Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Story - No Really!

I have gone on record several times saying that a Patek Philippe is not something you generally find under the Christmas tree.  In fact, I tend to say that about a lot of watches and frankly, if I am being honest, I don't know that I always feel a watch priced over a few hundred dollars is a "realistic" or reasonable Christmas gift.  This is not based on sales data, etc., it is more of a personal feeling that Christmas is, by and large, for sweaters, ties, maybe a nice book on watches... but as Christmas invariably involves multiple gifts, I often question how realistic it is for Mom and Dad or doting spouse to spring for a $3,000 (or more) watch as part of the standard yuletide haul.  And thus I find the ads advising us that Christmas is special and that if we really, really loved someone we would go into credit card debt to prove it, to be at best disingenuous.

But then again, there are events, occasions, milestones that just happen to coincide with Christmas and that (given a reasonable adherence to rational spending) can make for an exception to my "Grinch like" philosophy.

Back in 2000, I was living and working in Finland.  I was lured back to the US after 8 years abroad to manage a group of English as a Second Language schools with the corporate office based in San Francisco.  From the moment I arrived it was a race run at the pace of a sprint, requiring the endurance of a never-ending marathon.  Colleagues openly plotted against each other, mischief and ill will abounded, and my bosses, the two owners encouraged this behavior with unspoken approval for the combatants, and admiration for the most Machiavellian.   For them it was like the Hunger Games - fun to watch young, ambitious boys and girls fight it out and to see how far someone would go to get to the top of the pile to bask in the warmth of their approval.

I lasted a whole 2 years before being informed that my services were no longer needed, and my colleagues informed that I had "left to pursue new opportunities".  And then the internet bubble crashed, and there were no opportunities (new or otherwise) to pursue.  I struggled for 3 months to find any sort of job.  Former competitors called me in for job interviews only to spend the time picking my brain for intel on my former company.   There was no job, just a grand bit of Kabuki Theater for the Desperate.

And then by chance I stumbled into a Starbucks for a soul reviving cup of coffee, and nearly tripped over the table where a recruiting fair was going on.  I was asked to sit down, and four weeks and two interviews later I began working as a Starbucks Manager in Training.  That was July 1, 2002.  5 months later I was given the keys to my own store, a fairly significant raise, and was working with a pretty diverse, dedicated group of people.  

And that Christmas, this was under the tree -

Wendy had seen me admiring it for many weeks, and knew that I had made a modest deposit on it.  And unbeknownst to me, she had been in cahoots with Francis Z. of Seregin's to hide it from me, with Francis spinning an elaborate yarn of how sorry he was, but that the owner hadn't realized that I had made a deposit on it and sold it just the day before!  Francis took some irritation from me (which when the whole story was revealed made me feel pretty sheepish), and the day after Christmas when I came in to thank him for his part, he smiled, shook my hand, and told me to wear it in good health.

On the card that came with it, Wendy told me how proud she was of me, how I had been down but hadn't given up, and that I should wear this and always remember what is possible.

And now 14 years later, I look at the watch on my wrist and know she is right.

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