When Chafitz advertised cut prices on alarm wristwatches after the first of the year, I decided to buy one. Unless I'm reminded, I forget to take my heart pills every six hours, and I prefer not to find out what would happen if I missed a few.

So there I was in the Chafitz store looking at an offbrand watch for $50 and a Texas Instruments watch for $80. "What's the difference?" I asked.

"Very little," the saleswoman said. "They do the same things."

"Where is the $50 watch made?" I asked.

"Offshore," she said. "It's imported." My mind flashed a quick picture of unemployed Americans looking for work as the dollar plunges to new lows because we import so much. "I'll take the Texas Instruments watch," I said.

As the weeks passed, I began to delight in that watch. It was just what I needed, and it hasn't gained or lost a second during the month I've had it.

Sunday night, I showed my new watch to a friend and noticed that he looked closely at something engraved on its case and band. When he handed back the watch, I looked, too. I found that the band was marked, "Hong Kong," and the watch itself carried the inscription, "Assembled in Korea."

Oh, well. I'm a little smarter now than I was when I bought that watch. I just hope I'm not paying too much for my education.

IS THIS TEHRAN WEST?

A government official to whom a reserved parking space is assigned had the good sense to leave her car at home on Monday. She figured that "the largest farm equipment show in Washington's history" might make Metrobus a better mode of transportation for the day.

At first, it was a good choice. Until the bus reached the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, the run from Northern Virginia into Washington had been a little slower than usual, but tolerable.

However, in the middle of the bridge, all traffic ground to a halt.A few passengers began to fidget, and after a motionless 45 minutes almost everybody in the bus was on edge. People began to give the driver a hard time.

The driver remained calm and responded politely to questions and complaints. When a man marched up and demanded that he be let off the bus, the driver said, "I'm sorry, sir, but we are instructed not to let passengers off except at designated stops."

"Open the door or I'll leave through a window," the passenger threatened.

"Instructions for opening are posted on each window," was the placid reply.

A female nearby snickered and said, "He called your bluff, sonny. What are you going to do now?"

An ugly confrontation appeared inevitable, but the government official averted it. "Driver," she said, "why not use your two-way radio to call head-quarters and ask if it would be all right to let people off the bus under these circumstances?"

The driver nodded, called head-quarters, and explained the situation. Metro headquarters had a ready answer: "Yeah, might as well let 'em get off and start walking. That's what everybody else is doing."

So the doors opened and everybody but the driver started walking.

On balance, I'd say good planning and hard work by our policemen got us through the early stages of the tractor invasion with minimal damage. But we must now ask ourselves, as we did when others came here to "demonstrate": What are they demonstrating -- that people who take to the streets and engage in violence can disrupt the lives of others? There's no need to demonstrate that point again. It has been demonstrated too often, here and in cities around the world.

PUN FUN

Now that the Chinese are about to start drinking Coca-Cola, can fast food restaurants be far behind? Perhaps people who live on those small boats anchored in Chinese harbors will open a chain of native-run hamburger joints. They could call their company "Junk Food."

SO THAT'S IT!

I like the down-to-earth comments that emanate from Paul Sweeney, who edits the Quarterly published by the Defense Mapping Federal Credit Union. His latest is:

"The difference between a chef and a cook seems to be in who cleans up the kitchen."

AH, SO!

"Don't think of it as winter," suggests Bob Orben. "Think of it as a 90-day cooling off period."