Reprinted from October 1991
The train came in early around here last week. No sooner was the door unlocked, when in strode the challenge of the day, “Rick the Ripper.”
Rick’s the kind of fellow who strikes terror in the heart of every watchmaker, and today was RB’s turn to face the music.
Rick was arrogant in his manner and his gaze was icy cold. Obviously, he didn’t except any nonsense. I felt RB squirm under the pressure.
“This watch has stopped.” Rick plopped it down on the counter with such gusto I felt sure he’d broken the staff.
“Well, now,” RB tried to sound nonchalant, “let’s take a look and see what could have gone wrong.”
“You do that watchmaker,” sneered Rick. I seemed to detect a slight quiver in RB’s neck muscle.
“Did you open the back for any reason?” RB asked.
“Nope,” replied Rick, rather disgustingly.
“Oh well, I just wondered,” RB remarked. “The back is loose.”
“Is that so!” Rick mocked RB’s expression smirking.
“That’s right. Did you have it open?”
“Nope. Never opened it at all. It just stopped all by itself.”
RB continued to look into the case pondering. “Did you take it to another watchmaker for an estimate?”
The questioning seemed to irritate Rick even more. He rolled his eyes hopelessly. “No, I didn’t take it to another watchmaker for an estimate.”
“Well, I just wondered,” said RB. “The back is loose.”
“Then you musta’ left it loose yourself, watchmaker, the last time you worked on it.”
Rick shifted his weight and drummed his fingers on the counter.
RB didn’t comment, but went on peering intensely inside the watch. Finally, he said, “Evidently someone has been inside because the entire hairspring is gone.”
“What’s a hairspring?” Rick countered.
“That’s one of the main parts to a watch,” RB carefully explained. “Without it, a watch can’t run at all – not even for one minute. So whenever the hairspring went out, that’s exactly when your watch stopped.”
Rick merely continued to drum his fingers on the counter and stare into space.
“How’d it happen?” pressed RB.
“I have no idea, watchmaker. Like I said, it stopped all by itself.”
“Someone’s been inside tampering with the works, because it’s sure torn up.” RB insisted.
“Is that so!”
“Yes, that’s right,” RB stated.
He put the watch back on the counter. “It’s pretty torn up. Do you want me to fix it?”
Rick tried another bluff, “Sure, I want it fixed. That’s what I came here for. It’s under guarantee.”
RB met the challenge head-on. “No, breakage isn’t covered under guarantee.”
Rip came back with, “I already told you, watchmaker, I didn’t break it! It just stopped all by itself.”
“Well,” RB suggested, “maybe one of the kids got a hold of it.”
“Absolutely not. It just stopped all by itself.”
I don’t know what would have happened if this argument had gone on. RB could have snapped, I suppose, but as luck would have it, Rick’s little boy strode in about this time, complaining about being left in the car.
“Is the watch man going to fix your watch, Daddy?” He gazed about with wide, innocent eyes. Then he said:
“Mommy is mad at Daddy because he tried to fix his watch and broke it. Now Mommy calls Daddy ‘Rick the Ripper!’” He giggled, but Rick didn’t laugh at all.
RB tried not to smile as he started writing out a repair ticket. “Twenty-six fifty,” he said. “Pick it up on the twenty-third.”
Rick shrugged and looked sheepish. “All I done,” he mumbled, “was to try and regulate it. But there was this little hair that had got inside, and I tried to take it out, and..”
“I know,” sighed RB. “You tried, but you couldn’t! RIGHT?”