Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Standard

Mornin’ folks.

So this asshat walked into a bar…

…actually, not a bar so much as a bakery, but that didn’t really sound like a good intro.

Anyway, he walked up to my counter and said, “I need a long plastic bag.” I said, “Good morning, sir! How can I help you today?”

“I need a long plastic bag,” HorseFace repeats.

To help you understand the situation, let me describe Daddy McDouche. Remember yuppies in the 80s? Guess what? They got old. They upgraded their car phones to those bluetooth ear pieces, the ones that helpfully light up with bright LEDs to alert the public that they are in the presence of a real twatwaffle. Kept the sunglasses inside, because hey hey hey that’s just what movers and shakers do, baby. Traded their chinos for ironed jeans to stay “edgy”. Hair slicked back, because ain’t no fly away bangs gonna get in the way of closing the deal. Ten bucks says he’s still limping his Saab along.

He said his wife broke her arm, and that our pharmacy didn’t carry any cast covers. I suggested tall kitchen trash bags, because that’s what you use when you shatter bone matter. Or so I thought. So the rest of the nation has always thought. But no, that is not a good solution for Mrs. Knobhead. “I’m not putting a garbage bag on my wife!” he sputtered.

And that’s when I knew how this was going to go.

I rummaged around to find the long bags we use for Italian and French breads, and the big mamajamas we use for large artisan loaves. I brought him the options, and he immediately dismissed the ones that had “Italian” and “French” printed on them. “I’m not interested in branding.” Cus, you know, French bread is a brand he just can’t support.

He did like the looks of the super large artisan bags. I gave him five, at no charge because he may be a douche, but he’s still a customer and I’d do the same for anyone who asked. He didn’t thank me. Instead, he decided to make my life better.

No, for real. That was his goal. This is what went down.

King Pompousass took the bags and said, “I had an idea for your company that I’ve been trying to get people to listen to.”

I said, “Oh? I’d love to hear it!”

I did not want to hear it.

“You know how this place tracks how much you spent on the receipt?” Yes, I am familiar with how receipts work. “I think that if you spend ‘x’ amount, you should receive a free reusable grocery bag.”

Not going to lie, that’s a good idea. And I told him it was.

He said, “Of course it is! I’ve thought so for awhile. Now take that idea with you into your next corporate meeting.”

Corporate…meeting? This dude has about as much idea of how a business runs as Donald Trump! I gave a courtesy laugh and said, “While it’s a great idea, I’m just a cake decorator. I don’t have meetings with corporate. But, if you go on our website, there’s a place for you to give customer feedback and suggestions and I’m sure they’d love to hear about it.”

This is when Slicky McGee got pissed. I’m talking, PISSED. He turned purple. A vein throbbed at his temple. He left the sunglasses on, but looked at me over the rims. Yeah, he was THAT mad. “Then take it to your manager! Or supervisor! I’m handing you a good idea here!”

I said, “And I thank you, but I’m telling you that corporate would be much more open to hearing a good idea from a customer than from me. In fact, they love hearing from our customers. If you just go on to our website…”

He said, “Unbelievable! This place is UNBELIEVABLE! What’s wrong with you? I’m HANDING you an idea that will promote you up and out of here and you’re not taking it! Don’t you want to better yourself? Or do you want to be stuck here your whole life?”

Everyone I have told this story to had the exact same reaction when I reached this point. “I bet you were pissed!”

Actually, no. I wasn’t pissed, but we’ll get into that in a second.

I said, “I like my job. I’m happy where I’m at. Thank you for the suggestion, and I hope those bags work for your wife.”

He slammed a hand on the counter. “Un-be-LIEVABLE!” he reiterated in case I hadn’t heard him the first time. “I’m GIVING you a golden idea and you don’t even care!” He shook his head, snatched up the bags, and stormed away, saying once again, “What’s WITH this place?”

Thus ended my encounter with Sad Yuppie Who Can’t Let the 80s Go.

Boy, was he fuming. I don’t think I can stress enough just how angry and disgusted he was. Or how flat out wrong.

I didn’t get angry. I couldn’t. This man was sad and delusional. He had a good idea, but it was in no way a career maker. It’s an idea for a customer promo. Big whoop. We have those all the time. Dozens a year. I don’t know who thinks them up, but I can guarantee no one’s getting a spot on the board just because they think of handing out a freebie. It wouldn’t change the company. It wouldn’t actually even change the customer base. It’s not one of those promos that’ll draw in new shoppers. No one is sitting there looking at the sales flyers on Saturday morning thinking, “What is this? A free plastic tote after I spend $200? Well sign me up!”

Yet, he believed this idea was shat out by King Midas himself. Starting from that standpoint, I couldn’t get mad.

“But Bethie, he was demeaning.”

Yeah, but in fairness, I kind of summed him all up with one glance, too. He thinks I’m sad and pathetic “stuck” in my job. I’m not. I like my job a lot. I get the hours that can work out well for everything else in life, and I don’t have the stress of being management. I really do like the position I have. Why should his opinion change that? Or make me feel bad?

He may have looked at me and made assumptions, but I did the same. I guarantee that he’s got way more money than me. I also guarantee I’m far more content in life than he is. And I can guarantee that because I’m not so on edge that I’ll vent my spleen at a part time grocery store employee who was actually trying to do me a favor. I’m not so frustrated and tense and angry that I’ll blow up over literally nothing. He’s a sad character, folks.

Besides, it was an awesomely absurd moment. A sitcom playing out in real life. I love that shit. I eat it up. I can’t get mad because a situation like that is my mental candy. I love being part of or witness to inane happenings. They don’t make me angry, they tickle a weird part of my brain. Yeah, I understand everything his words implied, and I get how it could be insulting. Actually, if he had done this to someone else, to one of my coworkers, I probably would have been furious on their behalf.

I just can’t muster anger when it’s pointed at me. My brain says, “Wait, wha??? Is this…is this happening? Aw shit! Hey, Cortex, you gotta see this! Grab some popcorn. This is gonna be gooooood!”

Real life is the best book ever. I absolutely LOVE being part of an asinine chapter.

I also had a customer that smelled like onions and poo. And was very needy. And would. Not. Leave. I’ll take the irrationally irate kind any day over the pooey onion man.

But that is enough of the bad part of bakery-ing. They are only slight speed bumps in this exciting season. Now that Thanksgiving is over, my job has morphed from appeasing people with pie to enticing people with holiday splendor. I get to make pretty and cute Christmas stuff right now!

Everyone’s bitching about it being too Christmassy too early. But I get to make snowman cupcakes and Santa tarts! I got to deck out my display case in bakery bling-crusted trees on snow white gossamer “hills”! I got to make gingerbread houses to create a neighborhood flanked by buttercream poinsettias! And tomorrow, I get to try my hand at a painted cake technique that may actually make it possible to create holly leaves that really look like holly.

*sidenote: It is ridiculously hard to get a buttercream holly leaf to actually look like holly. It’s too soft. It doesn’t have the crisp lines that a holly leaf needs. I can get close. But this is cake decorating. CLOSE IS NOT ENOUGH. I want people to be like, “Hm. Well, I was going to get that cake, but seeing that it’s covered in holly, and holly is poisonous, I’ll just take the snowman instead.” LIFE GOAL.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas decor. I was raised to believe that a few tacky Christmas items are tacky…but cram enough of them in a small space and it’s magic. It’s true. If you celebrate Christmas and you look around your room and think, “Hm. This is tacky,” then you simply do not have enough and you need to get cracking and either buy or make more. You’ll thank me.

“Buy more? Buy MORE?? Bethie, you’re just playing into the commercialism of Christmas!”

I said you could make more. You don’t have to buy the decor. Grab a glue gun and some glitter and see what happens.

“You’re still turning the holiday into something gawdy and…and…”

Secular?

“YES!”

I didn’t turn it into something secular. The Church did that when they adopted traditions of non-believers in a bid to spread their message. And you know what? I don’t see any problem with that.

For me, it is a secular holiday. For me, Christmas is a societal tradition based around a historical figure that really must have been one helluva guy. For me, it celebrates the thought and meaning behind a story of a man who had to have been charismatic and understanding, kind and stubborn, a dude with some excellent ideas who wanted to make life better for those around him, no matter the personal cost.

I don’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. That’s just a personal opinion, not meant to offend or anything. I’m not trying to “convert” you or change your opinion. Everyone comes to what they feel based around their experiences and observations in life. I in no way want to try and sway you to “come around” to my way of thinking. Don’t do that. Have your OWN way of thinking!

I’m just being completely upfront and honest here. I don’t believe Jesus was a Messiah. I do, however, believe that the message spread by this historical figure for peace and acceptance and understanding is something worth celebrating. I am all for creating a season in which we take the time to love and honor and unite with our fellow man, where we give to friends and loved ones in a show of appreciation and affection, where we donate to the needy and seek out stories of hope and joy and triumph…

Why shouldn’t I embrace and celebrate that?

“Because it’s a Christian holiday!”

I hear this all the time. It was a Christian holiday. Was. The moment the Church began to pull in traditions from other, non-Christian peoples, it changed.

Let me argue this point with one of my own. The people who tell me I cannot celebrate this holiday are the same people that insist our society has been formed by Christian principles, that say Christianity shaped our nation, and even if you’re not a Christian, your life in the US is a result of the Christians that went first. So it’s okay to live day to day being societally influenced by the Christian majority, but NOT celebrate what has become mostly a secular holiday?

“It’s not secular.”

It is!

Society as a whole has changed Christmas from a religious observance to a cultural tradition, not just in the increasingly secular UK and US, but in many countries that have a Christian majority. Think I’m wrong?

Where in the Bible did Peter hang a wreath? Bedazzle a tree? Give gifts? Is there a gospel according to Santa that I missed somewhere? Did Rudolph light the manger so Joseph could see well enough to catch the newborn King when he popped out? Were the gold, frankincense, and myrrh created by little elves in a workshop in the North Pole? Did Jesus teethe on a candy cane?

“But those are all just symbols.”

Yep. Symbols taken mostly from OTHER religions and OTHER peoples. The Church culturally appropriated the hell out of shit to make their wild new ideas seem less scary to the pagan and secular peoples they were trying to convert.

True Christmas as a religious observation is not celebrated by the vast majority of modern Christians. It was initially a season of fasting, deep prayer, and personal reflection. That’s it. No gift giving, no jolliness no merriment. It was serious and somber. There are only a handful of branches of Christianity that still celebrate the serious observance Christmas was intended to be. If you hang a wreath on your front door, you are celebrating what has become a cultural tradition, NOT the purely religious Christmas.

“But I do both! Sure, I’ve got a wreath, but I also go to church and say my prayers and DO celebrate in the religious way.”

And that’s the only place we differ. I celebrate the same holiday. I just don’t take the last step toward making it religious.

Look, I was raised with Christmas all around me. My family was religious, I was religious as a child, and many of my family members still practice and believe. But why does the fact that I am not religious now 10mean I can’t recreate the spirit of the season for my kids? Why can’t I teach them about a historical figure, someone who had beautiful thoughts and ideas that we most definitely should live by?

A man from Nazareth lived a long time ago. A man so charismatic and different from the harsh world around him that we still know of him 2,000 years later. How rare is THAT? Especially since he was not a king or a pharaoh or a senator. He didn’t lead armies, he didn’t conquer lands. He spoke. That’s what he did. He spoke, and we STILL remember him today. He had these radical thoughts and ideas that people were ALL people and ALL were worthy, and he had them in a time and place that was ruled by folks hellbent on denying every word out of his mouth. He didn’t shut up. He didn’t cave. He didn’t waver and he died for his beliefs.

Historical Jesus was really friggin’ cool, and definitely someone to honor and celebrate.

Why can’t I celebrate that man, as a MAN, an ordinary man without any religious or supernatural or spiritual ties? Why do I need to ascribe to him creationary properties? I personally believe that he was just a guy, not the chosen son of an all powerful creator. Why does that mean I can’t be happy that he existed? Be amazed at his thoughts and ideas? Be proud that humanity produced a regular Joe, a lowly carpenter, who just had enough of the status quo and said, “DUDE. Seriously with this shit?”

…er, paraphrasing there. I’m sure he said it with far more eloquence.

He must have. Think about it. He must have been one of the world’s best writers to inspire so much for so long. He must have been someone really special. Don’t tell me I can’t celebrate that. And don’t tell me that in order to celebrate I have to think he was a deity.

We celebrate lots of great people. And, we’re humans. When we celebrate, we want to party.

I’m going to hang my wreath. I’m going to give gifts to my kids. I’m going to decorate happy little snowmen cupcakes and hum along with the piped in corporate Christmas music. And I’m going to teach my children not that Jesus is the son of a creator, but that he was an awesome man who stood for beautiful things in the midst of a seemingly ugly world.

Look around. Look at the headlines. Everyday we’re bombarded by stories of the absolute worst side of humanity.

I’m going to take this month to celebrate the best.

And I’m not taking anything away from Christians to do this. I’m not taking anything away from you, if you are a believer. I’m not appropriating your religion. I’m celebrating a man from our shared history in the traditions of my culture.

“I’m still not comfortable with that, Bethie.”

Jesus wouldn’t have been, either. He also wouldn’t have been comfortable with any religious celebration of his birth, not even yours. He would have interrupted your office Christmas party to tell you to take off the poly-blended Santa hat, put down the bacon wrapped Lil’ Smokies, and go to temple to ask forgiveness for having the hubris to name him the Messiah.

He would have been completely aghast at the both of us.

Thus concludes a rare mostly-serious and less rare long-winded Musing for Sunday, December 4, 2016. I need to clean the house and start covering every spare inch with Christmas tchotchkes. Er, the spare inches the cat can’t reach, anyway…

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