Steve McDonald’s Favorite Christmas Story!

Steve McDonald By Steve McDonald, Bond Strategist, The Oxford Club

Slap In The Face Award


My holiday gift to you this year is no “Slap in the Face” Award for anyone this week. Instead, I want to share a personal story with you.

It’s about Christmas Eve, 45 years ago. And it’s a story I may chuckle at now, but believe me – back then, I wasn’t laughing.

It begins on Christmas Eve 1971. It was my freshman year in college, and I was dating a beautiful girl who was going to school in New Jersey.

I was home in in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for Christmas break, about a two-hour bus ride away.

We had spent the entire summer together and hadn’t seen each other since that September or October. So the plan was for me to come visit and stay with her at her parents’ home for Christmas and New Year’s.

I loaded up gifts for her and her parents, and got on the bus with the idea that we couldn’t wait to see each other.

But that’s where the trouble started…

After I arrived, she informed me she wasn’t that crazy about me anymore. She suggested that maybe the week together wasn’t a good idea.

(Really? … Yeah, really.)

So I made excuses to her parents and had them take me back to the bus station to catch a ride home.

It was Christmas Eve, and I was headed for downtown Newark, New Jersey, on the last bus back to Scranton. I know, it sounds like a really bad country western song, doesn’t it?

But wait, it gets worse! A broken heart wasn’t my only Christmas present that year.

I wound up on a local bus that made about 10 stops in small New Jersey towns. And by pure coincidence, at one of the stops, a familiar face got on.

As he came walking down the aisle toward me, I realized it was an old buddy of mine from back home, Ernie. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years.

To say that I could have used a friend at that point in the evening was an understatement. So I waved at him to get his attention… but his reaction, the look on his face, told me I had just made a very big mistake.

You see, Ernie was one of those unfortunate people who develop a drinking problem in their teens. And on this particular night, he was well on his way to being a major holiday drunk.

But when he saw me, his face lit up like a Christmas tree! He screamed (and I mean really screamed), “MAC!”

With his arms outstretched, he ran down the aisle, screaming again how good it was to see me. Every other word was an expletive. He was hammered.

Now, it was Christmas Eve around 10 p.m. No one wanted to be on the bus, and no one wanted a drunk screaming four-letter words at the top of his lungs.

So the bus driver came back and informed us (not just him), that if we didn’t settle down, “we’d” be in trouble. I hadn’t said a word! But the driver said that if we didn’t quiet down, he’d put us off the bus.

I didn’t even know where we were, and I sure as heck wasn’t spending Christmas Eve there.

So I pleaded with Ernie to be quiet, which was probably the exact opposite of what I should have done. But anyway, as the driver walked back to the front of the bus, you know it… Ernie had to say something.

I’m sure he thought he was being funny and discreet, but he wasn’t. And voila! We were both standing on a sidewalk, somewhere in New Jersey, at 10 o’clock at night on Christmas Eve.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t another bus until the next morning.

Ernie’s solution to this mess? “There’s a bar over there. Let’s get a drink!”

My answer was a resounding “No!”

Besides the fact I was only 18 and the drinking age was 21, I had had enough fun for one day. I wanted to go find a motel and get a room.

Ernie got irate and started throwing a little bit of a fit, but I just walked away. That was the last time I ever saw him. I have no idea what became of him.

But I finally got on a bus at 10 a.m. the next morning. And at noon, I arrived at my parents’ house to find no one at home. Everyone was out visiting relatives, which was the Christmas Day tradition back then. We had oodles of aunts and uncles and cousins in the area.

So I turned on the TV and fell asleep on the couch. I hadn’t slept at all the night before.

The girlfriend called me a week later, crying and saying she had made a mistake about us. But I never saw her again either.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year (with no surprises) and with oodles of friends, family and relatives!

I’ll see you in 2017.

Good investing,