Since I bought my battery powered kitchen clock more than 25 years ago, I forgave it for eventually running slow and losing time. I concluded that I needed a new one. The outgoing clock was about the size of a dinner plate with a chrome, tubular round frame and easy-to-read numbers. I wanted something similar, but kitchen clock fashion had advanced, so that now there was all manner of styles, many designed to make it difficult to tell the time. Most of them were too big anyway. Instead of a clock on the wall, they wanted the wall to be on the clock.
I’d all but given up finding the clock that resonated on a deep, subconscious level and was resigned to living a life of lateness – when fate intervened. I was standing in a queue at the post office. It was one those slow moving queues because all the people being served had complex problems that required long conversations and frequent disappearances of the assistants to ‘out the back’ where they probably had a recreation area with a coffee machine.
Post office queues are cleverly designed to take you through a maze of products that used to be strictly stationery related, but now can be anything at all – except vegetables. As I shuffled through the stacks of stuff thinking how useless to me it all was, there, at my feet, was the clock I needed in my life. It had a matte silver round frame and its face was simply a print of an old clock with some of the numbers half worn away. But it looked good. Once placed high on the kitchen wall it’s authenticity would be unquestioned. Even better, it was on sale for $10. Yes, ten dollars.
I picked it up as I might an animal at the pound that would have been put down if I hadn’t saved it. I carried it home, unpacked it and nestled in the battery. I was a little suspicious that the packing looked as though it had been opened before, but I pressed on.
The clock failed to start. I tried another, definitely new battery, and it still didn’t work, stuck resolutely on midnight. ‘Fool,’ I muttered to myself. ‘What did you expect from a ten dollar clock?’ It’s original price had been $19.95 – still below the belief threshold.
For once, I hadn’t thrown out the packaging, so instead of dismantling the box and its contents I mantled it, and went back to the post office, receipt in hand. The queue was still there, different people, but same queue. Finally it was my turn.
‘I bought this clock yesterday,” I told the stern Chinese counterperson, ‘but it doesn’t work.’
‘You want to return it?’
She peered in at the clock through the clear porthole in the box. ‘But you damage the clock,’ she said, pointing at the artistic ageing on the face.
‘No, no! That is how it is supposed to be. It was made to look old.’
‘Hmm, look like damage to me,’ she said, holding the box up to her face for a microscopic view.
‘Special effect,’ I explained. ‘I mean, how could I wear out the clock in one day?’
‘Hmm, I don’t know. Very strange. I have to ask my supervisor.’
She disappeared ‘out the back’ with my clock, probably to discuss my suspected vandalism and take a leisurely coffee at the same time.
Eventually she returned and, without a word, gave me a ten dollar note.
I scurried out before the supervisor could reconsider.
At home I picked up the old, about-to-be-euthanased clock, scraped the green stuff of its terminals, thoroughly cleaned every part with Metho, put in a new battery and it immediately began eagerly ticking in gratitude.
It is now back on the kitchen wall, keeping perfect time..