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I'm a time keeping man


I've been suffering. I don't like to complain and am not quite sure who really cares about my pain, but the agony has been so overwhelming that it's difficult for me to think about anything else.

Somewhere in my DNA is the biological marker that drives my need to be on time. While some stay focused on oxygen, water, food and shelter, for my world to function properly I need to know the time. Not just any time. I need to know the exact time to the second. Precisely!

As a kit I remember calling P*O*P*C*O*R*N to get the exact time. Early in my life we all had analog watches which there cute little sweeping second hand that looked nice enough but did a horrible job of keeping time to the second. When digital watches finally were invented I felt like my prayers had been answered. Sadly now that I could be precise, I was obsessed by the need to constantly reset my watch. I can't say that I set my watch more than once a day, but at the same time I don't think there was a week that went by that I didn't update it at least once.

My obsessive behavior was theoretically eliminated with the advent of possible the most important technology development in my lifetime.  No, not putting a man on the moon, but making a watch that regularly updates itself with atomic accuracy to the government's official clock in Fort Collins, CO. My Casio Waveceptor is the perfect watch. Every night it starts looking for a signal to resynch itself. It starts at midnight and if it doesn't grab the signal it keeps trying every hour on the hour throughout the night. It doesn't always work but that little baby sure tries hard to stay accurate. If the time was properly set during one of these intervals I get a calming little graphic in the bottom right hand corner of the watch telling me that all is well. And yes, I check for that little graphic every day.

You might be asking yourself "why?" to which my response is "I don't know." I just know that accuracy is critical to my life otherwise I wouldn't have invested so much of my life in making sure I had the precise time.

In the middle of August I noticed that my watch was failing more often than it was succeeding. Now, luckily my Casio Waveceptor has a fall back strategy. If the automatic update doesn't work there is a manual way to reset it. I've read the manual and studied the websites and when my watch fails to reset I precisely align it to face Ft. Collins and manually initiate the synchronization. Sadly after a few weeks even the manual process was no longer working. I was distraught, but I kept my head about me. I decided to swap out the old battery (which was still working on all other functions) for a new $8 watch battery from Walgreens. And yet I had no success.

And then I saw my watch (that I'd previously already purchased twice) available for sale on for about $30.

So I bought it again. Yes, this was my third one. At $30 this was cheap. In fact, I had an opportunity to talk to Kevin about an important economics topic. Kevin is currently taking AP Economics in school and they are learning about the concept of a Consumer Surplus. A Consumer Surplus is the value you place on a product in excess of what you pay for it. By contrast a Producer Surplus is the amount you charge for the product above what you would be willing to sell it for. While for about $30 I can keep my life sane, grounded and healthy that's much less than I would be willing to pay. Clearly technology like this is worth much more. But how much is my Consumer Surplus? $100? $200? Don't test me because it might highlight my sickness. Let's just say that both of those numbers are low.


I can also tell that whomever took the above photo doesn't know shit about the watch. The magical little symbol that says the watch has been atomically synched is missing from the picture! I mean really, that's the most important feature!

My new watch arrived a few days later and I donned my reading glasses to carefully remove the links from the band for a perfect fit. Having done this twice before I didn't even need to measure. I knew I had to pull two links out. I also carefully cut a round piece of clear sticky plastic to cover the watch face and protect it from scratches. I hate scratches. My life might be ruined if I had to live with scratches on my watch, my camera, my glasses and a hundred other things. I was very happy. I was relaxed. I was synched and I was on time.

In my first full weekend with my new same old watch, I was unloading my car and I accidentally banged my hand against the side of the car. The watch fell to the floor in a heap. I saw my life flash before my eyes. I carefully picked up the pieces, let the car door open and quickly went inside apparently to protect against infection. I saw that thankfully the face was not scratched and the watch was still working, but the band had broken off. A small piece of plastic that holds the spring loaded pin that holds the band on was broken. My watch was crippled!

"Why are you so cranky?" Eve asked.
"I'm not," I snapped.

I couldn't share with anyone the depth of my sadness for even my wife would simply not understand. I quickly made plans to abandon my handicapped watch and buy a new one (number four) despite the fact that it was less than two days old. And then it dawned on me that I might be able to fix him. A trip to Home Depot's glue aisle introduced me to a product called Kwik Plastic. This tootsie roll consistency gunk in a tube about the thickness of a cigar was really two components in one. Sort of like a Ho Ho, it had a blue outer crust and an inner white core. You slice of a piece of Ho Ho and then knead it together effectively mixing the blue and the white. What forms is a pliable compound not dissimilar to what I like to do once my gum has lost its flavor. With reading glasses in place and an operating room quality light placed just inches from my patient, I carefully used my mini-screw driver set to rebuild the missing plastic piece. Working with the precision of a plastic surgeon I think the result is that it is better and stronger than before. After patiently waiting the advised 2 hours, the plastic had cured and I reassembled the watch.

I'm proudly wearing my new best friend again today. Although I'm a little disappointed. After all the attention I paid it yesterday was it too much to ask that the watch would properly synch last night? It didn't. My time could be off as much as a half a second today. I hope I live.

September 26, 2011

© Greg Harris, 2011

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