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This Is What's Wrong with American Workmanship Today

I got my watch as a gift in the fall of 2001. The battery that was in it when I received it lasted a really long time — five years, perhaps. And then it died, as they do, and I had it replaced. And the next one lasted a little less long — perhaps a little over three years. And then it died, just as I moved to New York for my sabbatical last August. So one of the first things I did when I arrived here was to find a place to have the battery replaced. It was a teeny little storefront that did shoe repair and a few other random things, and when I asked the ancient Asian guy behind the counter about my watch battery, he pulled out a battered shoe box and flipped through several dozen half-empty and decidedly Carter-era-looking cards of watch batteries, holding them up against mine before coming up with one that he finally put in my watch.

This scene left me not terrifically surprised when my watch stopped again this July — the very day I started work at the MLA, in fact. There’s no telling how long that battery had been sitting in that shoebox. So this time, I took the watch around the corner to an actual jeweler, where I had to leave it overnight. But I figured it was worth it, right? You get what you pay for, and all that.

My watch stopped again yesterday, after 2.5 months.

One of two things is happening here: either something has gone wrong with my watch such that it is now chewing through batteries at an ever-increasing rate, or the quality of batteries is plummeting. And I’m just not sure how much I want to spend in order to figure out which it is…


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