Come on, admit it. We are all subject to occasional morbid thoughts, especially at that point in life when the number representing our chronological age exceeds the highway speed limit. Don’t tell me that you never think about the Grim Reaper, the Dark Angel, or any of the other euphemisms you can name to avoid the “D” word.
I confess to having morbid thoughts on three different occasions during the past month.
Maybe it was prophetic, but what most recently got me thinking about time and mortality was the need for a new watch. An awkward movement of my left elbow while leaning in to apply mascara had landed my old, faithful, expensive timepiece on the unforgiving tile floor of the bathroom. Its poor little face was smashed to smithereens, and even with my untrained eye, I knew it was broken beyond repair.
The next day I called upon my friend, the consummate shopper (every woman knows one), who of course directed me to the absolute best place to purchase a new watch. As I perused the jewelry case, looking for watches whose numbers could be seen without the aid of reading glasses, I was approached by a salesman who offered to help. He removed several models from the case and laid them before me on the requisite piece of black velvet cloth.
He pointed out the virtues of each model, stopping at one that he declared to be a little more expensive, but came with a life-time warranty. His comment was the catalyst for Morbid Thought #1. Whose life-time, I mused, mine or the watch’s? At that precise moment, I happened to glance at another customer who was at least thirty years my junior. Pointing in her direction, I asked the salesman:
“See that woman over there? If she buys this watch, does she also get a life-time warranty?”
“She certainly does,” he replied as if talking to someone recently declared incompetent.
“Then I should get a discount, shouldn’t I.”
“A discount?” he repeated, with an unnecessarily steep rising inflection.
“Of course,” I answered in my best isn’t-it-obvious tone of voice. “She is clearly a good deal younger than I. Therefore, her life-time warranty will be in effect much longer than mine, so why should I be charged the same?”
He opened his mouth to speak, but said nothing. I left him to ponder my logic, and decided not to purchase a new watch that day.
Morbid Thought #2, by sheer coincidence, also occurred during a shopping trip, interrupting an otherwise very pleasant afternoon. This time, I was accompanying my husband, who was on a quest to find the perfect sweater. We were in the men’s department of a fine store, and since I knew what he liked, we separated to cover more territory in less time. I wasn’t successful, but when I rejoined him, he had found two potential candidates.
Both sweaters were the same style, both flattering colors, both a fine wool. One, however, was significantly more expensive than the other, and therein was the dilemma. Rationalizing the possible expenditure of some extra dollars, he stated that the sweater that cost more would probably last longer.
That’s when it happened. I thought, but didn’t dare utter, at our age, can you be sure you’ll get your money’s worth?
He must have read my mind, because in the next instant we were walking to the check-out counter with the black cashmere V-neck sporting the lower price tag.
Morbid Thought #3, which was, in reality, a morbid utterance, snuck up on me during the performance of a very ordinary domestic task – replacing a missing button on my husband’s shirt. My hand stopped in mid-air as I thought of other small, maternal-like functions I had assumed over the years, such as re-threading the draw string which, for some reason he was forever dislodging from his sweat pants.
“Honey,” I called to him. He responded on my third attempt to get his attention.
“Yes,?” he said, as he raised his head from his iPhone.
“I was just thinking,” I said, as I lifted the shirt towards him, “In the event that I should pass on (euphemism) before you, would you like me to teach you how to do this?”
He laughed heartily, though I’m not sure at what.
I’m pleased to say that I haven’t had another morbid thought in at least a week. Maybe this is predictive of a trend. I hope so. I am, in fact, feeling so optimistic that I went watch shopping again, but to an all together different store.
The friendly salesman spread out the black velvet cloth, upon which he placed three different models, all fashionable, all with numbers that could be easily read without intense magnification.
“And this one,” he said, lifting one of the watches off the cloth, “costs just a little more than the other two, but comes with a twenty-five year warranty.”
“Great,” I said. “I’ll take it.”