February 9, 2006 -- La Canada Valley Sun
"THE NEW WATCHMAKER AND THE JOURNEY HOME"
By Anita Susan Brenner
It had been a long day. I flew to Phoenix on the early flight, attended a deposition, then boarded the evening flight back to the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.
I put my folio under the seat and opened my new book. I was reading "Sabbath," by Abraham Joshua Heschel.
I barely looked up when the young lady stopped at my row. She appeared to be in her twenties, slightly older than our daughter. What caught my eye were the three strands of diamonds. When she stretched to put her bag in the overhead, her T-shirt rode up, exposing thin chains hooked to her belly-button.
She sat next to me.
I nodded and went back to my new book. I like Heschel. He once told a story about a long ago town that had "all the necessary municipal institutions" -- a law court, cemetery, a hospital, a bathhouse and many types of craftsmen. There were tailors, bakers, shoemakers, carpenters and bricklayers. But the town lacked a watchmaker.
Over the years, most of the town's clocks became what Heschel called "annoyingly inaccurate." All the clocks in the town showed different times. Some people stopped winding their clocks. They thought, why bother? Their clocks ran down. Others continued to wind their clocks, day-after-day, year-after-year, even though the clocks did not keep accurate time.
The years passed. One day, a watchmaker moved to the town. Everybody was happy. People brought their clocks to the new watchmaker to be fixed. But the only clocks he could repair were those that had been wound, those that had been kept running. The clocks that had not been wound, daily, these "abandoned clocks had grown too rusty" to be fixed.
Heschel's message was that prayer is important, even on days when prayers don't seem to work, even when our hearts are not into it. Some day the watchmaker will show up and we'll be happy we didn't get rusty.
I looked out the window.
The plane lifted off and I noticed that the young lady was also reading a book. I peeked over at it. It was clearly not by Heschel, most certainly not about prayer. Her book had something to do with "a Muslim girl's sexual awakening."
I went back to Heschel.
The turbulence began 30 minutes away from Burbank. Pilots call it "chop." Sometimes I am afraid of turbulence. This time I was not. It is hard to be afraid when you are reading a book by Heschel on the power of prayer.
We hit a big bump and the young lady spoke. She told me she was nervous. She said she did not like to fly.
Don't worry, I told her, we'll be OK.
We began to talk. She asked my occupation and I told her. I asked about her work. She said she was a marketing director for a Phoenix-based magazine. She was headed to Los Angeles to meet with clients.
The seat belt sign went on. We kept talking. The young lady mentioned meetings, seminars and an existing circulation of 60,000. She sounded impressive. I began to wonder where she got her MBA.
The plane hit another bump, but I hardly noticed. This was a golden opportunity. Lots of my friends are writers, real writers without day jobs, who believe that it is nice to connect in a positive way with management.
I put my book on the tray table and we continued to talk.
What kind of magazine? I asked.
The plane lurched. People gasped. My book fell.
The young lady gripped both hand rests and paused before she replied, "I am the marketing director for an adult magazine with an on-line component." She looked at me expectantly, as if waiting for approval.
Suddenly, everything became clear. The watchmaker was in the building, I mean plane. I searched for an appropriate comment.
Are you a member of the Phoenix Rotary? I asked.
The plane wobbled, but she began to laugh. That's when I knew that we would land safely. Life is full of wonders and tragedies, but the God would never let my plane go down with me reading "Sabbath," seated next to a young marketing director reading a different sort of book.
It just doesn't happen that way.
Anita Susan Brenner practices law in Pasadena with her husband, Len Torres. You may contact her at
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copyright December 1, 2005
Anita Brenner, Los Angeles Times La Canada Valley Sun