A TENNER AND A RED CUP


After finishing graduate school, I returned home to become a medical statistician.  At 51, I knew people in the community, I was a statistician, I knew medicine, medical administration, was trained in quality improvement, and a decent writer.  I had it all.

Except for the course on marketing.  I bombed, completely failed, one of the biggest failures of my life. I was bitter for at least 5 years, maybe longer, until time and dealing with the deaths of my parents both shoved me into another direction.  I often blamed my failure on the fact that I had pissed off the medical community.  War on Mike, I could have called it, sort of like the War on Christmas.

Except for a few vocal detractors, perhaps four, the medical community could have cared less about me.  They were too busy getting on with the stresses of their own practices, families, and other matters, not trying to think how they could screw me over.

Sometimes, I wonder if I will ever become an adult.

After being executor of my father’s estate, I moved on. I’ve been fortunate.  Nah, I won’t be famous, but I am content in my own skin.  I have discovered that there are some good things about growing old and there are things that just plain suck.  In short, I am alive, and a lot better off than most.

That brings me to Starbucks, which has a plain red cup for Christmas, and now accused by many so-called Christians as “hating Jesus,” being anti-Christian, and has Donald Trump calling for a national boycott.  I think the country has more important matters to address then the color, which I like, on a Starbucks cup.  To those who now hate Starbucks, I say, “get a life.”  Re-read the second, third, and fourth paragraphs above, especially the fourth.

My solar eclipse video in 2010 got 1000 views, yet the Starbucks customer who said that the company hated Jesus has a video with over three million views.  Sort of says something about Americans.  You know what?  I’d rather be a quiet guy who taught people about solar eclipses, volunteered teaching math, taught English online to people in 90 countries, donated to animal welfare in two countries and four cities, and on my own dime led hikes in the Cascades than a guy who had three million people listen to his stupid rant.  For the record, I decided not to add to his count.  If he looks at my video, I’ll look at his.

The holidays are a time I now look forward to.  Formerly, when in practice, they were a time I dreaded:  most of my partners took time off, patients who went to the hospital usually had a horrible reason, services at the hospital were often slow, because people were “away for the holidays,” and I usually came down sick with something.  Additionally, I had to do Christmas shopping, because my late mother made a big deal about Christmas. Oh yes, night call was really depressing when somebody with a Grade V subarachnoid hemorrhage or irreversible anoxic encephalopathy had to have the plug pulled on Christmas Eve.  I disliked the season.

These days, my wife and I go to the mall on at least one December Monday (more if we can) and watch people in line with their pet animals wait to get a picture with Santa.  What a hoot.  A woman last year had a Siamese cat perched on her shoulder for at least 45 minutes while she stood in line.  She had another half hour to go.The best we could do with any of our cats is about 4.5 seconds with the silver one, and maybe 4.5 milliseconds with the semi-feral 5 year-old.  I’m not exaggerating.

Yes, that is a Siamese on her shoulder. Valley River Mall, 2014

Yes, that is a Siamese on her shoulder. Valley River Mall, 2014

Christmas Eve Day, we go shopping for things we want, have lunch somewhere, and return home early.  After dinner, we walk the neighborhood looking at lights, then turn on the 24 hours of “A Christmas Story,” which we love.  Hell, two of our cats are named Red Ryder and Black Bart.  We use quotations from that movie often:  “The line ends here.  It begins back there.”  “Soooooaaap poisoning.”  Christmas Day is vegetarian; we do just fine with fake turkey and all the trimmings.  I put on some Christmas music, pick up the tree that the cats have knocked over and enjoy the day.

Who is declaring war on Christmas?  Well, the nightly progress reports about how well merchants are doing this year compared to last is a little counter to the message Jesus preached, if I understand the Bible.  I don’t think Jesus would like our constant war since 2003 and our troops overseas since 1945.  I think Jesus might have preached something about gun violence, but I’m not religious, so I may be wrong.

It is a goddam red coffee cup for Chrissakes!  It’s not Satan jumping over the counter.  Get over it!  Bring in your own decorative cup or mug and save the planet.  Starbucks lost $3.2 million last April when their computers crashed, so they gave customers free coffee.  It was April, not December, but isn’t there something  about keeping Christmas in your heart the whole year?  Saturday,  Safeway had $1, $5, and $10 coupons to donate food to the needy. On impulse, I threw in a five spot.  My heavens, the clerk started ringing the bell as if I were a breast cancer survivor in October at Starbucks in the MSP airport.  Yes.  That Starbucks.  Where the manager comes out and hugs a survivor.  I don’t cry easily, but that sort of stuff brings tears to my eyes.  Yes, that Starbucks.  The one that wants to increase hiring of veterans to 10,000 and provide free tuition to get a bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University.  And a red coffee cup is all the talk is about, rather than helping veterans to attend college?  I’m a veteran, and helping vets trumps any complaint about coffee cups, which I happen to like.

Anyway, the cashier asked if I wanted my name on the coupon.  Embarrassed, I declined.  She thanked me three times.  It was just $5.  But no, that’s not the point.  I was making this cashier and some unknown recipient happy.  That’s what Christmas is about, not politicizing the event to make it sound like we are trying to defeat the 70% of Americans who call themselves Christians.  Can’t we just have Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and any other holiday this melting pot of people celebrate, without claiming there is some sort of war?  Can’t we do good things for others? Are these people Dementors or Ebenezers?

The very next day, I went right into Starbucks that’s part of Target, although I personally prefer Dutch Brothers, and by God, I got me one o’them red cups for my decaf.  Yeah, I have to drink decaf. It’s better for my heart, especially when I am dealing with damned idiots who think we’re having a War on Christmas. It’s repetition, and repetition doesn’t make it right.  It’s wrong, and I am by nature argumentative against wrongs.

Take it from me, you poor Christians who feel persecuted.  I thought the medical community was persecuting me, and I just didn’t do a good job marketing myself.  It took me a while, but I got over it.  Start marketing yourself.  Begin with following Jesus’s teachings.  Ya know?  Love, caring for the poor, he who is without sin….

Be big boys and girls.  This War on Christmas is bogus.  Get over it, you hear?  Go to Safeway, stick a tenner coupon in with your groceries, which I will do the next time I’m in, and you will be doing the Lord’s work.   The next time I might even put five of them in.  It will make the clerk’s day.  Then, this non-believer, who likes pagan holidays like Christmas, will say to her:  “Merry Christmas.”

And walk out of the store with a big smile on his face.  Won that war.

2 Responses to “A TENNER AND A RED CUP”

  1. steve nash Says:

    Laughed out loud and wonder about cats named for a Christmas movie. Missed the rant, too, regarding Starbucks but did see your video!

    • Mike Says:

      The video wasn’t good, but the eclipse and the evening after, that 10 July 2010, were a very special time for me. It truly changed my life.

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