft and appliances, even toys. Just about everything that is held together used a threaded metal fastener, a screw, to do it.

Walking the factory floor of a compressor manufacturer, a vacuum cleaner company or an automotive parts supplier of air bags, fuel systems, frames and other components was an education in the magnitude of our US consumer driven economy. All these companies used our screws, by the millions, and the competition was fierce. It always is in sales.

As fastener manufacturer sales reps, I and a cadre of salespeople and engineers, spent countless hours in factories helping customers meet assembly challenges with a potpourri of specialty screw products, problem solvers.

Over years, I witnessed manufacturing and assembly go from manual to automation to robotic ‘pick & place’, from dirty assembly areas to clean room environments, from Made in America to made around the world. Manufacturing is a fascinating environment driven by costs and whims of customer wants and needs.

But ‘change is the only constant in life’*. The number of fastener plants has declined either through attrition or consolidation. Technology has lessened the demand for sales personnel with the advent of the e-commerce and even the reliable company brochure has moved online. Business can be done via phone calls, Zoom meetings snd webinars.

I’m out of the business, now. And while I might be considered a ‘dinosaur’, I can still look back at my manufacturing experience with satisfaction, knowing that at one time, I was ‘the screw man’.

Steve B

To sales reps everywhere who ‘walk the floor’ …

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* Heraclitus, Greek philosopher…Wikipedia

Reading For a Straw: A ‘Eureka’ Moment

Sometimes, the simplest reward can motivate kids. Take the 1 cent Pixy Stix…

A Chrysler assembly plant and Green Giant packing plant were the chief employers in the small northern Illinois town where I began my working career fresh out of college, an elementary school teacher for five years before transitioning into a life long sales position.

I had 32 students at a time when classroom size was not a high priority, especially in this rural blue collar town. The work was hard, fun and challenging. It’s teaching!

In elementary school, you teach the gamut of subjects: math, social studies, language, handwriting and reading. Specialists visited weekly to teach art and music. There were no computers in the class, nor the school, nor anywhere except big, temperature controlled rooms in office buildings.

Lesson plans were followed, accordingly, as we covered ‘new’ math, old history and the wonders of science. But reading, and reading for pleasure, piqued the kids’ attention the most.

A time was set aside daily for reading aloud, students rested or doodled while listening to Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Charlottes Web, The Old Man and The Sea and others. The daily read was a hit, for the students and me.

But how could I motivate the kids to read more themselves and even stand up to talk about it? I found one answer by noticing the kids enjoying one of their favorite snacks, Pixy Stix, the sugary treat in a straw.

Pixy Stix* had been around for years. I loved them as a kid, myself. Not only popular but these treats were cool looking with their varied colors. And, they were cheap, a penny a straw. I bought a hundred to get started.

The plan, read a book and get a Pixy Stix. It was an instant hit. Yes, gimmicky, but there was more to it. And the results were profound. Every student read a book, two books, three books and more. Sure, the reading tapered as the year progressed, but the drop off was insignificant. And most surprising was the level of enthusiasm from some students who were lower achievers in the general subjects. I was ecstatic having this ‘Eureka’ moment.

Here’s how the project worked:

  • Select a book and show me
  • Fill out a book marker with title, author and student name
  • Report back to me upon completion and tell me a few things about the book
  • Give an oral report to the class (voluntarily)***
  • Staple the bookmark to the bulletin board display and select a Pixy Stix

I remember one student, in particular, who never raised his hand in class but gave the best oral reports of all students. Made my day!

My books are my ‘trophies’

Steve

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*From Your Dictionary: ‘Pixy Stix: A confectionery item in the form of a (non-edible) straw filled with sweet-and-sour powdered candy .

Wide Right, Music City Miracle & 13 Seconds: Being a Fan

I’m replaying the game in my mind, but this time, instead of ‘wide right’, the pigskin sails between the uprights and the Buffalo Bills win Super Bowl XXV in 1991.

I’m replaying it in my mind, and instead of a Nashville ‘miracle’ in 2000, the throwback is correctly ruled a forward pass and disallowed. The Bills win and continue their march to Super Bowl XXXIV.

The 13 seconds on the clock harmlessly expire with the Bills beating the Chiefs to advance to the next round as heavy favorites for Super Bowl LVI, here in 2022. That’s how I see it, when I replay it in my mind, my way.

If only it was that simple.

If only it was that simple, Bill Buckner stops the ground ball from going between his legs and my beloved Red Sox win the ‘86 World Series instead of waiting another 18 years.

If only it was that simple, Brett Hull’s winning goal in triple overtime of a Stanley Cup final in ‘99 is ruled ‘no goal’ *, my Buffalo Sabres go on to win the coveted Cup. They still haven’t won it.

All Curtis Strange had to do was par the 18th hole at Oak Hill for Team USA to win the ‘95 Ryder Cup. He didn’t, a pall fell over the course while the Euros danced in celebration, and the short walk home was devastatingly long. If only it was that simple.

Winning, like Life, just isn’t that simple. As fans, we know it all too well. Losses are gut wrenching, especially when the contest looked won, only to have “defeat snatched from the jaws of victory”. Nevertheless, we continue to follow our favorites, mourning the losses and celebrating the victories. As sport fans, we come to grip with the good and bad and wait for another day, a different fate, a better one.

And there are better ones!

“Do you believe in miracles” became a classic sports call in the 1980 Olympics when the underdog US team went on to beat the Russians and Fins to win gold. A wonderful moment for Team USA Hockey fans

My Buffalo Bills roared back from a 35-3 deficit to beat the Houston Oilers in the greatest comeback ever in NFL history on a cold January day in 1993. What a moment!

The Boston Red Sox defeated arch rival NY Yankees 4 games to 3 after trailing 3 games to 0, then moved on to win the 2004 World Series.

Sportscaster Jim McKay described sports as ‘the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat‘, so it is with fans who experienced both. And when the season is done, all that’s left are the high and low memories of close calls and ‘what ifs’ . Collectively, we share with other fans the universal mantra…

“WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR!”

Steve B (srbottch.com)

for Pete Springer (petespringerauthor.WordPress.com) and sport fans everywhere

* the Brett Hull call that won the game was correct

“Do You Mind If I Smoke?”

I was a young sales guy trying to befriend a prospect, hoping it would lead to new business.

“Do you mind if I smoke?”

He’s the prospect, he can do what he wants, right?

“Hey. if you got ’em, smoke ’em!”

Foolishly, I agreed to go on a late evening boat excursion up the Chadakoin River, through the heart of small town Jamestown, New York, with a prospective client and friends. Destination, a local bar in the seedy side of Jamestown, which we accessed through a jagged hole in a chain link fence above the river bank, a barrier against unwanted traffic. We must have been unwanted.

Buying lunch or dinner with a client was a common practice and expected as part of the normal business culture, an opportunity to be engaged with a prospect in a relaxed setting. But climbing through fences after dark for a beer? Not so much.

I was young, aggressive, enthusiastic, and naive.

After a couple of pops, we left the bar and managed to wiggle our way back through the hole, a couple of beers heavier but still upright.

Finding the boat was a relief and boarding it felt even better. My ‘prospect’ needed something more than two beers and asked if I would like to join him for a ‘smoke’. A nice courtesy, I suppose, but I declined. He cranked the motor, headed upstream, and lit up. I mean, he ‘lit up’*, ‘torched up’*, gleefully noted that it was ‘tea time’*.

I was young, aggressive, enthusiastic and naive.

It didn’t take but a good whiff to realize what he was smoking and it wasn’t cigarettes.

The prospect never became a client, but I grew up a bit that night, and thought a bit more about my own values, the how and where I should conduct business. Not in bars. or cruising on dark rivers with a boatsman smoking a joint. Not anyplace where I might be compromised.

Those are the same values for Life, aren’t they? Make good decisions and be the best you can be. It always works for the better.

Love On The Veranda…

“Love comforteth like sunshine after rain.” (Shakespeare)

With the kids safely aboard, the crossing arm retracted and the flashing red lights turned off, the school bus pulled away from the curb, leaving the young parents in a wake of noisy fumes. A quick wave, one that likely wouldn’t be seen as youngsters are in their own element once aboard, signaled the end of one phase of their day and the start of the next, the work day.

They turned and walked hand-in-hand up the inclined drive, stopping for a moment on the veranda before heading off separately, he to his car and she inside the house for some final to-do’s before going to work, herself, I imagine.

At that moment before separating, in a somewhat theatrical move that belied its spontaneity, they embraced. Their arms wrapped around each other, her back arched under his guidance, and he bent to kiss her. Her leg lifted slightly, reminiscent of the iconic photo of a sailor and nurse in Times Square at the end of WWII. It was a brief but beautiful interlude of love, love on the veranda

(Wikipedia)

Continue reading Love On The Veranda…

The ‘Kid’, He Called It

The ‘kid’ called his shot

He didn’t point, only the great Babe Ruth did that. No, he didn’t point, instead the ‘kid’ just called it, he called the shot.

I witnessed it, and have played it over and over in my mind’s eye. The ‘kid’ called his own shot.

“I’m gonna hit a home run, Steve“, he said with the naive clarity, confidence and high pitch of a young boy. Such Chutzpah.

I can still hear the classic October sound of bat on ball, plastic on plastic. ‘WHOMP’! The ‘kid’ called it and true to his word, the ball flew over the single tall arborvitae behind the pitcher and rolled into the street, a bonafide homer per the arbitrary ground rules set by the ‘pitcher/umpire/announcer’ dad.

Continue reading The ‘Kid’, He Called It

What’s In Your Daily Planner?

What’s in your daily planner?

Be it Franklin, Moleskin, Lemome or one of the myriad of other planners, whatever you use for daily reminders, do you have a page devoted to a verse, message, picture or quote that inspires you to kick start your day?

I had these three messages taped to the front page of my planner for years, as I went about my sales chores. They weren’t the only impetus behind my ‘get up and go’. But they, along with others I kept, helped remind me of the dedication required and purposefulness of my work.

We’re surrounded by messages that help drive us and focus our energies, aren’t we. One sees them in books, posters, billboards, locker rooms.

The exit to my Army barracks had a message that’s been attributed to former auto exec, Lee Iacocca…

Lead, follow or get out of the way’

The barracks version was a little ‘saltier’, I recall. Seems an appropriate message for a military environment, or anyplace that invokes a team mission.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet has one of the best messages…

‘To thine own self, be true, then it shall follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man’

Great advice from a father to his son, but then, Shakespeare was good at using his work to give advice. I find this message helps remind us of our own ethics as we set course on our daily business.

Sales people are likely drawn to quotes, I believe, because their work is filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, negativity, as well as positivity. Starting thé day with a few poignant words might be the magic one needs to go after the challenge…

‘Unseen and Untold is Unsold

The success of the mission is the burden that often saddles itself on the salesperson’s shoulders. The above words clearly make that point and drive the individual to succeed. And the following shows the importance of sales and salesmanship…

‘Nothing happens until something is sold’ (author unknown)

The author may be unknown but the message makes so much sense. The powerful image this creates is palpable. The successful salesperson is the machine that keeps the wheels of industry from grinding to a screeching halt. Think about it for a moment.

Do you doubt that words can propel people to act?

‘Never give up! Never!

Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave hope and courage to a nation with those few words. During WWII.

‘Nuts!’

This was the reply of General Anthony McAuliffe to the overwhelming German force at the Battle of The Bulge in 1944. His smaller force kept up the fight and repelled the enemy. Words.

Again, what’s in your daily planner?

Steve B

Aug 2021