The Watcher

Paul Rudd: “I quit wearing a watch when I moved out here”

Jason Segel: “That is so cool”

Paul Rudd: “My cell phone has a clock so I don’t need it.”

I was always a watch person, dating back to at least kindergarten or preschool, when I asked for a Mickey Mouse watch, the kind that featured a picture of Mickey in the background and his two arms as the indicators of the hour and time. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even read time in a non-digital fashion at this point in my life. But I liked Mickey.

Around second or third grade, I wanted to go digital, and my parents quickly bought me a Timex as a birthday gift with the Indiglo. A watch was not cool unless it glowed in the dark, and the more obscure color that was illuminated the better.

A couple years later, metal became cool. Many classmates bought Fossil watches, but because I spent all my money buying No Limit and Cash Money Records albums I had to settle for what was known as a Phillip Persio, which I bought at, SERIOUSLY, the Miami Airport, and later a Lorus. They broke rather quickly.

Luckily I had another option. For Christmas in sixth grade, my uncle from California sent me a Survival Watch. A compass was attached to the head of the watch. The watch band doubled as a ruler. And it ONLY kept track of military time.

As grade school turned into high school, I turned into a freak distance runner. It was all I cared about for a couple of years. So for eight-grade graduation my parents bought me a Nike Sports Watch. I could not only keep track of my total time when running but also lap splits.

This watch satisfied me for two years, until I went to Juarez, Mexico, for a Mission Trip, giving me the opportunity to indulge in a long-held dream of buying a fake piece of jewelry from a guy who sells all his merchandise in the trench coat he is sketchily wearing. I recounted this experience in a travel essay years ago:

My most memorable bargaining moment came my junior year of high school in Juarez, Mexico. I wanted a fake Rolex, badly. One that said “Rulox,” preferably.

It was the first thing I looked for at an indoor jumble of shops and tents called “The Mercado.” The guy wanted $35. I settled for $25, knowing it couldn’t be worth more than four cents.

My only regret is that I didn’t buy two of them, an investment that would have allowed me to flash both wrists in the air in Lil’ Wayne, circa 1999, fashion.

At some point in my freshman year of college, that Rolex (the “Rulox” was not available DAMN IT!) finally did break, meaning it lasted for two years. This is quite an accomplishment considering it came from Juarez and was likely made from a combination of thumb tacks and cacti. And I became a non-watch person.

It seemed to me that when I was growing up, you were either a watch person or you weren’t. A watch person cared more about small details, maybe panicked a little too much but also wanted to be in charge. A watch person always knew the time, and enjoyed answering when people ask him or her the time. A watch person didn’t care that he or she had a sweet tan-line beautifully accentuating the wrist.

A non-watch person was really laid-back, maybe more of an athlete, simply for the fact that they were so active they didn’t have time to be taking fake Rolexes off their wrists on a regular basis. A non-watch person either didn’t care about the time because it didn’t gel with his or her personality or the opposite. A watch person was busy, so busy that he or she could lose track of the time and not necessarily care.

Maybe that’s why I had become like Paul Rudd in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. You think you’re busy in college, but the real world brings a new kind of busy, a busy chock full of consequence and expectations. And even though you can still drink chocolate milk and watch re-runs of Fresh Prince, you do so with a voice inside your head reminding you that you have a REAL job and can never relax too much.

Given this set-up, I rarely even thought about watches since college, (and yes, my cell phone had a clock) until I finally decided to get with the times.*

*Pun INTENDED, baby!

Why now? Because, simply, watches are freaking cool. Rafael Nadal wears one that costs $525K when he plays tennis. James Bond uses one in every movie to laser-beam the shit out of some heavy duty metal.

About two weeks ago, I was at Starbucks and saw what may have been the coolest watch of my life. Some guy had a rectangular-faced watch on his wrist that featured the even-numbered digits instead of the standard 12,3,6,9 face. I knew I had to buy one soon.

One morning I checked Ebay. I realized that any watch I bought could never work and could be in worse shape than anything offered even by the fashion magnate that is Phillip Persio. One night, I went to the Grapevine Outlet Mall, a smattering of stores in the suburbs that is approximately the size of Bulgaria. Watches were everywhere. They were in jewelry stores, in clothing stores, in little kiosks in the center of the mall’s walkways. It reminded me too much of the Miami Airport.

Home in Kansas City for a wedding, I knew I just needed to buy one. At Macy’s, I settled for a Kenneth Cole watch, black silicon band and a black dial. I’m a watch person yet again, and I can’t wait to get that wonderful pale imprint on my wrist this summer.

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