I splurged last night. I bought myself a new watch. It’s a finely tuned quartz chronograph with Swiss components and is water resistant to 100 meters. Some people shop and collect clothes. I collect watches. (I should add that most of my watches are moderately priced ones within my limited budget.)
In this day and age of smartphones and Apple watches and Fitbits that track your every step and heartbeat, people increasingly don’t wear normal, everyday watches. I get how fashions come and go, but I know that I’ll always wear one.
When I was a kid, real men wore a watch. It was a sign of responsibility, sophistication, and worldliness. My father and my brothers all wore one and I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to be someone important. I wanted to matter. And later, when I got into high school, I wanted one so that I could keep track of my mile times in Cross Country and Track & Field.
When I was out with friends, my watch served as a nice reminder too, letting me know when I needed to race home with the car for the night. Before I went out for the night, my mom would always gently remind me, “Be sure to be home by 11.” Of course, when I’d come home later that night, I’d usually blame my lateness on my watch losing time.
My watch wearing though started under ill-fated circumstances. I had just started wearing a real watch — no funny watch with Mickey Mouse pointing to the time, but a real live “man’s watch,” a simple stainless steel Timex on a brown leather band — when I had to help my mom in a bind.
My father was in the hospital. He had had heart attack a few years before and was back in the hospital in need of surgery to help him recover. My oldest brother was in college and my mom needed me to drive to the hospital in Pittsburgh and bring her home. I should add that I had just gotten my driver’s license. When I say “gotten,” I mean it. I had just earned my license the day before.
My mom was bleary-eyed from her past three days in the hospital. I don’t remember much else about the lengthy trip out to Pittsburgh and the return trip home, but I remember driving in the middle of the night and looking up every so often in the glimmer of the car light at my watch to see how much further we had to drive.
The watch was still new to me. I remember taking it off and on and rubbing the sweat on my wrist. In any event, I drove through the night, pulling up to our house in the wee hours of the morning. When we got home, I crashed on my bed. I’m not even sure I changed out of my clothes.
I took a quick nap and got up an hour or so later to go on a field trip with my high school social studies class to Washington D.C. Like the night before, I found myself checking my watch every few minutes to see what time we would be getting back so that I could check on my mom.
When I finally got a good night’s sleep, I drifted off to sleep thinking I was a man because of the watch. Of course, I learned years later, it wasn’t the watch that made me a man, it was being there for my mother and others.