Or So it Seems … Ding-Dong Daddy

  

“Hello. My name is Robb55, and I’ve been clean, straight, and eBay-free for 1 week today…”

I grew up believing if a little bit of something is good, then more is better.

This philosophy can be seen at a glance in my home. Every wall has at least one, and sometimes several, clocks. For years I’d gathered my round-faced friends at thrift shops and yard sales, carting them home and finding just the right spot, even if it meant taking down the kids’ baby pictures.

This passion for things with springs started in my childhood, when I first fussed for—and got—a Mickey Mouse watch. I was in 1st grade, and because of my lots-is-better philosophy, I promptly over-wound and killed the little rodent-adorned timepiece. Later, I did better with my battery-powered Timex watch. It was all but indestructible. But what I really wanted was a grandfather clock, like the one that adorned my parent’s entryway. But that was out of the question. So, I had to content myself with the small stuff until I grew up.

Once I had my own place, I filled the walls with clocks. The older and odder they were, the better I liked them. The process was slow, limited by how many yard sales and thrift shops I could hit in a weekend.

Then came the Internet.

One of the first things I did was to stumble across eBay. Intrigued, I typed in the fateful phrase “antique clocks.” Instantly dozens of thumbnail images crowded the screen. Clocks of all sizes and descriptions appeared before my eyes, begging to be taken home. I drooled over timepieces the likes of which I’d never seen. And then I spotted something familiar—a glass-domed anniversary clock like the one my grandmother owned decades before. I’d always wanted that elegant little gadget, but I’d never found one at a yard sale or thrift store. So I whipped out my credit card and put in a bid.

What luck, I thought, for just $5, I can OWN it.

I was immediately outbid by Clockwise2 to the tune of $10.

So, I doubled down and put up a cool $20. “Take that,” I thought, and hit the return key.

Clockwise2 struck again, coughing up $30.

Rats.

A wiser person might have pondered how much they needed a clock that you wind only once a year, given my history. But, never mind practicality, I WANTED it. So I waved $40 in the face of the electronic eBay auctioneer, pounding the amount in, and then giving the enter key a satisfying thump. I licked my lips while I watched the little “working” icon dance about. I looked over at the bookcase, seeing the perfect place for my impending purchase. I looked back to see the screen flash AUCTION CLOSED.

And… I was outbid. I shook my fist.

Curse you Clockwise2!

That afternoon began a new chapter in my life, as I learned the art of Ninja-eBaying. I would lay low, waiting until the last possible second, then bashing the enter key with a judo-chop. Hours passed in this manner, and by the end of the day, I had WON not one, not two, but THREE Telechron mantle clocks. I was giddy with delight, jacked up on electronically induced endorphins.

I shared the good news with my wife, Karin.

“Three?” She was astounded. “What are you going to do with THREE MANTLE CLOCKS?”

“They were all a great deal,” I said. “And after I bought the first one—which I LOVE—there was an even BETTER one for sale.”

“Hmph,” she shook her head.

“I think I’ll take one of them to work,” I clapped my hands, “I’ve always wanted a full-Westminster chime.”

“Full?” Karin asked.

“Every 15 minutes.” I giggled.

In due time, the first clock arrived, and there was a problem. It had been damaged in transport, and wouldn’t run. I was crushed. Karin feigned disappointment.

“Guess it’s a good thing you bought two,” she said. I didn’t bother reminding her I’d actually bought three.

But the 80-year-old clock was too cute to let go, so I called the seller. He had ANOTHER one he’d give me for parts if I paid the shipping. Elated, I tip-toed past Karin to the mailbox and sent the man a check.

In the meantime, the other two clocks arrived—in perfect working order—and I set them up in my office. I realized, as I looked them sitting side-by-side, that I’d managed to buy three decades worth of American history—the 20s, the 30s, at the 40s.

Then I was struck with a flash of genius.

Father’s Day was coming up, and I could give these three clocks to my father-in-law, father and stepfather, all of whom had been born in each of these decades. Better yet, I thought, I could buy my brother and I each a clock, and then my friend, who was set to retire in June, could be get one too. This meant I needed three more clocks, plus one more, I decided, in case the first one couldn’t be repaired.

I spend the next few days on eBay, tracking down four more chiming electric clocks. I’d become an eBay black belt. I also learned to insist on better packing. I bought them one by one, and then I pined for the sound of the UPS truck in our driveway…. I bided the time listening to the four-times-an-hour serenades of my clocks, and I tinkered with the damaged clock. With a stroke of luck, I got it running, it began to chime along with its cousins.

Then the parts-clock arrived, and wonder-of-wonders, I made it run, too. One-by-one, the others arrived. By the end of April, I had eight chiming clocks, between 50 and 80 years in age, all running merrily in my office. I was in heaven, and I left them going because wanted to make sure that they worked properly before I gave them out as gifts come June.

They never made it to June.

Sometime in early May, I was greeted at the breakfast table by my bleary-eyed wife.

She wasn’t smiling.

Karin sat down next to me and took my hand. “We need to talk.”

Uh-oh, I thought, she must have found the credit-card bill.

“HOW CAN YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?” she wailed.

“Hey, they weren’t all that expensive,” I said, avoiding her bloodshot eyes. “I can even make money on the extra ones.” About then, several of the children staggered in. They, too, looked cross.

“DADDY,” the youngest said. “Why are your clocks so Ding-Dongy?”

“Yeah,” an outcry arose. “When are you getting rid of those things?” They all folded their arms, and faced me down in what later became known as the ‘clock-intervention.’ I protested, but we took a vote. And it wasn’t even close.

The chimes were silenced, packed up, and given away well in advance of Father’s Day.

The men who received these antiques were touched. They looked at the timepieces with a mixture of awe and admiration and said, more or less that clocks weren’t “the sort of thing I’d get myself.”

I thought I’d done well, until I noticed over the years, that these gifts were gathering dust on their respective mantles, where they all sit… unplugged. When I ask why this is, the excuses vary.

“Oh, we don’t have an outlet over there.”

“That 80-year-old-wiring worries me.”

“I think it needs a bit of oil.”

And then, the honest truth from my brother, “It keeps my wife up.”

So there it is. What’s the deal with women’s hearing? They seem to wake up at the slightest thing, the sounds of teenagers partying past midnight, men snoring, and the melodious tones of a clock chiming 3:15 am.

At my place, the clock IS plugged in, but I made my family a deal. I’ll let the chimes run through the day, but then I stop them about midnight. This allows them all go to sleep, and it accomplishes something else that’s equally important.

It lets me sneak onto eBay without adult supervision.

“Hello. My name is Robb55, and I’ve been clean, straight and eBay free for 12 hours… and 15 minutes.”

Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe - "Or So it Seems™" - Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County.

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10 Responses »

  1. Good morning, big brother.

    As usual, your glowing wit and your incisive insight into the delightful, albeit fragile, human psyche have illuminated my morning. I can proudly proclaim that my full-Westminster chiming clock has graced the top of my fully-loaded cutlery curio cabinet (MY personal Amazon addiction) since its arrival to our bustling burg and has been chiming happily (every fifteen minutes) since. I deeply appreciate the love and thought that came with this particular gift. I, too, can close my eyes and recall the chime of our parent's grandmother clock and realize now, as an adult, what the engraved words "Tempus Fugit" actually meant. In retrospect, I believe Mom's clocking standing sentinel in our front hallway served as an emotional anchor in the tumultuous and turbulent terrain that served our tender years. As a parent of grown children, I have personally witnessed all too well how "Time flies", with or without us. I am truly blessed for the time you and I have shared as children and the time that we can laughingly share as adults. I love you, big brother. Keeps the words flowing, Jim

    • I'm glad the clock brings such positive and powerful memories, little brother. I sure had fun picking each clock out, getting one from the decade of your--our--birth. It's pretty cool that some of these old clocks keep on running. Maybe we can do the same... Keep us posted on how your student teaching is coming along. You've been on my mind (you brave man) with your adventures with the little people.

  2. Robb...thanks for the laugh...funny, funny column. My friends did an intervention because I bought ties from ebay with the same intensity you displayed with your clocks. My problem is that I was never satisfied with the purchases...description versus reality always far apart. I have a wonderful collection hanging art neatly stored in my barn. So if you ever need a tie (with tags)...

  3. Very funny, Robb, and what a touching letter from your brother. I'll soon be spending a week at my in-laws with a Grandmother clock right outside the door to the bedroom where I'll be sleeping. My first task will be to figure out how to silence it when it's time for bed. My hearing isn't too good anymore, but those GONGS drive me crazy! Your clock collection really is beautiful, by the way.

  4. I have an honest "Grandfather Clock" which has given up the ship - but I love it anyway. But...on a whim, I purchased a gorgeous wall hanging clock that sings 6 different tunes, one at a time on the hour. When the Christmas holiday approaches, with a flip of a switch, it plays Christmas carols. But! The real genius is, it only sings when there is light!!!

  5. The electric-eye is a real gift. I had to stop my new grandfather clock because we had a guest who was sleeping on the pull out next to it. I understand, but now I have to re-synch the phases of the moon indicator. I tried to use the dampers, where you pull a string to lift the hammers away from the chimes. But the clock when bersek and starting chiming constantly. Didn't feel like taking it apart again to tinker with it.

  6. This was such a wonderful article. I told my husband on April Fool's day that I had done him a great favor. I had hung and set the coo-coo clock that his grandmother gave him years ago. He almost chocked. This man has hyper-sensitive hearing ("There's a 60 cycle hum in this room. What's causing it?????") so it was a bad joke. My brain on the other hand can adust quickly to rhythic and logical sounds. Those sounds can be comforting. About the Ebay part of this article.....I'm thrilled that goods can get into the hands of people who will charish them...across this nation.

  7. choked!

  8. Thanks for your posting on this blog site. From my personal experience, many times softening up a photograph might provide the

    photographer with a little bit of an inventive flare.

    Oftentimes however, the soft cloud isn't precisely what you had in your mind and can frequently spoil an otherwise good snapshot, especially if you consider enlarging that.

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