Fired, Divorced, Then Diagnosed with Brain Cancer: How Starbucks Saved a Man's Life

After he was fired from his executive job, Michael Gates Gill was devastated. Soon after he was laid off and got divorced - and when he thought things couldn't get any worse, he got diagnosed with a brain tumor.

At the lowest point in his life, Michael walked into a Starbucks store while it was holding a jobs fair. On a whim he applied for a position.

Starbucks may be $4 cup of coffee to you and me, but to Michael, it was a lifesaver:

After 26 years at J. Walter Thompson, a leading advertising agency, the then 63-year-old Gill was invited to an early breakfast and was told that he was getting the boot. He made too much money. Someone younger would work for less, he was told.

"Never go out to breakfast," he warns before bursting into laughter. "It's like the Mafia. You will never return."

He can joke about it now, but Gill says he was devastated by his firing. "I remember walking outside and bursting into tears," he says over a steaming cup of coffee at his current place of employment, a Starbucks in Bronxville, New York. "I was stunned. I knew that that part of my life was over."

That was just the start of a terrible reversal of fortune. In a few short years, Gill, the Yale-educated son of the famed New Yorker writer Brendan Gill, closed the consulting business he started after he was laid off, got divorced and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had hit both the rock and the bottom and was continuing to fall.

A trip to Starbucks would irrevocably change his life, he says. Unbeknownst to him, the coffee shop was holding a hiring fair the morning he walked in for his daily dose of caffeine. A manager approached him and asked if he would like to apply for a job. Without thinking, he said yes.


Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

This story has the formula of an Onion parody:

Imply a human interest story is heart-warming by superficial narrative structure, but then don't reasonably articulate why it is heart-warming in the story, or even frame the story in a heart-warming way. Make all story details depressing, be condescending in tone, make man seem utterly defeated, resigned to a lifestyle that he easily has the talent and resources to rise above, and disingenuously optimistic, rather than hopeful or inspiring (contrast this with Pursuit of Happyness, where Will Smith's similarly disgraced character actually does overcome a surprise avalanche of midlife misfortunes using hard work, ambitious optimism, and intelligence). But keep throwing in just enough genre cliches to keep the absurdly unjustified "heart-warming" premise tethered: "The actor Tom Hanks has plans to produce and star in the film version."

Of course he does!!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"These days, when the divorced father of five is not whipping up a caramel macchiato or perfecting his latte foam, he's sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets.

"I still have trouble with some of the drinks," he admits, "but I'm a good cleaner.... I can make a toilet shine like a Ferrari."

If life continues on an upswing for Gill, he may one day be able to purchase a Ferrari."


Simpson's quote time:

Kent Brockman: And from our 'It's Funny When It Happens To Them' file, remember millionaire C. Montgomery Burns? The man who blocked out our sun, ran over a local boy, and stole Christmas from 1981 to 1985? Well guess who's flat broke and picking up trash for a living? Excuse me, Mr. Burns. Now that you're completely ruined, how do you feel?

Mr. Burns: Excellent! I'm on my way back to the top! I've turned these cans into can-do!

Kent: Well, you smell terrible! Good luck to you, sir!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
He wrote a book about this. Its been out for awhile. I didn't start reading it with high expectations. So I was surprised by how heartwarming it was.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Fired, Divorced, Then Diagnosed with Brain Cancer: How Starbucks Saved a Man's Life"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More