I haven’t worn a watch in years. I have had a number of them over the years but they always break or I lose them, or I realize that they are ugly, uncomfortable etc.

Quite a few years ago, I was on a cruise and first really discovered Duty Free. I’d bought duty free booze en route to Canada many times, but always bypassed the perfumes and jewelry because even without tax, it was still expensive, and why would I need a giant bottle of Joop!? On this cruise ship, however, all of the duty free shops were located along the Grand Promenade and I had to walk past them to get my free coffee and free fro-yo. Also, on this cruise, we had at least two full “at sea” days, meaning that you are stuck on the ship with nothing to do but eat and watch The Thomas Crown Affair in six languages (English, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese). Oh sure, the more savvy cruisers had made spa appointments, got up early and grabbed chaise lounges on the sun deck, went to the gym, casino, and didn’t mind paying $22 to play Bingo for an hour. I was not a savvy cruiser, I slept in, got room service, and then had a whole day to fill and no options other than wandering, reading, and eating– I quickly became bored.

So I wandered the length of the ship over, and over. Finally on the last at sea day, the duty free stores had a sidewalk sale, and I found the perfect watch. Small, but not too small, feminine without being girly, it didn’t pinch my arm, and it didn’t weigh me down– only problem was that it was too big around my wrist. I managed to convince the guy in the store to adjust it for free, even though he said he wasn’t supposed to. Then I bought a ton of duty-free scotch.

I decided that this watch would take me through the good times and the bad. This was the watch for me, and would be henceforth referred to as “my watch” the only watch I would ever need again in my life. Whatever else went wrong, I had the watch thing sorted.

Of course the watch wasn’t waterproof, and about two months later I took it off to go skinny-dipping in the Adriatic Sea, and it fell between the slats on the dock.

I got another watch, but it wasn’t the same. It never fit right, and looking at pictures of myself wearing it elicit a what was I thinking feeling. Since surrendering that watch, I just use my phone if I need to know what time it is. This is imperfect in that I look very rude, and if I have a message of any kind, I have to clear it out before I can see what time it is– but it works.

Except when it doesn’t. My phone simply could not get a signal in Montreal. I lost my signal somewhere around Vermont, and then my phone battery started going dead from the monumental task of “searching for signal.” I shut my phone off, and immediately felt reckless and unsafe. What if there was some kind of emergency? What if my mother called and my father had had a heart attack? What if something else bad happened?

Really though, in my family, if something bad did happen, my parents would probably forget to tell me– like they forgot to tell me that my cousin had run away and I had to hear it when I went in to work at TV station, “Andria, this ______, are you related to her?”

“She’s my cousin, what did she do now?”

“She’s been missing for three days– didn’t you know?”

I started feeling a bit free without the burden of cellular technology weighing on my mind.

The first night in town, Wise Lawyer Friend and I just wandered around our new neighborhood. She had visited Montreal annually for Model U.N. when she was an undergrad, but it had been about four years; so she knew the lay of the land, but it had changed slightly. We had a disappointing Mexican dinner (can I never find good Mexican food on the East Coast?), drank a Brazilian beer in some kind of beer garden that may have had something to do with the Euro Cup (?), and returned to our hotel to plan our day while watching Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel, which I realize I can do any old time, but it’s more fun in a hotel room.

The following day was a great mish-mash of adventuring made more of an adventure because neither of us ever knew what time it was. We were going purely on instinct and it was really cool.

“I feel hungry, are you hungry?”

“Yeah, a little. What time is it.”

Then we would look around briefly to see if there was a clock anywhere.

“There are no clocks in this town– like Vegas. Let’s go to Little Italy and have lunch there.”

After a while, we got used to never knowing what time it was, and stopped looking for clocks. It was very freeing having no timetable, no set time when you eat whether you’re hungry or not, just kind of remembering what it feels like to actually be hungry, and then seek out food.

We studied the sun like ancient people and approximated, but mostly didn’t care (except that we wanted to make it to the Archeology Museum before closing).

Perfect vacation.

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