I’ll bet you never heard this story. I was a kid. That would be less than third grade. I rode a bicycle around Elkins. In those days, I could ride unaccompanied and unfettered. At an intersection near home I found the workings of a Bulova watch lying on the pavement. The band and case were gone. I presumed the watch had fallen from a car and shattered. I was amazed that the watch was working. Yup, ticking, second hand sweeping, and the thing was keeping time. All day long I tested that watch by dropping it on the ground. Finally, hours later in the late afternoon the darned thing stopped working. There’s a moral to this story somewhere. But, after all these years I’m still stumped for something smart to say.
Sitting In A Drawer
As long as I’ve been writing about old stuff… there are some old watches. I haven’t worn a watch since my Eddie Bauer days. Wind up, self winding, battery, quartz, digital, and all flavors in between. Nowadays I use my cellphone which is automatically hooked into the network and always accurate no matter where I travel.
Then there was that Haverhill watch they advertised in the NY Times Sunday magazine. I’ve loved them all. Currently it’s a <$20 Timex. Twenty dollars was my price and WalMart the store. But in between there are some stories….
There was the year that David wanted an expensive knockoff – Rolex. (Once upon a time he asked for a supermarket shopping cart, wish not fulfilled.) J and I dutifully went down to Chinatown where you can procure such items. Unfortunately ignorant in the world of illegal counterfeit merchandise, we did not see anything displayed by the myriad of vendors along Canal Street. You have to ask, be assessed not to be police, and then they go under the counter and pull out a bag of watches all jumbled together from which you may pick. To be sure they are indeed counterfeit. But just like anything else, they are right twice a day. So wandering aimless up and down the cold streets of Chinatown, J and I saw in a musty dusty display case, an expensive looking watch. I don’t know from Breitling but it had that ‘bling’ factor. And the price?… less than $20, my price, indeed! I recently rescued it from the discard pile (for sentimental reasons).
Years later, David’s college roommate armed with my advice and experience with contraband went and bought a Rolex. He paid full asking price right off the bat. Fool! You’re supposed to bargain. But at $40 he thought it was worth it.
This brings me around to valuable watches that have come into my possession. The first was in my internship year. We cared for a gunshot victim. He’d been gunned down with a shotgun blast in the paramedian area of the lumbar spine. It turns out that the blast missed everything important. But it did blow a hole about 3 inches wide that communicated with his intestines. My recollection is of touching the surgical sheets on the backside while operating through his belly. When he recovered the surgical team discovered he ran drugs. And shortly thereafter he had to escape hospital care. I was tasked by my chief resident to continue his care and in gratitude received a gold watch. It was clearly used. More puzzling was my name in gold on the band. I don’t think and am pretty sure he did not have the name placed there for my benefit.
The next incident came when I cared for a man with a middle cerebral artery aneurysm. I became aware he was someone of importance when one of our plastic surgeons (lazy as hell kind of guy) was seen visiting and ‘kissing’ his ring. Really! I thought they only did that in the movies. Later on after his recovery, he called and asked to see me in the office on Friday, non office hours day. “Okay, but whatever he’s bringing me, make sure it’s not ticking,” I joked with my secretary. She was pale when he arrived with two packages, one of which was ‘ticking.’ The first was in a plain brown wrapper, which contained an oil painting of a clown. This was of utmost, almost paint by numbers, quality. The second was presented as he reached in the breast pocket of his coat and I almost dove for the floor expecting him to pull his gun. This turned out to be a gold Rolex watch. Okay, it’s solid gold, because they weld the band to the watch, get it? And then he asked me for a ‘favor.’ I kid you not. Later on he would visit and I would see that oil painting up on the wall of the waiting room. My secretary never forgot.
I never wore, not once, either of those watches. But there is one that I wore exactly once. It was presented in appreciation for saving a woman’s life. She, too, had had an anterior communicating artery aneurysm. Her husband had never paid for the operation until long after her recovery. He invited us to dinner. We suggested a modest steak house. He countered with inviting us to the best steak house he could find in NYC. A year later he returned to NY with his wife and gave me a Rolex. He offered me a neurosurgical position in his home country. Later on I came to find out that he was assistant to a man who would eventually become a serious presidential candidate in his country. It’s a funny interconnected world that I have been fortunate to be working in.
The last is a watch given to me by my brother John. We’d always be racking our brains for presents. You pretty much have everything so the only thing left is a boat or a plane and that’s a joke. So he gave me a Seiko one Christmas. It’s a great watch. But by now cell phones had become my timepiece. My Timex is only to keep track when I travel. There was a terry cloth robe they got me that saw use almost every single day. You just never know when you have given or received the perfect gift. It’s been a lot of years but those annual white gym socks Eric gave me have been quite useful. The watches? – locked away.