Throughout the evening, Daniel was periodically aware of the ticking of a new watch he was wearing. He wasn’t used to wearing a watch anymore and he was a little bit pleased and a little bit annoyed every time it invaded his consciousness.
Daniel had a bad track record with watches. He never could seem to keep one for more than a year at a time. His wife, Ashley, used to buy him watches, but he would inevitably lose track of them. The fact that a man who can maintain a large scale computer system for an international airline, skillfully run an elementary school classroom, and transform $50,000 in student and credit card debt into $75,000 in sound investments but could not keep a Timex on his wrist from one birthday to the next baffled Elizabeth.
It’s not that Daniel didn’t like watches. Watches were actually very important to him. He could still remember his first watch. He had wanted one of those new digital watches when he was a child, but his parents insisted that he should learn to read time with hands, first.
He remembered that his first watch was a very plain Timex with a black, plastic band and black numbers; no date, no month. Perhaps he got it for a birthday, he wasn’t sure. He spoke with feigned pride at school about his reason for having a watch with hands.
“You know, people aren’t going to be able to read time this way anymore if they just use digital watches. I think everyone should have to wear a regular watch before they get a digital watch because what if they’re in a room with only a regular clock? They might be late or something.” This was the explanation Daniel had given to his friends who wore digital watches, much to his envy.
Daniel’s first digital watch came just as scheduled: one year after receiving his first watch. It had multiple settings including regular time, military time, time with running seconds, and (Daniel’s favorite) a stop watch.
Daniel used to compete with his brother, Gabe, in church using the stop watch setting. They would take turns seeing who could start and stop their stop watch using the least amount of time. Gabe had achieved the record of nine milliseconds. Daniel would not break that record until the day he helped the P.E. teacher at the school where he taught years later. He was in charge of timing the fifty yard dash on a track and field day using a digital stopwatch. He recalled his childhood competition and ended up scoring seven milliseconds while practicing between heats. He wondered if Gabe remembered the long standing record.
When Daniel was in sixth grade, he purchased a calculator watch. He could perform most mathematical functions right there on his wrist. Unfortunately, the watch became fresh ammunition for the group of boys who had nicknamed him ‘Mr. Computer’.
‘Mr. Computer’ was a name that referred to Daniel’s insistence on raising his hand to answer every question that he knew the answer to, which was most of them. Neither the boys or Daniel had any idea that computers would lead him into such a lucrative career.
By the time Daniel was fifteen, he was ready to step up to a level of mature sophistication that a digital watch could not provide. He wanted a watch that would go with the tie and slacks he wore to church. With the money he was earning at Fruti Tuti, a soft serve yogurt shop in the mall, he purchased a watch with a black leather band and a silver colored rim. Daniel was attracted to the ‘old school’ look of it. He felt a little more refined when he wore it with the tie that his great aunt Emma had returned to him on accident and the shirt that his best friend’s dad had previously owned. The fact that both items were previously owned by successful lawyers who could afford a certain level of sophistication made Daniel feel a little sophisticated regardless of the permanent, yellow, smelly pit stains under the arms of the shirt.
Ashley had hoped to train him to keep his watches. He would be permitted to have a watch if it were very cheap. If he wore it for a year, he could get another watch that was a little nicer and so on until he could finally buy a watch that he wanted. Daniel had long since resigned himself to wearing thirty dollar watches. He could never get passed the first level.