The Watch

A few hours to kill on my flight to Chicago. It is a holiday weekend here in the States. Today I fly with the muggles. It is actually kind of calming. No rush. No expectations. Most people are in a good mood as they are all on holiday. To top it off a beautiful woman chose to sit next to me on the flight.

I’m invisible in the airport. Just another guy pulling a roller bag. Albeit a Tumi bag.

Always good luggage and shoes. No watch.

Charlotte was teasing me about it last trip. I make my living by the hour and have no time piece. The only jewelry I own is my wedding ring, which I no longer wear (as of last week). Women I meet always check my left hand in the first seconds of any conversation. It must be instinct. Like us guys with the boob check. They are qualifying me. According to Charlotte they are looking for a watch to see how much money I make. I think they’re looking for a ring to see if I’m married. Although, ring customs are different outside the US. She may have a point, since the hand check seems to happen everywhere I go.

I gave up the watch in 1993. I was working at The Children’s Home, physically restraining a 7 year old boy. Robert. He was strong as a fucking horse. I loved that kid. He bit the watch right off the band and spit it in my face. I was proud of him. 20 years later and I still tell that story.

Classic case. His older sister (Crystal) was routinely molested by mom’s live-in boyfriend. Mom turned a blind eye in order to keep the boyfriend in the house. His biological father was in prison.

Yes, THAT is a form of trafficking.

Ultimately the girl told someone at school. The state stepped in and tore the family apart.


I know there is a lot of controversy over kids falsely claiming abuse. I can tell you from personal experience working with hundreds of sexually abused children that it is glaringly obvious. The child’s behavior and personality are noticeably altered. It’s like trying to hide fresh a bullet wound.


Robert and Crystal blew through almost 20 foster homes in 2 years. Shitty system. The right thing would have been to place Robert, his sister, and their mom in a place together where they could get help as a family. As opposed to criminalizing mom, and tearing apart what little family they had left. Not that mom was innocent, mind you. It is just a very complicated issue which can’t be solved by brute force.

Robert was angry. Especially at his sister for ruining their family by ‘telling’.

Robert and Crystal had been with us for about a year. Crystal lived in a different cottage on the other side of the campus. Repairing their relationship would take a lifetime of therapy. If it could ever be repaired at all.

His mom still visited, and he loved her dearly. He was the only kid in the cottage with a parent still in the picture at all. Everybody else was TPR’d (Termination of Parental Rights). We all had a soft spot for him. He was a sweet kid. Except on the days mom didn’t show. Usually within an hour or two of her no-show, Robert would be looking to kick somebody’s ass. He would pick a fight, and/or start destroying everything in sight. You have to personally witness rage in a 7 year old to believe it. A child berserker. Inconceivable. Tragic.

Physical restraint was standard practice in the 90’s. I hated it. I still feel it was wrong, but I am not sure what else we could have done. It was not realistic to try and talk him out of his moments of rage. His brain was on fire. There was no reasoning with him. He was angry and had every right to be.

We did not strap them down or anything. We also did not use any chemical restraints (drugs). Good old fashioned child care worker protocol. Hold them down until they calm down.

The holding was best done by people who had a relationship with the kid. This was our model. Basically my partner and I, would hold him on the floor, restraining his arms and legs with our hands. We always worked in teams of two (one man, one woman). If the restraint lasted more than 10 minutes, we would take him to the supervisor’s office, which was a room with thick carpet and only two small windows. No one ever got hurt. Our record for restraining Robert was something like 4 hours.

Anyhow, on this particular day he spit that watch right in my face, along with a good loogie. Bounced it right off my forehead. Terrie (my partner) and I had to work pretty hard to not bust out laughing.

There was a certain gallows humor to the culture of that place. Plus we loved the kid.

My boss at the time never wore a watch either, for the same reason. His advice, which sticks with me: “if it is important somebody will tell you what time it is. Otherwise don’t worry about the time, focus on what you are doing.” He was an alcoholic and divorced several times. However, he was a great boss and awesome with the kids. A sea of calm patience. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

I don’t know how that kid ended up. He was still there when I left. I want to believe he is a gentle giant with a loving family. Hopefully that is true.

I don’t ever want to wear another watch.

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