Monday, March 28, 2016
The vanity of telling time
The jeweler squinted through his eye piece magnifying glass and made an off-hand pronouncement.
“This,” he said, “is a very expensive watch.”
Or is it?
Two weeks earlier, this same jeweler had appraised my wife’s companion watch and declared hers junk.
I wish she’d never asked.
Because I enjoyed the watch more when I was certain it was expensive. Believing I was wearing an expensive watch always made me feel like a real big shot.
We’d been given for free the watches aboard a cruise on Lake Henderson near Las Vegas. It was 2005 and I was there on some story about high rollers.
Everything was top shelf.
I never dreamed our presence would be deemed so illustrious we’d warrant free watches.
Those of you familiar with dainty journalism ethics will recognize here a breach in mine. But I stopped caring about journalism ethics way back when I realized journalism — at least at my level — didn’t care about providing a decent salary so we took the watches without a second thought.
And Vegas certainly didn’t seem troubled by any ethical considerations so we were all cool.
I do love the watch, even though I only wear it when I want to impress someone with my appearance, which used to happen about once every two years, but now happens once a month.
I’d even pondered not getting it repaired. Really, it looks as impressive if it’s working or not and no one ever asks any more if anyone knows what time it is.
A nice watch represents two of mankind’s most pretentious conceits: vanity and time.
Vanity because we should care more about how we act than how we look; time because a watch lets us pretend we can somehow control it.
It’s why I was inspired to compose the for-me profound line about the subject:
“Foolish mortal! You think you can tell time. Time tells you!”
I contend we’d all be better off if we got rid of all our time pieces and just showed up whenever the hell we felt like it — just be sure to bring a book with you.
Has this happened to you?
You’re supposed to pick up a teenage child at a designated time, say, 4:15 p.m..
You’re within view of the destination — you can actually see the kid — and you get an impatient text: “Where R U?”
And you look at the car dashboard and see it’s 4:16.
Too many time pieces and instant communications have warped for the worse our idea of being late.
It wasn’t that long ago when if you said you’d meet someone, you’d ballpark it within an hour or so.
Now we synchronize our time like secret agents out to overthrow some Third World dictator.
And we’re surrounded by time. It’s on our phones. It’s on our walls. It’s in our cars, on our stereos and up in the corner of nearly every screen to which we’re practically umbilically attached.
The funny thing about that watch of mine?
I wasn’t there to get it appraised at all. The battery had died. The jeweler was just making conversation when he vaguely noted its worth.
Honest, I sat there in the parking lot wondering if it was even worth getting repaired.
It to me is an ornament. It serves the same purpose if it’s functioning or not.
Rare are the times when I glance at my wrist watch to learn the time.
Time is truly everywhere.
We all know the time. We just have no idea where the hell it goes.
It’s a baffling contradiction.
We have no time.
We have all the time in the world.
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