My father was in Turkey on a vacation a few weeks ago. Last week, he paid a visit to us and on our way back from the airport, he rolled up his left sleeve and showed me his watch.
“Got myself a new watch in Turkey,” he said.
“Oh yeah? Ten bucks?” I asked him.
“No, no, this is a real watch. A lot more than that,” he said, and added after pause, “but not three figures.”
“I looked it up online, a watch like this is worth 8000 euro –when it’s a real Breitling. But really, who buys a watch worth 8000 euro?”
My father loves watches, and being also a loving father, he has always made sure that I’ve had a good watch on my arm. To him, me walking around without a good watch, maybe one that I’ve bought in Chinatown for ten dollars, is a crime against humanity.
Oddly enough, he’s always seemed to know a watchmaker or a watch salesman, so that when it’s been time to get me a good watch, he’s know just the place to go to.
Like with the first one I remember, a cool Casio – the Black Casio. It’s difficult to imagine anything having been cooler than that watch. First of all, it was a real digital watch, with a real stopwatch. Second, the spokesman for the watch was a Finnish pop singer, who was pretty cool at the time. And if that’s not enough, that cool pop star did karate in the ads for the watch.
As a side note, I can just say that today, an original Black Casio would be so much cooler than the pop singer.
When the time was right – and Dad always knew when the time was right – we drove down to the city, around the corner from where he had worked before, and around the corner from my business school apartment, although we obviously didn’t know it then, and we (he) bought me the Casio. Then he adjusted the strap, and called the time voice announcer to make sure he set the watch exactly right.
That Casio was the coolest thing ever, until the next coolest thing ever, of course, which was the return of the analog watch. The ana-digi. The best of both worlds, which Dad introduced me to.
Since then, he’s given me several watches – sports watches, super water resistant watches, a pocket watch, but the one that stands out the most is an Omega Constellation that he gave me when I graduated from the business school.
Though I had had my final exam in the spring, during the hockey world championships, I graduated in the fall. I don’t know why only my father was going to attend the graduation ceremony, I just know that Mom wasn’t there, and that she wasn’t even supposed to be there.
She told me that when she graduated from the same school, no parents were expected (or invited) to her graduation ceremony. Maybe the school had gone progressive and allowed each student to have one parent at the graduation.
Anyway, there I was, sitting in the great hall of the university, the same room that I had taken numerous exams in over the previous four years, but unlike those times, this time I kept looking over my shoulder every few minutes, to see if Dad had made it to the same big room in time. After all, the ceremony was in the morning, and he had to drive a few hours to get there.
The ceremony was so bare bones that I don’t even remember what i was wearing, but I know it wasn’t a suit – because I didn’t own one. So I sat there, probably in my finest Levi’s jeans, maybe a sweater – after all, it was September – and waited for the dean to call out my name, so i could walk up to the stage, shake his hand, receive my diploma, and walk out at the other end of the stage.
And now Dad, after five hours of driving, seemed to be close to missing my fifteen seconds on stage. I kept looking back, but didn’t see him anywhere. I didn’t have a watch on me, but I knew time was running out, the dean was already at the letter O, and no Dad anywhere.
“Risto Pakarinen,” I heard the dean say.
I got up, walk up the stairs onto the stage, shook hands with the dean, got my diploma, and then walked down the stairs on the other side of the stage. I found my seat, and waited for the rest of the ceremony to end, which it eventually did. As I walked out of the great hall, and towards the cloakroom, Dad caught up with me.
As we walked towards the cloakroom together, he took his watch off his wrist, and handed it to me.
“Here,” he said, ““congratulations.”
I thanked him, and he continued.
“It’s a great watch, an Omega Constellation,” he said, and then after a pause:
“I’ve set it to the correct time.”
I put it on my wrist, and we walked out.
Dad sat at our kitchen table, showing me his new watch, the one he bought in Turkey, while I was making coffee. When I turned around to have a look at his watch, he pulled another one from his pocket. His old watch, the one he had been showing off to me the last time we paid a visit to him in Finland.
“I don’t know what kind of a watch you have these days, but I bet it’s not as good as this one,” he said.
“Yeah, I bought a 20-dollar Mickey Mouse watch in Houston,” I said.
“I knew it! Well, this one’s a good watch. Here’s the manual. Oh, wait, wait, let me set it to correct time.”
Then he used his new Turkey watch to set his old watch, my new watch, to the correct time and handed it to me.
About an hour later, we were in my little office upstairs, when he saw my watches on the bookshelf. Besides the Mickey Mouse watch, there’s the sports watch Dad gave me a few years ago, the watch I got from Wife a couple of years ago, the watch I bought with my first pay check after I’d moved to Sweden, another one I got from Dad decades ago –– and the Omega.
“You sure have a lot of watches,” Dad said.
“I don’t think you can have too many,” I said.
“You got that right.”