Today, I Bought a Watch

To repeat, today I bought a watch. 

Not an Apple watch, an analog watch. (For those of you too young to know what analog means, look it up in the dictionary. For those of you too young to know what dictionary means, look it up on line.)

I’ve worn watches my whole life until—I didn’t. Can’t say why. The last watch died, and, well, by then I had a cell phone, so it looked like a good opportunity to eliminate a redundancy in my life. (I had three kids by then. Perhaps I had missed the boat on eliminating redundancies.) Why wear a watch if you always had a time piece (albeit an enormous, relatively heavy, rectangular one) with you? 

Never mind that watches are elegant, eye-catching, distinctive, and just plain cool. It was unnecessary, now that I carried a smart phone with me whenever I left the house. (Never mind that I almost never used the smart phone. It was still a big, functioning watch.)

And let me clarify on the cell phone part: I was a very late adopter. In fact, I was the second-to-last person I know to get a cell phone. The other person still doesn’t own one. I think she’s über cool.

The reason I got a cell phone was because my children made me.

The reason I got a watch is because my cell phone died.

Well, first it got sick, and then it died. Actually, first it got sick, and then it got better, and then it got sold for parts. (Long story long: I was sitting with a friend at an outdoor café table and had my cell phone on top of a book on top of the table. The sun inched forward, and when I finally reached for my phone to show my friend a photo, the phone was kind of hot and the top half of the touch screen no longer worked. The next day, I took the (entirely cooled-down but still malfunctioning) phone to the Apple store at The Mall, and the nice, head-to-toe tattooed man told me that they would simply replace the screen and it would be good as new and ready at 12:30, which was in an hour and a half. He suggested I go get some lunch—which I did, because I often find the advice dispensed by head-to-toe tattooed men to be reasonable and worth following. And when I returned an hour and a half later, the very nice man told me they had accidentally stripped a screw while replacing the screen on the now-fixed phone, so they were giving me an entirely brand-new iPhone 10 for free. Because that’s what you do when you strip a screw. (Yeah, that story makes sense in some universe; I just can’t figure out which one.)

Anyway, for at least the last month I’d been considering buying a watch (after all these years of not wearing a watch which came after even more years of wearing a watch every single day) because I’ve been seriously evaluating my digital habits, and I realized that I really do check my phone to see what time it is…and then I see that I have email or a text or an app needs updating or there’s breaking news on the New York Times and is it going to start raining soon?…and then I’m off in digital land. 

I’m consciously trying to make digital land more of a place I visit than live, but I still need to know what time it is so I can get places on time in the real (analog) world, and how else was I going to kill an hour and a half at The Mall? I’m a woman of limited imagination once I set foot in that ecosystem.

I went into three stores. I looked at three watches. I bought the cheapest.

I have to admit at the end of my first day with a new watch that I only looked at the face of the watch once, maybe twice. (Oddly, I had no appointments today, so it really didn’t matter what time it was.) But I did look at the shiny band a lot and thought it looked sort of elegant, definitely eye-catching, pretty distinctive, and just plain cool.

Hey, what are watches for?

I’ll also say that I didn’t look at my phone once, but that’s a different story for a different day.

I will relate one last bit of irony in this whole irony-laden venture, which is that as I finished my lunch (of course I managed to fit in eating in that hour and a half), I realized that I had been told by the nice tattooed man at the Apple store to return at 12:30 to retrieve my repaired phone, but I had no idea what time it was (not having bought the watch yet), so I asked the woman sitting next to me in the restaurant what time it was. I could see she had a nice big Apple watch on her left wrist, but in her left hand, she also held an iPhone, which she had been looking at while she ate. When I asked her for the time, she started to check her Apple watch, then stopped abruptly and tilted up her phone to look at it, but then stopped again and twisted her wrist to look at the watch, before finally consulting her phone one last time.

“It’s 12:29,” she said quietly. Then, she added, “No, wait. It’s 12:30.”

She looked exhausted.