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He pointed to a chair and told me he’d have my watch fixed in a couple of minutes if I wanted to wait.

I made him cry. I didn’t mean to, but it happened. I’d stopped in to his store to get my Fitbit band repaired. I handed the bespectacled, gray-haired man at the counter the baggie with the various pieces and the broken pin, acknowledging the clumsiness that had resulted in breaking the metal band. I told him I’d stumbled over a parking block and smashed my arm against a block wall, wreaking havoc on my arm and the band. As repair people often do, he tut-tutted a bit before heading back to his workbench. He pointed to a chair and told me he’d have my watch fixed in a couple minutes if I wanted to wait.

I settled in the chair, and through our masks we chatted a bit. We talked about the curse of COVID-19 and the misery all around. Business was bad, but maybe down the road things would get better. His wife waved from the back room and called out a greeting. She thanked me for my business. Replacing a pin in a watch band isn’t much business.

He fell silent as he bent over his work, and I checked my phone for messages in the quiet of the store. Surrounded by softly ticking clocks, I was reminded of all those who were waiting. Waiting for a better tomorrow, some future better day. In the midst of hard times, sometimes all you have is hope for the future.

I got up and wandered around the room a bit. Beautiful ancient clocks with price tags well beyond my budget were everywhere. Old grandfather clocks and dusty antiques nearly filled the floor and walls. Standing by the front window, I watched a couple of police officers walk a scruffy-looking handcuffed man to one of their cars. The wife called out, “It looks as if somebody is having a very bad day.”

I nodded. “And here I am, complaining about a broken wrist band.”

I sat back down and waited some more. I checked Facebook and Instagram and then made a couple of Scrabble plays against my siblings. 

He walked back to the counter and laid the repaired Fitbit in front of me. “That should do it for you.” He smiled. “Next time don’t be so rough on it.”

I grinned sheepishly. “I’m at the age where I stumble and lose my balance a lot. I can’t promise I won’t be back.” 

He laughed. “I can relate.”

“How much do I owe you?”

He waved a hand. “How about $2?”

It wasn’t enough to use plastic. I opened my wallet. There was nothing but a $20 bill. I threw it on the counter and said, “Keep the change.”

“I’ve got change.” He stepped toward the register.

“Nah, forget it. Your time is worth way more than two bucks. Besides, it’s gotta be tough being a small-business owner these days.”

That’s when he cried. It wasn’t a big sobbing jag. Just a little catch in his throat as he blurted out, “Thank you. That means a lot.” Above the mask his eyes shimmered with tears. “I really needed to hear that my time is worth more than a couple of bucks.”

It’s hard to imagine how a small, family-owned clock shop can survive the pandemic, but I pray it has.

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