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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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

The Shovel (and me)

Credit: Wonkee Donkee Tools

I grew up in New England, in a working class neighborhood of 3-decker houses, large multi layered structures with a family occupying each floor. My family had the first floor, and why not, it was ours. Renters took floors two and three. From my earliest recollections, the house was heated with coal. A coal shovel, or two, was always laying on the dirt floor of our cellar, between the furnace and the coal bin

The ‘coal man’ would drive his delivery truck along side a ground level window above the coal bin, and deliver the coal via a long chute from the truck, through the open window and into the bin.

It was my dad’s job to shovel the lumps of coal into the furnace, regularly, to keep a steady flow of heat into the house. The heavy steel shovel with upturned sides was the tool he used for the job. It was laborious.

I was still a youngster when dad converted our furnace from coal to oil, but the shovel still had a purpose. It became my tool of choice, my only choice actually, for shoveling snow. Never mind the weight of a big snow, the shovel, itself, was a man’s size tool, heavy, and using it to move snow was laborious.

Along came the light weight aluminum snow shovel, specifically designed for that job. What a blessing. Of course, aluminum isn’t as strong as steel and it strained under the weight of a blade full of snow, rivets loosened, the cutting edges bent* and the shovel became less stable. Snow removal, became frustrating, as well as laborious.

Ahhh, plastic. So many products once made of steel are now made with plastic because today’s resins used in plastic are super strong, resilient. The plastic shovel has proven to be very light weight and durable. I have two that I’ve used for years. They moved with me from house to house and do quite well at removing snow. Nevertheless, the very task of removing snow, itself, is still ever laborious.

As time passed and I could afford something more elaborate, my choice of snow removal tools and methods changed. I bought a snow blower, or thrower. It’s big, powerful and noisy. However, while it shortens the labor time, I’m still challenged with the physicality of operating this machine. It’s remains laborious.

This year, I splurged and hired a plow service. While he plows the driveway with his truck, often before the first light of day, I watch from my kitchen window, between the slats, coffee in hand, slippers on my feet, and dressed for indoors in flannel pajamas. I find it to be less laborious.

Oh, yes, I still use a shovel to even the edges. Easy!

Steve (srbottch.com). February 2021. *thank you, Liz!

For more fascinating shovel info, check out ‘wonkee donkee tools, an English website and it’s not laborious https://www.wonkeedonkeetools.co.uk/shovels/what-are-the-parts-of-a-shovel

She Made Me What I Am Today, An ‘Ironman’: The Promise

She made me what I am today, an ‘Ironman’!

Processed with MOLDIV
(photo by Glenn Higgins)*

 Iron2  Excuse me, did I say ‘Ironman’? My bad, I meant, ‘Ironing Man’. I’m an ‘ironing man’: shirts, pants, cloth napkins, aprons (not mine…yet), pillowcases, etc.

Dusting, yes, a critical skill.  It’s tedious but you won’t find creepy bugs housekeeping along our crown molding and baseboard. As for the hardwoods, the Swiffer tool is my choice. Gripping it a certain way let’s you ‘slap shot’ those pesky ‘dust bunnies’ into a corner for easy gathering.

Swiffer

Both chores combine housecleaning and athleticism: the multiple reps of a weightlifter sliding a water filled iron back and forth, back and forth, back and forth and the steady, rhythmic gliding of a ballroom dancer sweeping across polished hardwood. My wristband monitor goes off the charts on cleaning day.

The best benefit, of course, is the ‘come hither’ look of appreciation in my wife’s approving eyes. But, alas, by the time I’ve ‘pressed’ my last pleat, ‘pushed up’ from bunny hunting under the bed or ‘power dragged’ the Hoover over the dog haired rug, I’m too tired to go anywhere, hither or not.

Meantime, the golf clubs have lost their shine, the gym membership is going unused and the resistance bands have dry rot. Nevertheless, I’m staying in shape with squats (toilet bowl cleaning), bends & reaches (dishwasher loading/unloading), heavy lifting (turning a queen mattress) and sprints (“hurry, the dog needs to go out”).

The genesis of these new found domestic skills can be traced back to something I did forty-eight years ago, I made a promise.  Promises, vows, oaths, call them what you will, are important to our own notion of self-worth, when kept.  They measure us for trustworthiness. They address our character and integrity.

Promises call for sacrifice and commitment. In my case, I didn’t commit to housecleaning but I did promise my everlasting support. LIFE changes, doesn’t it?  Priorities get rearranged.

Yet, somehow, IT’s worked out satisfactorily. I have well pressed handkerchiefs and there’s no stress of calling ahead for a tee time.

I just need someone to show me how to fold a fitted sheet…

Sheets
Steve
srbottch.com (July 2017)

To legions of men everywhere who help with the housework, whether you admit it or not, because you want or need to do it.

*thank you Glenn Higgins for the sculptured body photo (GlennHigginsFitness.com)

The ‘Barre’ Chronicles…with a twist 

Barre-1st position

I stood at the barre, toed-out, alone in my masculinity and surrounded by a rainbow of colors, women in their exercise tights and tops. And me, with skinny legs in baggy gym shorts and a wrinkled cotton t-shirt with the logo of a local beer manufacturer, I’m the tallest, oldest, and only male ‘at the barre’, a consummate ‘fish out of water’.

Nevertheless, I would not be deterred. 

That was weeks ago and I’ve been ‘hitting the barre’ twice weekly since then. Still in loose shorts but more confident in knowing and doing the routine. First and second position are second nature to me, I wobble a bit on the relève but show good flexibility on the plié, as I squat low, then lower.

And in that two-a-week regiment, I’m seeing more muscular quads, thickening thighs, and firm buttocks with each passing class. But enough about my classmates, my own physiology is improving, as well.  The legs are stronger, my posture has improved and my hair is growing back…(two of three are true).

Barre exercise incorporates some ballet, yoga, balance and weight-bearing movements, using hand weights, balls, bands and the ever-present ballet barre, with multiple repetitions. The muscle ‘burn’ is often intense but momentary, while the feeling of accomplishment is exhilarating and enduring. Completing a routine often becomes an issue of mind over matter and I smile with an inner arrogance, knowing that I’m pushing myself to new limits. What I lack in grace or style, I make up with grimaces and grunts.

Exercise is like that, isn’t it?  Push yourself to reach a level, then reset to do better. The discipline to persevere and the resulting accomplishment are their own rewards.  The occasional injury is a nagging byproduct, a temporary interference.

Our instructor counts down, repetition after repetition, and when we think we’re done, she orders up, “One more rep, yes?”  In an earlier life I would have shouted, “Yes, Drill Sergeant!”. But, now, I just grin, grunt and go on the best I can.

Barre is part of the smorgasbord of exercise classes at my local JCC.  Along with Yoga. Tai-Chi Easy, some boxing and the pool, I feel myself getting a bit leaner and stronger.

And, if my alpha friends find it strange that I’m the only male in a class of women doing curtsy reps at a barre instead arm wrestling at a real bar, I just boldly offer them high fives, aggressive chest bumps and a declaration of the classic John Candy/Steve Martin line…

“How ‘bout them Bears!” *

Barre, Releve

Srbottch.Com

*Planes, Trains and Automobiles