A Time Change

Corinne Copnick, is a 50 plusser. In addition to her position as President of Timesolvers, a writing and editing service, she is an award-winning writer. Her perceptions of the world are unique and insightful. She is able to make you chuckle while at the same time, surprise a tear to your eye.

She recently wrote a great piece on the perspective of time in our aging society. Whichever Gen Plus you are: Post WWII or Baby Boomer, or if you belong to Gen X, Gen Y or even are an Echo Boomer, her cross-generational insights will hit the mark. Here is the article in its entirety.

A Time Change

By Corinne Copnick

A generational time change was graphically brought to my attention on a recent trip to Boston’s Newberry Street, chock full of quaint little shops reminiscent of an earlier age. Some twenty years ago, shortly after my lovely jewelry was stolen in a home robbery – unfortunately, I had just cancelled the expensive insurance — I began to collect antique jewelry. Small pieces were affordable, and I considered it an investment since antique jewelry gets more valuable with age. It’s too bad people aren’t afforded the same privilege. Replacing my gold watch, however, was too big an investment for me as a divorced woman. Since I was self-employed, I couldn’t expect the proverbial gold watch from my employers at retirement age. But the absent gold watch has always rankled in my memory.

Then, two years ago, I bought the “watch part” of a gold watch at a Los Angeles consignment shop that sold vintage objects reasonably and donated the profits to help senior citizens. The watch was white gold, rectangular, with little diamond chips, and fastened with a silk ribbon band in the manner of models popular in 1925.

As a precaution, I removed the excellent antique movement and fragile silk ribbon and put them in my safety deposit box in case I ever wanted to resell the watch. Then I replaced the movement with a battery. The watch was now updated in time but still needed a band. Alas, it didn’t have a pin to hold a modern watch band, only a slot on each side where the ribbon had been inserted. Temporarily, I “made do” with a sturdy black leather band that an innovative jeweler pasted into place.

Despite a search of antique and watch shops, finding a matching white gold band was fruitless in Los Angeles. While a bracelet could be modified to fit the watch, the gold color of modern bracelets didn’t match, and antique bracelets were very costly. It was the same story everywhere I went, even gorgeous Carmel, where an antique shop owner produced a triple strand pearl band that could be made to fit for $3,000. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find anything in New York either.

But then I discovered Newberry Street in Boston, and at the very first antique store I entered, there it was – my white gold watch bracelet. Filigreed, inlaid with onyx and moonstone, and circa 1925, it was the right color and could be made into a band. It was $1,200, more than twice what I hoped to pay. The jeweler wouldn’t bargain but threw in the labor. He was shocked when I bought it in one minute flat. But hadn’t I shopped around, even on the Internet? For two years?

Practically speaking, I can buy the things I need, but I really can’t afford to splurge like this on luxury items. For some time, my funds have been dissipating to buy medical necessities – just last week another $450 for a deep cleaning at the dentist, a raise from $498 to $629 a month for my health insurance, mounting costs for prescription drugs, $300 for new glasses, more for orthotics and well-fitting shoes that breathe (no cheapy synthetics). Like so many seniors, my financial resources as I’m pushing seventy are limited. I have left the ranks of the destitute rich to join the ranks of the destitute middle class.

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There are the many things you have to plan for (like food and shelter), and the many other things you can’t always foresee. Little emergencies like fixing your car – hoping you don’t have to buy a new one — when it keeps stalling for no reason. Or the rising cost of gas. Or plane tickets to the wedding of a dear friend’s daughter, the dress and grooming to look nice, the wedding gift…which brought me to the East Coast. To Newberry Street.

“I am not retired. I am only semi-retired and resourceful,” I told myself in the minute before I bought the gold bracelet. “I am still going strong. I can still work to buy the things I don’t need. I want to have a gold watch with a matching gold band before I retire.” And a minute later, I did. Then I left it at the antique shop so that the bracelet could be modified and sent to me in Los Angeles.

That is how it happened that when I strolled on the broad, alphabetical avenues in Boston, I was watchless. My left wrist, where I normally wear a watch, was completely unadorned. I stopped a friendly-looking young man. “Do you have the time?” I asked him, smiling. “Yes, indeed,” he replied, taking the cell phone off his belt. “It’s just noon.”

That’s when I began to notice that time had changed all around me. Boston, with its close proximity to Harvard, was full of young people — lots of twenty-somethings. I had a little time to kill before meeting my forty-five-year-old-daughter-who-still-wears-a-wrist-watch for lunch. So I asked a few more “youngsters” for the time. All of them referred to their cell phones. Some were already holding them, a call obviously just completed or about to be initiated. Some reached into a jacket, others into a purse. No one was wearing a wrist watch.

Of course. Who needs to wear a wrist watch? There’s a clock on the bedside table, a clock in the kitchen, a clock in the car, in the office, on the computer. And the multi-tasking, ubiquitous cell phone always knows the time of day or night.

Suddenly, I felt young. I had no watch, but I had a cell phone in my purse. Why had I asked for the time when all along I had it with me? All of a sudden, time was on my side.

When my beautiful watch arrived in Los Angeles, I decided to wear it only on “dress” occasions, as a curiosity, something from the past. Obsolete. Oh, I was so glad I had purchased a near-antique for investment. Now I smile when I look at the wrists of my chronological contemporaries who are still wearing watches on their wrists. They can’t tell from looking at me that I have stepped forward in time. But I know. Psychologically, I have changed generations.

Copyright, Corinne Copnick, 2005, Los Angeles, CA. All rights reserved.

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