Good fortune came my way this morning with The Sunday New York Times feature entitled “Kitty With The Gee”, in which two of my favorite subjects— diamonds and Yiddish—intersected.
The diamond district in New York is located on 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It’s literally chock-a-block with sparklers. The endless rows of expertly-cut carbon make privates’ (retail shoppers) eyes bug out, but for those who ply this trade, it’s business as usual. Like all professions, selling loose diamonds has its own codes, in this case heavily influenced by Jewish culture, and Yiddish and Hindi expressions.
I’ve only once visited the Diamond and Jewelry Way, as it’s called. A former boyfriend had bought me a luxury watch and, much like the relationship, despite my best efforts, it was perpetually out-of-sync. My ex had made a tidy sum on a business deal and decided that my trusty Timex needed an upgrade.
“What about this one?” I said, pointing to a simple gold Blancpain watch with a yellow strap.
“Oh, this is a very special watch,” said the salesman. “It’s made in Switzerland. Everything by hand. Exceptional timepiece.”
“So it must be very accurate, then.”
“Actually, because it’s an artisanal watch, it’s always off by a few seconds.”
In my real life I ran for the bus each morning to get to work. But in my fantasy life—where I spent most of my time—there was no running for the bus, or anxiety about being on time. I figured if one was an aristocrat, the “right time” was when one arrived.
The watch never kept time. At first it was slow by a few minutes, which I could work around. But soon the gap grew to over twenty minutes or more, forcing me to do mental calculations, or to ask strangers to tell me the time even though they could plainly see I was wearing a watch.
After the relationship cratered I had even less patience for the watch. But, like Eliza Doolittle, I was now in limbo. I had crossed over and couldn’t go back to the pedestrian Timex; I had to make the Blancpain work.
“Mazl” means good luck in Yiddish. It may be an acronym for the three elements of luck: makom (place), zman (time), and limmud (learning). The Blancpain gave me no mazl.
I happened to be in New York on business and went to a vintage watch boutique on Madison Avenue. The owner looked at the Blancpain and the papers of certification, noted that the gold was scratched and offered me $750.00. When I balked, he suggested I take the watch to the 47th Street and gave me a name. It didn’t take long to locate my guy. In a matter of seconds he appraised the watch and offered me a slightly higher but still uninspiring amount. Defeated, I brought the watch back home.
One day I was reading a New Yorker article about a woman who loved the look of her grandmother’s diamond Cartier watch. After wearing it for years, it has conked out for good and she didn’t know what to do until someone suggested replacing the entire mechanism.
Eureka! This was mazl in action, where place, time and learning converged.
Right Time: It was time to let go of the parts of my life that were no longer working (the emotional attachment to the relationship; the crappy watch).
Right Action: The article in the New Yorker showed me what was possible.
Right Place: Joe, the watch expert in my home town, was willing to take the Blancpain parts as payment for putting in the Movado movement.
Moral of the story: Like the Blancpain watch, you can’t rush mazl.
Mazl Un Brokhe (Good luck and a blessing)