Even as a little tyke in Husky jeans I was obsessed with time. How quickly it seems to move, length between one place to the other, the possibility of traveling back and forward thru it, and lamenting its inevitable damage on my person as it moves over me like a metaphorical freight train. I’m not sure what sort of psychic trauma was bestowed upon me at an integral time in my existence that caused this obsession with the hands of time, but I’m sure it was a doozy.
There’s the figurative sense of obsession with time, but also the literal. I’ve always been fascinated with watches. I love the mechanisms of an old wind up, as well as battery-powered watches. My first watch was a certified Mickey Mouse watch. I think I may have gotten it when I was 5 or 6. It came in a red plastic slip case with genuine leather wristband. Mickey was in the center of it and his arms were the hour and minute hand. As soon as I put it on Christmas morning I felt instantly grown up(well, at least more like 7 or 8 than 5 or 6.)
My dad always wore a watch. The one I remember the most was a gold watch(or gold-plated anyways.) I think it was a Timex. They were always metal watches, and I loved how they felt. Very heavy and significant. I remember being 8 years old and going to King’s Island. We were coming off a ride and my dad swung his arm into the metal railing of the King Cobra(a stand-up coaster that would do two loops) and smashed the face of that gold watch. For a single moment I thought the world would stop and I panicked. When it didn’t and my dad just let out a quick, muttered expletive I knew I’d live to ride The Beast Junior another day.
Like every other first grader in the early 80s I didn’t really understand the inappropriateness of a muscle car with the Confederate flag painted on its roof, so I was obsessed with The Dukes of Hazzard. On Christmas morning 1982 I opened a small box to find a Dukes of Hazzard digital watch. My mind was blown, man. This thing was great. It was a silver metal watch, with the General Lee on the face of it. It had an alarm on it that when it went off it played “Dixie”. I’d felt I’d gone up a few levels on the maturity scale. Figured by summer I’d be a real man and move on to button-up pajamas and leather loafers. That watch lasted a year or so(at least until cousins Coy and Vance took the keys of the General Lee.)
Of course the next wrist watch move was to the black digital Casio. This was the future of watches in the 80s. If you didn’t have a black Casio you weren’t “cool” and “with it”. C’mon man, this was the time of Max Headroom, Pac Man, and The A-Team, if you weren’t wearing a watch with a full calculator on its face then how were you going to be ready for flying cars, jetpacks, and teleportation? I did have a black digital Casio, but mine didn’t have a calculator on the face. I was a simple boy with simple needs.
In high school I remember my mom buying me a gold metal watch. It look pretty mature for a kid that saved his lunch money to buy Rush and Megadeth cassettes, but I still quite liked it. Along with splashing Brut 33 on my newly shaven face in the morning, the watch gave me an air of maturity that an awkward teen boy could use when trying not to look like someone who’d just boxed up his Star Wars and GI Joe toys three years prior.
As an adult I still obsess over watches. In 2001 I bought myself a Fossil watch. It was a metal watch with a silver band and a green face. I loved that watch. It wasn’t super expensive or anything, but it felt like a solid chunk of time keeping. I had that watch for almost 20 years. A couple weeks ago I went to a Fossil outlet store to have them change the battery for me. When they did change it, the arms still didn’t move. It was dead, for all intents and purposes. So I traded my dead watch in for a new ticking and tocking watch. Another Fossil, of course. It’s quite beautiful. Again, not an expensive watch by any means. But it looks fantastic, and it keeps time.
I have quite a collection of watches now, none of which I’ll need to insure or anything. A gaggle of bands, faces, arms, and varying degrees of cheap. I’ve got a couple Casios that I wear to work because I’m not afraid of damaging them. The new Fossil, as well as an older Fossil I bought thru work with an leather armband. I still have a couple Swatches I bought in New York back in the late 90s when I traveled for work. I also have my grandpa’s old Timex. No leather band for it, and I don’t even know if it works anymore. But I have it, just in case.
Through the years watches have always had a place in my fashion sense and accessorizing game. Even when it seems dated to be wearing something on your wrist when you have a phone in your pocket with the time on it as well, a watch to me feels like a necessary piece of bling. And old school time keeper that would keep ticking long after your iPhone or Android would become obsolete(or just run out of battery life.) There’s a chivalry to the watch. “Oh shit, what time is it?” said the stranger on the street. “It’s 12:35”, said the hero with the silver Citizen on his muscle-bound wrist. The wrist watch harkens back to the day when a man wore a tailored suit and fedora. Accessorizing was wearing cufflinks, a money clip, and a beautiful watch. Today accessorizing is dirty Crocs, pajama pants, and a well-oiled holster for your matching his and her Glocks.
Maybe I’m romanticizing the notion of wearing a wristwatch. I guess in my head I associate wearing a watch with a certain sense of responsibility. You thought enough to wear a timepiece so you know for sure that you’ll get where you need to get when you need to get there. You’re not leaving it up to chance to get your kids to school on time, or to get to work on time, or to get to that doctor appointment on time. You’ve got the world moving on your wrist. You have the very basis of how we trace our existence sitting on your person, ticking and tocking, ticking and tocking.
Our visit here in this world is limited. Very, very limited. I know its unhealthy to obsess over such things. A good chunk of living in the moment is a good and healthy way to live. A healthy dose of “Fuck it, man” is good for the soul. But we also need a reminder once in a while that we should make the most of it, because too much of “Fuck it, man” and we may not give ourselves enough time for something else as equally important. The watch is there to say “Okay that was fun, but remember you wanted to learn Spanish, take up painting, and take a cruise with your wife as well. Just letting you know it’s well half past your life. Get moving.”
My obsession with time is probably rooted in my obsession with the passing of moments. Looking back and looking forward. Stopping for a second and holding my breath so I’m completely still, just for a second or two and feeling time move over me. It’s a fascinating and overwhelming feeling to bask in minutes and seconds washing over you. What will it be like in ten minutes? Will it be the same as it was ten minutes ago? How much time do I have left? Did I make the most of my time? How am I going to get all of this done in the time I have left?
Whoa, gotta go. Time for work.