Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald, and repeats of his columns appeared in my local newspaper, the Northeast Ohio News-Herald. Every year, Dave devoted a column to his annual “Holiday Gift Guide,” in which he wrote about the most ridiculous merchandise he could find. He attributed most of the entries to submissions from readers.
A few weeks before Christmas a few years ago, I pulled out the News-Herald and started reading Dave’s “Holiday Gift Guide.” After finishing the first column of type, my eyes jumped to the second column and found a gaping hole in the page — not missing text, but, literally, a hole in the page!
I questioned my wife about the missing segment, but she denied any knowledge of how an entire column of type came up missing. “No problem,” I said, “I’ll just go to the library at lunch tomorrow and read what I missed.” She quickly recanted, and insisted that this wasn’t the time of year for me to be doing such things. Obviously, then, she was planning on getting me something ridiculous for Christmas or my birthday, which happens to fall two days after Christmas. Because I had forced her hand, I figured she’d retaliate by making me wait the extra two days to find out what totally useless item I’d be stuck with.
Sure enough, come Christmas, I received nothing that was extremely unusual or impractical. So when my birthday arrived, among the gifts was a small box containing the missing segment of Dave Barry’s column. Also in the box was literature describing “The Hydraulic Watch,” and, of course, the watch. Rather than describe the watch, I’ll quote a few excerpts from Dave’s column. “It is a hefty hunk of alloy metal — that’s right, mister, ALLOY metal — made in China, a nation famous around the world for the quantity of its watches. . . This is not some wussy little foo-foo girly-girl watch that, when you want to know what time it is, you just look at it. . . When you want to know what time it is, you pull a knob, which activates a hydraulic piston mechanism, which raises a little cover, thus revealing the watch face. . . Geraldo Rivera buys these babies by the case.” Dave also sarcastically referred to the watch’s $19.95 price tag as being evidence of it being a quality timepiece.
As it turns out, the idea of bestowing this coveted treasure on me did not originate with my wife. My son, Adam, read the column, then pointed it out to her saying, “Mom, you have got to get this for Dad!” I guess they both figured the editor of Hydraulics & Pneumatics wouldn’t be complete without the "hydraulic" watch.
But the biggest surprise came when I actually tried the watch. Well, okay, the biggest surprise was learning that there was such a thing as a hydraulic watch. So the second biggest surprise was trying it out. It isn’t hydraulic at all! The cover is spring loaded, so pulling out a retaining pin causes a spring to snap the cover open. The two “hydraulic” cylinders are purely for show — and about as useless as a belt when you’re wearing suspenders.