Joseph Walker: Focus on reason for giving rather than new and shiny gifts
It isn't that I don't like jewelry. Rather, it appears that jewelry doesn't like me.
I don't know what it is, but for some reason, jewelry and I do not get along. I accidentally destroyed the first watch that I owned — an ugly incident with a lathe in eighth grade metal shop. A few years later I bought a high school class ring, but within a month it was sleeping with the fishes after I forgot to take it off while water skiing. The beautiful silver wedding ring my wife, Anita, gave me as a symbol of our eternal love lasted two months until it slipped off my finger — OK, I was playing with it — during church and rolled under the pews and slipped down a heating duct and was never seen again.
For most of my life, I have chosen not to tempt fate, and I have lived jewelry-free. But during our recent wedding anniversary cruise, I became frustrated at not knowing the time. There were no clocks anywhere on the ship — not even an alarm clock in our stateroom. So during one of our shopping expeditions, I went looking for a watch. I wasn't looking for something to make a statement about me or to make me look chic. I just needed to know what time it is.
Anita found a handsome-but-expensive watch that came with a nice pen and a wallet.
"I have lots of pens," I said, "and there is no cash to put in a wallet. I only need a watch."
'What sort of watch do you need?" asked the woman at the shop that sells, among other things, watches.
"I need the kind of watch that, you know, tells time," I said.
Undaunted, she showed me watches that also doubled as calendars, appointment books, portable meteorological stations and intercontinental ballistic missile launching platforms.
"Seriously," I told her. "I just want a watch that tells time."
By now the clerk was bored with me. She pointed toward a corner of the shop where a hand-lettered sign said, "Everything $10."
"I think there are watches over there that tell time," she said as she turned her attention to a customer who was looking for jewelry that required a doctorate from MIT to operate it.
I was thrilled at the prospect of a $10 watch. I wasn't expecting much — just something that kept reasonably good time — so I was pleased to find a nice-looking silver watch with a silver link band, a big hand, a little hand and a sweeping second hand. It also had three cool dials inside the face of the watch — I assumed they were for date, month and year — as well as three stems with which I assumed you set the dials and the watch to their proper settings. It didn't come with an instruction book, but the clerk assured me it was all very self-explanatory.
Which, it turned out, was absolutely correct.
When I got the watch back to our stateroom and started fiddling with it, I discovered that those cool dials are just painted on — they don't actually move or anything. Two of the three stems are simply decorative as well. And the silver band has a tendency to pinch my wrist.
But that's OK. I just want to know what time it is, and the watch does a good job of letting me know that — as long as you don't mind that it only has the numbers 1-7 on the face of the watch. From 8 o'clock on, you're sort of on your own.
Not that I'm complaining. I got what I paid for: a watch that is worth $10. Maybe.
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