A tick tock childhood transgression
|One morning, the late 1970s my brother and I were having breakfast when a competition was announced on the radio, which promised a gold watch to the first child that could ring up and correctly answer: who was the first man that stepped onto the moon.
As a stroke of luck my brother’s class had been studying the Apollo 11 moon landing, so he raced to the phone, and stated that it was: Neil Armstrong.
A week or so later it was delivered to us and I must admit it looked awesome. A brand new mechanical Olympus (I think). Okay, admittedly it wasn’t pure gold, but I think it wasn’t cheap either, possibly worth up to $100 (which was quite a bit of money back then). There were some new features that most of our cheaper watches did not have, such as it was self winding when you moved you wrist and it kept impeccable time. But its features and price tag meant less to us. The fact that it had been earned through study other than merely given, made it all the more valuable.
The first thing he did was to write a letter of thanks and appreciation to the radio station (this was pre email/computer era). The second was to get a couple of links taken out from the chain as it did not quite fit on his wrist, so the following weekend we both travelled on the train to Petone (about ten-fifteen journey, though once you factor the walk up our street and bus to the station it is closer to about an hour). The jeweller removed the links and gave us the watch back, and we decided to head into the CBD on the way back, to suss out a comic/magazine store that we used to frequent.
I remember him handing me the bag for safe keeping while he browsed the magazines, then me checking out a few of my own favourite comics. At some stage I must have placed the bag down and become distracted by one of those comics. There was quite a crowd in there and I became separated from my brother. I grabbed the bag back noticed it felt a little lighter. Looking inside I realized the watch was missing.
To say that I was nervous when explaining the watch’s absence to my brother, was an understatement. He was not happy of course, but more focused on trying to find it. We went back to where I had been reading the comics, asked some of the people in the shop if they had seen it and left our details with the storeowner, who told us no one had handed it in yet. We then returned home feeling miserable.
We broke the news to our parents and their response was sympathetic and encouraging; saying someone would eventually hand it into the police, but I guess they knew deep down that we may as well kiss it goodbye.
Though its disappearance wasn’t entirely my fault the guilt of losing the watch was hard to bear, made worse several days later when the radio station received the thankyou letter and it was read out over the air. Part of this included “the watch I am at this moment wearing…”
In a happy ever after story someone would have found our watch, or had a change or heart and given it to the police, but reality is a harsh mistress. We never saw the watch again. I can only hope whoever stole it was cursed with a watch that never told the right time.