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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Instagram: @srbottch

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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Instagram: @srbottch

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

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

“You Don’t Have A F***** Thing To Say About It!!!”

Ahhh, army training, army messaging, army discipline. Some memories just stay with you, forever.

For instance, the corporal (could have been a general for all we raw recruits knew) who swore he couldn’t hear us as we screamed answers inches from his face. Does alcohol make you deaf and dumb?

Being called a dummy by the sergeant because my ‘steel pot’ (helmet) was backwards (excuse me, inexperienced and nervous), it stuck with me all these years as a reminder to check myself with one last glance in the mirror before leaving the house. Getting noticed by sergeants now.

But being told by the Senior Drill Sergeant that I ‘didn’t have a f****** thing to say about it’, after I was asked my opinion, well, that still brings a chuckle as I recall the exact moment.

That Senior Drill Sergeant’s assertion, that I ‘didn’t have an effin thing to say about anything’, just shut up and do as I’m told, is seared in my memory. He didn’t say that last part, but I was good at reading between the lines. i knew what he meant and took his ‘advice’ seriously.

And it worked well, army training, with that understanding. The military wasn’t built for opinions. It was built for action. There’s no time to debate. All discussions about any and every issue had gone on years before I came along. The rules work best when people react instantly to appropriate orders.

Strangely, when the training portion of my military service was completed, I realized, begrudgingly maybe, that it’s probably not a bad idea for a young man to have a brief period in his life when he has nothin’ to say about nothin’. Just do as you’re told. I think it fits into the broad category the army would call ‘discipline’.

Growing up and getting older teaches some of the same lessons but the army was kind enough to teach the condensed version.

I still check my appearance before leaving the house each day, making sure my ‘gig line’ conforms. The edge of my shirt, belt buckle and pant zipper must all be in alignment with each other: APPEARANCE! The corners of my bed sheets need to be tight and tucked, daily: ORDER! The area around my house is clean of any piece of scrap: CLEANLINESS! My shoe laces are still laid ‘left over right: UNIFORMITY! Above all, follow the rules:.CONFORMITY!

Yes, a substantial dose of discipline at an early age can have a positive effect for a lifetime. I just never understood, ‘hurry up and wait’*…

* anyone with military experience gets this

Steve B

To anyone with military training.

‘Sweet Sapphires’ and Senior Moments

There they were, in tightly arranged rows of open plastic bags, next to the buck ninety-nine a pound red grapes.  With a deep blue color and elongated shape that reminded me of ‘Good & Plenty’ candy I enjoyed as a kid, and a name that rolled off my tongue, ‘Sweet Sapphires’, there they were.  I was mesmerized.

However, at ‘two bucks ninety-nine’, these little jewels were going cost me a bit more than I normally would pay for grapes this time of year.  Nevertheless, if they tasted as good as they looked, and they looked good (the picture doesn’t do justice) the decision would be easy.

I like ‘observing’ people, not staring but just noticing their behavior, idiosyncrasies and habits.  Aren’t you repulsed by folks who stand over the grapes, pinch a few from open bags to sample, then walk away or buy a different bag?  How uncouth! And the ‘perps’ generally are Seniors, older people who should know better.

Yet, I must admit these ‘Sweet Sapphires’ were tantalizingly attractive.  I sensed they were teasing me. Then, I reminded myself, ‘Hey, I’m a Senior’ and there was my ‘in’, my excuse, the justification for what I sensed was about to happen.

In a moment of personal weakness, I was overcome with the same sense of entitlement these Seniors seem to have when fiddling with the fruit. My values became compromised, my judgement clouded and like Sandburg’s fog, I was surrounded by silence, guilt free, or so it seemed, as I stood fixated on those ‘Sweet Sapphires’.

My mouth was awash with the swill of free flowing saliva.  Discipline, be damned, I cast caution aside and succumbed. Delicious! No one grabbed, scolded or even glared contemptuously at me. Ahhh, entitlement, Senior style, it could be addictive.

I didn’t stop with grapes, I moved on to bananas and separated my number from the bunches. I peeled back the corn husks to check for worms and even squeezed the plums for firmness, putting each one back and moving on.

This freedom to pick and choose exhilarated me as I made my way to the check out with a bounce in my step, albeit slowly and with a gimp. For here was the final payoff of my newly awakened older self, the Senior Citizen discount.

What? Not available on groceries?  I knew that but I’m asking anyway. The new me, the entitled Senior, will ask every time. I will tell corny jokes, drive at slower speed and use subpar hearing to my advantage. The wrinkles, baldness, sore joints and rounded shoulders tell the world that I’ve earned this status. It’s an entitlement world for me now, and I’ve got the ‘scars’ to prove it.

Now, if I can only remember where I parked my car…

“Excuse me, young fella!”

“Whosis, Whatsis and Whatchamacallit”

ALERT: this story isn’t for everyone, just those in long term relationships, say 30, 40 or 50 years. However, you’re still welcome to read it…

“Honey, I’m home from, ah, whatchamacallits. Whosis was there, she’ll see us at, you know, whatsis place Saturday.”

“Okay!”

And with that exchange, we affirm our relationship is stronger than ever…again!

Do you recognize it? Sound familiar? I expect those of you in long term relationships are nodding in the affirmative.  You know each other so well that substitute words suffice in place of real words, the ones that escape us momentarily. Gibberish fills the void and, strangely enough, we understand each other. How does that work?

This behavior confirms my belief that as we grow older with our life partner, our spirits, habits and language meld, allowing us to behave almost as one. There must be a term for it?

With a certain bravado, I proffered this theory to my whosis, a nonbeliever of most of my ‘proffers’. Almost had her convinced until the suggestion that we’re even starting to look alike, the longer we’re together. With a stare that would stop a charging ‘whatchamacallit’ in its tracks, that notion destroyed whatever credibility I may have had with her.

You may disagree but think of your own situation. Do you finish each other’s sentences? Do you say something like, “honey, I know what you’re thinking”? Do you both start to express the same thought on cue? See, you’re coming around, right?

How did all this ‘oneness’ happen? Where did our habits, idiosyncrasies and brains not just intersect, but converge and become of one mind on the graph of Life? When did I start letting her pick out my clothes? And when did she trust me with grocery shopping?

Whenever and however, the fact remains that it happens. And it’s a good thing it does. Think of the waste of time trying to remember the real words when gibberish will do. So,  when the time comes that you can’t think of each other’s names, just throw in some ‘gib’, keep the conversation going, enjoy yourself, no matter who your with, or think you’re with!

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”
Friedrich Nietzsche*  

To all my friends and their whatchamallits…

Steve
Srbottch.Com
October 2018

*(Goodreads.com)

“Why? Why? Why?…”

BANG!

I thought I’d been shot.

My wife came running and was startled to find me flat on my back, expecting the chalk police to arrive any second to outline my perimeter on the hot blacktop and wrap our house with yellow ‘crime scene’ tape.

“What happened”, she asked, with a bit of worry in her voice.

“I misread the ‘psi’ on the tire and over inflated the damn thing, it blew itself to smithereens”. Sometimes, I impress myself with how quickly I can answer her deposition-like questions, but she saw right through me this time, as I tried to misplace the blame on the tire, itself.

wheelbarrow 1

‘How could you be so careless (you nincompoop)’? Wow, that hurt more than the ‘shot’.

She didn’t actually call me a nincompoop, but after decades of marriage, a husband knows his better half’s thoughts. Her eyes spoke ‘Nincompoop’‘.

However, it seemed a good time to employ a favorite troubleshooting tool of quality control personnel, the ‘5 Why’. State the issue, then ask a series of ‘why’ questions that lead to the root cause.  Let’s try it…

My wheelbarrow tire blew apart.  Why?

I over inflated it. Why?

I misread the psi number on the sidewall. Why?

I didn’t look at it carefully. Why?

Because I’m an old guy with bony knees and if I get down on the ground to look closely, then I may not get up again. Why?

It’s Life!

There, it works, doesn’t it. I seemed to have discovered the irrefutable and undeniable root cause of the tire explosion and deafening sound, Life, and I’m not sure there’s a ‘corrective action’. More ‘Whys’ might help, but Life is very challenging. Agree?

Fortunately, no injuries were sustained other than a momentary loss of senses, a temporary deafness and total embarrassment.

Have you ever crossed paths with ‘carelessness’? A friend cut a live electrical wire at home with nary a tickle. A brother-in-law used an electric hedge clipper to trim fingernails and only suffered 32 stitches. ‘Lady Luck’ was on their side this time. Or a Guardian Angel!

Unlike cats, we have 1 Life, so let’s be careful with it, not careless. And if you are the latter, try asking yourself, ‘Why?’. Ask it as many times as necessary to find the root cause of your ‘nincompoopness’. And, yes, while she may not say it, you’ll know she’s thinking it. Just look at her eyes…the ones that have been watching your faux pas for years.

Steve
July 2018
srbottch.com

To husbands, everywhere, but especially Steve P and Gary C for ‘giving’ me a story!  Be careful!