Jan 8, 2016

For Love of Pens

Nowadays I do most of my writing with a keyboard. My hands get tired if I try to write with a pen, and my penmanship gets worse all the time. This post, however, is dedicated to anyone who has ever written with a pen they loved.

How many pens do you have around your house? How many do you actually use? I have so many pens. Recently I donated a bunch to a students’ group, but I still have more than I can use if I hand write from now until the end of my life.

Do you fall in love with your pens? I’ve tried expensive fancy pens (never tried a fountain pen), intermediate pens, and cheap pens, and I guess I have pedestrian taste in writing tools, because I do best with the cheapies. My current favorite (I remember these from childhood and had to order the blue ones from the UK): this Bic Cristal fine ballpoint disposable.

I keep buying pens, then I tell myself to stop and use the pens that I have. So I sort them and categorize. Fine ballpoint – keep, always keep. Medium point – possibility if it's a ballpoint.

Gel pens, rollerballs – gone. I can’t write with those. I think I don’t lift the pen high enough off the page between letters, so my writing becomes even less legible. A lazy writer.

Colored ink pens are a recent love. The ideal ones are hard to find because they must also be fine ballpoint. These Pentel RSVP fine ballpoints are working great. I bought a box each of the pink and pale blue.

I can't use these colors at work, where I hand write the most, and I hate that some of them will dry up before I ever use them. I try to keep rotating them so they all remain working.

I gave several of each color to a co-worker who expressed love for them. I know they’ll have a good home with her. I saw her using one a few weeks ago, and I was happy.

I sort the pens I love and will not risk losing, and set those aside. Then I group the public pens. These, I will take to work and put in the pen jar on my desk, because they walk away.

I never leave a beloved pen out on my desk, even for a few minutes when I step away. It usually accompanies me, or goes into my drawer to reside in safety until I can return and guard it. I’ll also put a few public pens in my purse for when someone needs a pen.

I don’t mind loaning pens when I’m in a meeting and someone is without one, but if it’s one of my beloved ones, I have to watch it like a hawk and can’t pay attention in the meeting, because what if the borrower absentmindedly absconds with my pen?

Then I’m faced with the etiquette of asking for it back…a political minefield at the office. Pen lovers will understand, but most people can’t relate to the stress of seeing that someone has forgotten they hold your precious writing tool.

At the end of the meeting, how do you ask for your pen back when the borrower, whose mind is on more important subjects like, “When the hell do we get out of here?” or, “What am I going to have for lunch?” has forgotten that they borrowed your pen? How can they be oblivious to the fact that you’re sitting there sweating buckets waiting to get it back?

One time an upper manager borrowed my beloved pen, and of course being an Important Guy, he forgot to give it back. It was early in my career and I was too timid to ask for it back.

Instead, I lurked around the office until late in the day when enough people had left, and slithered into his office to look for my love. It was on his desk. I was so afraid it had gone away with him in his suit pocket. I took it back. He wouldn’t have missed it like I did.

After celebrating the traditional season of giving, I now celebrate selfishness. With my pens.

[Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes creator, 1986; photo credit The Guardian (AP)]

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