“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.
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.