As Socrates once said: "Sometimes the sublime subtleties of life need to be pointed out to us by twelve year old Korean students."
Maybe it was Descartes, not Socrates. Might have been Mao, actually.
In any event, it was my twelve year old Korean student who pointed out to me the other day that in almost every single watch ad you will see, the hands of the watch are invariably pointed to ten after ten.
I was trying to teach him something, but he turned the tables on me. There was an ad in Time magazine for a watch that cost, get ready, cue the music, $250, 000. What was so special about this watch? Why, it had pieces salvaged from the actual Titanic embedded into its structure.
That's right. You, too, can own a timepiece that has tiny metal fragments of the doomed cruiseship melted straight into its core, all for the reasonable price of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. American.
So I was trying to tell him that this was somewhat unreasonable, not to mention downright freaking odd.
Who would buy such a watch?
Is it good for picking up chicks?
You're sitting at the bar, sipping your gin and tonic, and up walks this blonde, and you say hi, and you point to your watch, and you say: "See this? Dropped a cool two hundred and fifty grand on it. See this metal? From the Titanic. Not bad, eh?"
At what point do national tragedies become fair game and prime fodder for our own captilistic, cannibalistic instincts? What's the statue of limitation on death? Because a lot of people died on the Titanic, and they're still dead, and it's somewhat creepy to be wielding the weapon of their destruction on your wrist.
In ten, twenty years, are you going to meet some girl in a club, buy her a drink, sit her down at a table, at which point she'll open her mouth and say: "See that tongue ring? It's made from debris found at the World Trade Center?"
Not to me.
The Titanic tragedy was once the biggest, most tragic story of the century. And now you can put pieces of the boat in your watch for the price of a decent sports car.
But my student wasn't that interested.
"Ten-ten," he said. "My teacher in Korea told me that all watches in advertisements are set at ten-ten."
"Really?" I said.
I went home.
Riffled through all the old Times and Newsweeks lying around.
And you know what?
The little bugger was right.
Next time you seen an ad for a watch, on a billboard, online, in a magazine, check out the hands. They will be at or near ten after ten.
It's like some little secret of the universe that has been unknown to me for years has finally been revealed.
Not only are there watches with pieces of the Titanic in them that sell for a quarter of a million bucks, but there are also ads for these little clocks that will always be set to ten after ten!
I feel like Jim Carrey in The Number 23, seeing strange patterns and shapes where none had existed before.
The moral of the story?
Always listen to twelve year olds. Korean or otherwise. They know what's cool in life. They know what's important. They've been to the places and listened for the sounds that we've long forgotten how to hear.