When I was in my early twenties and working in New York, a friend was promoted, after reading a million scripts and fetching a million cups of coffee, to producer. Her reaction was the sudden urge for pearl earrings—real pearl earrings—and so she invited me to come with her to pick them out. I said, “Sure, why not.” We went to what was the hugest jewelry store I had ever seen somewhere in midtown. It was like Aphrodite’s temple with marble columns and chandeliers and everyone speaking in hushed tones one usually associates with something illegal. Way too much padding in the carpets.
We found the pearl area and help arrived instantaneously. We sat down on the plush chairs and the salesperson began to ask her questions about what kind of pearls she wanted; she explained that she wanted ‘classic’ pearl earrings. “Ahhh, I see,” he nodded his head. He then opened up some sort of suede folio and began speaking, slowly and softly to her like she was made of the same glass those bastard Christmas balls are made from. Did she want Japanese pearls or Indian pearls or Tahitian, and going into detail about the different origins, the latinate names of the oysters, the tragic stories of divers who lost their lives seeking their beauty… I’m starting to glaze over, so I get up and wander around; she is so hypnotized she doesn’t even notice. Anyways, I see they have a room that has a plaque with ‘Estate Collections’ engraved in gold curlicue lettering. I didn’t know this meant ‘used,’ but I started to kind of figure that out because everything was mixed together. I saw this watch and I thought it looked really—I don’t know, sturdy maybe—and it wasn’t flashy; flashier than my Timex to be sure, but not blinding like some of them. Bling wasn’t a yet word. Magically, a salesperson appeared before me. Is there a secret door in the floor? Where did he come from? “Yes, isn’t that a classic watch? We just got that one in yesterday, let me show it to you.” If your gaze falls on something for even a small fraction of a second they see it. They also make you feel like it would be really rude if you said, “No thanks, I’m just looking around.”
So he takes it out and he asks me if I’ve ever owned a Rolex before. I said no. I didn’t even know what a Rolex was. His eyes widen. “This watch is a tremendous value, the previous owners took great care of it; we have all of the papers concerning its authenticity from Rolex and if you purchase the watch the registration will of course be transferred to your name.” I was going to ask why it needed to be registered, but I didn’t want to sound, you know, ignorant. Shit. I’m trapped. “Can we see what it looks like on your wrist?” he said optimistically. “No, I’m fine, I’m just here with a friend who’s getting earrings and I was just wandering around, just looking, you know, around.” Will you shut up. “Oh that is perfectly fine, there is nothing wrong with looking but you are also perfectly welcome to try it on, there is no charge for dreaming.” Did he just tell me I can’t afford it?
When he puts it on my wrist, I catch a quick look at the price: $2,100. Dollars. I feel slightly faint. I didn’t pay that much for my car, plus the insurance, plus gas, plus a year of food. I have a car on my wrist. What could they possibly put in a watch that would make it more expensive than a car, a used car to be sure, but a whole car! The watch is heavy. He starts telling me the legend of Rolex, he explains that it is the Lady Datejust and, yes, that it is stainless steel and 18k gold and the lens is sapphire and it is kept in perpetual motion by the movement of my body. I really wanted to say, “Are you insane? There’s no fucking way I’m spending $2,100 dollars on a watch,” but then I remember he’s just trying to do his job, he probably has a family to support and a timeshare somewhere so I say, “Thank you so much for showing me the watch, but I’ll have to think about it.” With a teasing smile he replies: “Very well, my name is Lucien and it has been a pleasure talking with you today and if you have any interest in anything, I would be more than happy to show you, even if you are just looking.” He had a slight accent of some kind and he drew out every syllable. I thanked him again and said I needed to get back to my friend since I promised to help her. I backed out of the room.
She, meanwhile, had narrowed it down to two choices: “Should I go with the 4 millimeter or the 5?” I’m looking back and forth at them and for the life of me I couldn’t tell them apart, so I said the five. “That’s what I thought too!” While she’s in the throes of affirmation, out of the corner of my eye, I see Lucian coming towards me, he has the manager with him. Don’t ask me how I knew it was the manager. Lucian introduces the manager to me and tells him how the watch is perfect for me. Oy. And he, the manager, proceeds to tell me that they just got the watch in, it’s in excellent condition and they would like to extend a very special offer to me since I have never owned a Rolex before. It would be $1800 and they would pay for any servicing it would need for a year and this would be Rolex factory servicing, just in case I had any idea what they were talking about. They form a triangle with me. Why can’t I just say that it is an absolutely outrageous amount of money to spend when you can buy a Timex for ten dollars that does the same thing? And then Lucian hits the mark: “This timepiece will last you a lifetime.” He must have caught some micro expression on my face because he looked like he took a hit. So that is how I got my Rolex. Plus, I got another $100 dollars off for being a loyal customer.
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