Christmas 2000: A Fine Year for Wine

By Jim Toes, STA

If the trend is truly your friend, then 2021 will mark the 58th year that I wake up on December 25 with a child’s excitement and joy. While all of my past holidays have been memorable in their own way, I recall a unique story from Christmas 2000 that seems fitting to share as we are in full force holiday shopping for family, friends, co-workers and contractors. Yes, that’s right. Contractors.   

Y2K was a good time to be an equity trader at Merrill Lynch. It was profitable by all measures and the dot-com bubble was still months away from popping. As a way to spread some holiday cheer, I bought two cases of wine to give out as gifts. The first case was to be given to work colleagues on Christmas Eve. The other case was for a team of contractors who were three months into what was supposed to be a two-month job on my home. Despite their slow pace, my wife and I still considered ourselves very fortunate to have hired Nino and his crew. They took great pride in their work, were friendly and trustworthy and, by the week of Christmas, we were all on a first-name basis.  

In full disclosure, while we liked Nino and his crew very much, there was a rather large difference in the amount of money I spent on their case of wine versus the case for my colleagues, some of whom were self-proclaimed wine aficionados. On Christmas Eve day, I came downstairs to drive to work, but could not find the case for my colleagues.

When I asked my wife where it was, she insisted it was in the dining room. I replied it was not and asked her to come show me. She entered the room and pointed to the case of wine that was meant for the contractors. When I asked where the other, much more expensive case was, she replied, “I gave that case to the contractors.” Since I never told her of my plans, I remained silent, picked up the other case and headed into the office.  

Arriving at work, I was concerned that my co-workers would be disappointed. I also prepared myself to take some teasing, so I was apologetic when handing out the bottles, simultaneously using humor to explain there was an electrician somewhere on Long Island who would be enjoying his bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet later that evening. The response was better than what I had hoped for: they laughed at the story, appreciated the gesture and wished me a Merry Christmas!

The holidays are a time to spread cheer and joy. It is also a time of gift giving, a practice that has existed for as long as the human race. Yes, it’s nice to give and receive presents, but what people truly appreciate is that their friends and colleagues are thinking of them and go out of their way to show that. This can be achieved with giving gifts and random acts of kindness. This season don’t stress about trying to find the “perfect” or most expensive gift for someone. Remember, there is beauty in simplicity, and a gift should never overshadow the emotional and personal bond that the actual act of giving provides us.

On behalf of all of us STA, we wish you and your family a very happy and healthy holiday season.