Time ... to figure this out

Posted by David Lassen
on Monday, February 06, 2017

The timepiece in question. Photo by David Lassen
A word of caution: This is far less about railroading than our usual blog content. Please proceed accordingly.

I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I would, however, like to know how to ride it.

Let me explain.

In early January, advertising director Mike Yuhas and I were in Boca Raton, Fla., for NRC — the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association convention.

Like most of the major industry conventions that Trains attends, NRC has a series of speakers and presentations, as well as an exhibition hall for companies whose services might be of interest to the attendees. In this particular case, this means a lot of construction-related firms — if you want to know about the latest way to build a retaining wall, you’ll find it in the NRC exhibition hall — and related companies.

Mike and I take turns roaming the exhibition hall — he’s chatting up potential advertisers; I’m looking for possible stories — and one afternoon, as I was wandering, I passed a booth with a large scale model of a three-bay hopper car that appeared to be filled with black gumballs. In front of it, there was a hastily lettered note on yellow legal paper: “This is not candy. Do not eat!”

I laughed, and stopped to talk with Bill Doolittle, who was manning the booth for Bowers & Co., an accounting firm based in Syracuse, N.Y. He explained he'd had to stop a few people just before doing some serious damage to their molars. Turned out the hopper car was part of a little contest: Guess the number of marbles (that’s what they were, not gumballs) it contained, and win an Apple Watch.

“Go ahead and enter,” he said. “Write your guess on the back of a business card.”

I told him, honestly, that even though I’m an Apple guy, I could think of few things I needed less than an Apple watch. (A year ago, there were several such drawings with drones as a prize. Those, I entered with enthusiasm, and of course without success.)

“Well, you could make it a gift,” he said.

So I looked the car for about 30 seconds, wrote a number on the back (I’m not going to say what it was, other than a number of hundreds were involved, just in case Bowers does another hopper-car drawing) and left it. And that was that.

Naturally, a few days later, Doolittle left a message on my voicemail at work: “You were only off by one. You won the watch.”

So, it came last week, and I’m wearing it now. (Yeah, I know. So much for gifting it.) Nice looking, but I’m still not fully up to speed on what to do with it. So far, I use it to track workouts (“Yeah, it’s a $400 FitBit,” one of my friends said) and, of course, as a watch. (“It keeps really good time,” another friend said. Of course, so did my $40 Timex.)

I’m trying to get used to the idea that once in a while, it tells me to take a minute and breathe — as a meditation sort of thing — or to stand up and move around at least one minute every hour. I have not yet made up my mind if this is an endearing interest in my health, or preparing me to obey the machines when SkyNet takes over.

Anyway, if there are any Apple Watch users out there: What do you do with it? And is there any way in which it’s helpful as a railfan tool?

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