Reprinted from March 1994
RB had some extremely irritating habits (such as carefully putting the honey in the refrigerator and leaving the bread wrapper open on the kitchen counter after a midnight snack). All in all, watchmakers do not generally think like any other breed.
Let me explain why I say this. One time when we were considering buying a new car (our old jalopy was up in years), we began shopping the various dealers for new models while we could still drive our trade-in. We finally found one that appealed to us both. It was a sleek, green beauty with all the extras, and I could picture us gliding down the road with the stereo playing one of our favorite tapes, the air conditioner keeping us cool and comfortable, and the cruise control keeping us clipping along at a steady pace.
Then came the big moment… How much?
Without blinking an eye, the salesman said, “Only seven thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine dollars and eight-five cents, plus tax and license of course.”
Well, everyone knows how much cars go up in price every year, and bear in mind that even though this incident occurred a good many years ago, the symptoms of “sticker shock” have been around since the first car dealer opened up the first dealership, the figure the salesman quoted didn’t shock me too much. RB, however, pondered the situation for a few moments, and then called me aside.
“Do you know how much seven thousand, nine hundred ninety nine dollars and eight-five cents really is?
“Well, sure I know,” I reassured him.
“Uh-huh,” he said, shaking his head, “you don’t really know. It’s three thousand, four hundred and ninety-two crystal jobs.”
He paused to let the words soak in. “That’s one thousand and fifty four clean and overhaul jobs. Quite a few diamond sales and a heck of a lot of watchbands. Ya get the picture?”
I got the picture, all right!
“Based on that, I don’t think we can afford a new car right now. Do you?”
“Well, no,” I admitted. “I hadn’t thought about it from that point of view before. It is a lot of clean jobs. You’re probably right…”
So much for the new car, the stereo, air conditioner, etc., fallen prey to the rationalization of a watchmaker.
This type of thinking was not the only of RB’s idiosyncrasies. Take, for example, the day I overhead him mumbling in the next room. By listening carefully, I could make out the words.
“Those are the softest hands I’ve ever seen, and look at that face. Wow! Beautiful…”
Thinking he was ogling a centerfold out of the current issue of Playboy, I peeked around the corner and… what a let down. He was just working on a watch and talking to himself.
Now I ask you: who but a watchmaker could get so caught up with the appearance of a watch?
Then there were the mixed or confused-metaphors. For instance, a man came into the store, and he seemed familiar, but we couldn’t place him. After a brief conversation, we soon learned that he had a brother who was very similar in appearance.
So far, so good, but you’ve heard the saying “You look just like…” or perhaps “You’re a dead ringer for…”?
Well, somehow when RB attempted to use the metaphor, it didn’t come out either way. Smiling brightly, he exclaimed, “Why, you look just like your dead brother!”
The customer stammered a bit, blinked utter confusion, then left, still scratching his head.
Sometimes a customer will appear to have a closed mind to any suggestion. Any normal person might just shrug and say, “You’d be spinning your wheels to say any more to him,” or “You’d be wasting your breath to talk to him about that.”
Not RB, however. No sir. He told me empathically, “Don’t’ even try to say anything more to that customer. You’d be spinning your breath to try and change his mind.”
Once, a customer brought a watch in for periodic cleaning, rather than waiting for it to stop or give trouble.
“You did the right thing,” RB assured her, “after all, a stitch in time is worth a pound of cure!”
I suspect she’s still puzzling over that statement.
On another occasion, a fellow showed RB a fine watch his uncle had given him. Not being particularly fond of his generous uncle, the young man said he had done several things to aggravate and enrage the poor old man.
“Better be careful,” RB suggested, “you don’t want to kill the gift horse that laid the golden egg!”
I also heard him say on many occasions, “Birds of a feather seek their own level.”
One thing is for sure, being married to a watchmaker is never dull, and life with any other person could have never been the same.
As RB would say, “It’s too late now to sit around and cry over milk spilled under the bride!”