My godson’s tenth birthday was approaching and I decided to give him a wrist watch–something with a few dials and push buttons to keep things interesting. And it had to be waterproof. I love Richard dearly but he is a bit of a klutz. Just last week he dropped his mother’s cell phone in the toilet, so a waterproof watch was a must.
I went to one of the better jewelry stores in town. It wasn’t the sort of establishment I usually frequent (by “usually,” I mean “ever”), but this gift was for Richard and I wanted it to be special.
The proprietor greeted me warmly and introduced himself as Bernard.
I explained what I wanted and he nodded.
“I think I have the perfect timepiece for your young man,” he said. He unlocked a display case and placed a beautiful watch on a grey cloth. It had the requisite buttons and dials. Luminous numbers and hands.
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” I said. “Richard would love the luminous numbers.” I remembered how I would shine a flashlight on one of my first watches and then pull a blanket over my head to see the eerie green glow.
“It’s one of my favorite timepieces,” he said. “Red gold, black face, and it’s waterproof to fifty fathoms.”
Fathoms? The above-ground pool at Richard’s house was maybe four feet deep. He’d have 49 fathoms to spare. No need to worry about dropping this puppy in the toilet. I knew I’d found the perfect watch.
“May I ask the price?”
“Of course,” Bernard said. “It’s $33,600.00.”
In times like this when you realize you are way, way out of your element, I’ve found the best thing to do is keep calm and act bored.
“Thirty-three? Hmmm. That might be a little high for a ten-year old.”
“Perhaps,” Bernard said. He returned the watch to the display cabinet and placed another one on the cloth– an elegant chronograph with gold markers instead of numerals on the face.
“Rose gold, alligator strap, water-resistant,” Bernard told me.
“And the price?”
“How much more for numerals for each hour?”
Bernard adjusted the his shirt cuffs.
“This particular model doesn’t have numerals,” he said.
Bernard was not a man to surrender. He set the third watch on the counter.
“This might be one he would enjoy,” he said. “It has two separate dials that set for different time zones.”
“It’s lovely, but Richard doesn’t travel much. He’s only allowed a few blocks from his house by himself.”
“I see,” he said, but I knew he didn’t. He dabbed his handkerchief at a line of perspiration on his upper lip. I hadn’t noticed that before (the perspiration, not the lip).
“Bernard, I apologize. I didn’t do a very good job of describing what I want. You see, this is for a very active ten-year old boy. He plays sports, he climbs trees, and he tends to break things,” I said. “I think a more moderately priced watch would suit him better, don’t you?”
“I see your point,” he said. “You want something more practical.”
“Exactly. But still fun.”
He handed me the perfect watch. Exactly what I wanted. Unlike the previous timepieces, this one had a price tag attached: $125. Still more than I wanted to pay, but I wasn’t going to tell Bernard that.
“Bernard, it’s perfect! I’ll take it.”
“Excellent. Let me just set the time for you. The battery is guaranteed for two years.”
“Battery? Oh, dear. I wanted a mechanical movement that he could wind.”
Bernard’s left eye began to twitch.
“Why would that be?”
“Well, this is going to sound silly,” I said.
“Oh, go ahead,” Bernard said with what I thought was a hint of sarcasm.
“When Richard was much younger, he liked to sit on my lap and listen to my wristwatch. It was an old Timex and it ticked loudly. Richard used to call it the “tick tock,” so I thought it would be fun if the watch went…”
“Madam, I’m very sorry but I don’t think I can help you. Maybe if you went to one of the chain stores?”
“I’m sure you’re right,” I told him. “I apologize for taking your time.”
“It was my pleasure, Madam,” he said but I didn’t really believe him. I did admire his self-control, though.
On the way home, I stopped at the drug store to pick up a few things. I is one of those large chain stores that sells a little of everything: groceries, coffee makers, magazines.
I was in line at the check-out counter when I noticed a revolving display case with wrist watches. I gave it a spin and there it was: Richard’s watch. Perfect! And only $25!
I bought it and decided to return to the jewelry store to show it to Bernard. He had apparently spotted me as I came in because I found him crouched down behind a tall display case with silver trays.
“Hi, Bernard. I just came back to show you this. Stainless steel case, second hand, stop watch, calendar. I think Richard will love this.”
“That is quite handsome,” he said.
I handed him a bag. “Here. I thought you might like this.”
He looked surprised. “That wasn’t necessary, but thank you.”
It was a heart-shaped box of Valentine’s candy. Since it was a week past Valentine’s Day, the store had the leftover candy marked down half-price.
“Just wanted to say thank you,” I told him.
Bernard smiled. “My mother used to give me Valentine’s candy like this when I was a boy. Thank you.”
I waved goodbye and then remembered I had to return to the drug store. I’d forgotten to get wrapping paper and a birthday card for Richard.
That really is a handy store. They have everything.