When Time Stopped for me

During my first year in Lima, I was anxious to go out and do some of the day to day tasks we all have to do. I wanted to see if my language was good enough to accomplish these tasks. So, this is what happened….

One day I looked at my watch and realized that it had stopped once again. It needed a new battery. There was a little kiosk at the supermarket where they repaired watches. Since I needed to go shopping, I decided to go there instead of my usual place. Also, I remembered that it had been a little bit cheaper. I recalled that the gentleman there had handled the change of batteries without any problem.

He wasn’t there. Instead, a lady was attending the kiosk. I asked her in my halting Spanish if she could change the battery and she nodded in agreement, though she had a puzzled, apprehensive look on her face. She took my watch and proceeded to aggressively remove the plate on the back with a big screwdriver. Then she dug out the expired battery, holding it up triumphantly.

My wife, sensing that this was a good time to retreat, told me that she wanted to go on to shop in the store. Thus, my attention was diverted with our conversation for a few moments, and when I looked back, the watch repair lady had a whole pile of manuals in front of her.

She was thumbing through them energetically, tossing them aside when she didn’t find what she wanted. Then she dove into a drawer filled with different types of batteries. She frantically grabbed one, then another. With each one she would try to fit it into the place for the battery in my watch. None of them fit. Still, she was determined to find the right one. Once again, she flipped through the manuals, muttering to herself.

I consider myself a calm and easy-going person, but viewing this, I began to feel some concern. In truth, I feared for the future of my watch. It has a great sentimental value to me. Yet I hesitated to intervene. My watch was in pieces and had to be put back together. Despite my misgivings, I decided that I had to go forward with this project.

So, I watched helplessly as my watch was being mistreated. Some time passed. Finally, after many tries, a battery fit nicely into its place, and the watch started to run. She grunted with satisfaction. I breathed a sigh of relief. My watch was going to be ok.

Alas, I was too optimistic. The back plate of the watch would not fit into place. Where others before her had simply snapped it back, this task was not easy for her. Numerous attempts led to numerous failures. By then, I was getting very nervous and asking for my watch back in whatever condition, but she was not to be deterred.

Next, she got out some scotch tape and taped the plate into place. Not satisfied with the result, she got out an instrument used to press items together. It had a handle which acted as a lever to press two metal plates together. She put my watch between the two plates and pressed the handle with all her force. Her intention was to secure the plate by using this pressure.

Still the plate did not fit back. Finally, she took out a large hammer with the intention of whacking the recalcitrant plate into place again. Frightened at this violent turn and exasperated, I reached over the counter and grabbed my watch. Hurrying away, over my shoulder, I told her that I would go to my usual jeweler.

Moments later, the watch stopped again.

My jeweler looked at the watch, listened to my story, shook his head and explained that the pressure to put back the plate had damaged my watch. He, then, in order to restore it to working condition, charged me ten times the usual amount to replace a battery. He smiled with satisfaction as he saw that I had learned a bitter lesson. Cheaper can be very expensive.

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