I have a large collection of unusual and inexpensive watches. I started this collection over 35 years ago.
The collection got much larger when eBay came along — when it became much easier to find watches that fit my Collecting Criteria.
The number of watches I collected got a little scary. Actually, the number didn’t scare me, but I noticed that people had a reaction to that number — which looked a little like fear but might have just been surprise — when I would ask them to guess:
How many watches do you think I have?
People would always guess much lower than the actual number, even though I would explain — just as I did above — that I liked to collect these and that they were very accessible through eBay.
Collecting these watches definitely met some sort of need. I guess any kind of collecting behavior can seem like a compulsion. It didn’t feel like a compulsion; but I did spend a fair amount of time looking for watches, deciding about them, and adding new ones to my collection. It was fun.
Was it a habit? An addiction?
I’m reminded of a joke:
I may be addicted to drinking brake fluid, but I can stop at any time.
I kept collecting watches, for many years, growing my collection. And I did have Too Many watches to keep track of, to wear, and — especially — to keep supplied with fresh batteries.
But it was an enjoyable and harmless distraction, and I had some very cool watches. So I kept collecting.
Except one day, I stopped.
I stopped after I had a dream. In that dream, I was wearing a watch and the watch turned into a cardiac pacemaker.
And I woke up from that dream and said, “Duh.”
“Duh,” as in, “Wow. That makes a lot of sense.”
I got my first cardiac pacemaker implanted when I was 10 years old. I had no choice over the matter. I will be dependent upon a pacemaker until I die. I have no control over all that.
I can tell the story of Ann and Her Pacemaker in lots of different ways.
Triumphant: I am the longest surviving person in the world with a pacemaker!*
Painful: I wasn’t prepared very well, before I got my first pacemaker at age 10. I spent a lot of time — some of it alone and scared — in the hospital.
The stories we tell can be a way of getting control over things.
Collecting watches was another way, for me.
Pacemakers and watches have a lot in common. They both are man-made devices that people wear. They are devices designed to measure and mark time, in an important way. As a matter of fact, all the pacemakers I got, until I was well into my 30’s, had a fixed rate. That is, they would produce the same number of beats per minute, every minute, until they ran down. The main difference between those pacemakers and a watch: my pacemakers were set for 70 beats for minute, instead of 60.
Anyway, once I realized WHY I was collecting watches — in a new and deeper way — I stopped needing to collect them. I’ve bought a watch or two since then, but very rarely.
I mean, I have enough watches, people.
Before I end this post, I wanted to share one of my favorite watches with you:
I got this watch on eBay, many years ago, when it came up in my saved search “unusual watches.”
This watch was developed by a woman who worked with kids who had cancer. In the eBay listing, she told the story of how she was working with a little boy who was having trouble expressing his fear of dealing with the diagnosis and the necessary procedures. On an impulse, she drew the picture of the character, whom she dubbed, “Scared Guy.” Scared Guy helped the little boy talk about his fear.
She later turned “Scared Guy” into a charitable enterprise, and she created and offered merchandise — including watches — using that character she drew for the little boy. The proceeds either went to supporting cancer research or other aspects of work with children who had cancer — I can’t remember, exactly.
I would give you more details about “Scared Guy ™” but I can’t find anything listed on the internet this morning. I do have the original watch box somewhere, which would tell me more, but I’m not looking for that right now.
I don’t have the time.
I have to get ready to go into the hospital, where I work.
And, I confess, I’m kind of a Scared Guy, today.
Why? There will be very few people around today, at the hospital where I work, because it’s the day after the July 4th holiday. I’m the only one there who has certain responsibilities. I may need to do some difficult and new things.
It’s a little too close, for comfort, to the old story I tell about my childhood, where I’m in a hospital, feeling alone, lost, and confused.
However, there are lots of differences today.
For one, I’ll be wearing that watch.
Thanks for being here, and reading, today.
* In 2014, I found out that I am NOT the longest surviving person in the world with a pacemaker. See this post for more about that.