Our Non-Working Pen Collection

Our house has the largest collection of non-functional pens in the known world.

IMG_3158You will find them just about anywhere.  The drawers of our desks, kitchen cabinets, bedroom dressers, and family room end tables are stuffed full of them.  They are sticking out of old coffee cups, desk organizers, and brass bookends — and they seem to be multiplying.

Long ago, Kish and I had only a few non-working pens.  If a pen ran out of ink or otherwise failed to fulfill its intended purpose, we threw it away.  But then a Bic met an attractive Scripto, one thing led to another, and now inoperative pens are everywhere.  We’ve got cheap pens that were given away by orthodontists, cheap pens that were part of some lame “gift bag,” cheap pens that will explode for no apparent reason and cover your hand in ink, and cheap pens that have lost their caps and been chewed to within an inch of their lives.

And these cheap pens are clever.  They hide in plain sight, living among the tiny handful of working pens, knowing that they likely won’t be tested and discarded because, in reality, no one actually uses pens regularly anymore.  And when the chips are down, and a birthday card or important document needs to be signed, they relish the chance to frustrate their human hosts, who fruitlessly try pen after pen after pen, pressing down with increasing force on some hapless piece of paper, pleading to the God of Pens on Mount Olympus to please deliver unto us one — just one! — working pen.

One of these days, I should go through every drawer, cup, and cubbyhole in our house, testing the pens when tempers are cool and discarding those that don’t work.  One of these days . . . .

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The Office Gets Ready To Turn Out The Lights

The Office is counting down to the last show of the series.  Kish and I enjoy the show, and we’re holding our breath that the characters we’ve come to love aren’t ruined forever as the producers seek to build tension for a big finale.

I may be the only person in America who was happy when Steve Carell left The Office.  I thought the Michael Scott character had become so painfully awkward and outlandish that the series was difficult to watch, and the Michael Scott stories were interfering with the show’s real strength — which is the ensemble of office workers.   Every moment of Michael Scott angst took time away from a Jim Halpert practical joke at the expense of Dwight Schrute, or droll Stanley Hudson comment, or Creed Bratton weirdness.  When Michael Scott finally left it cleared the way for the other characters to shine, and they did.

Many of the great American sitcoms have been ensemble efforts, rather than solo star vehicles.  Cheers, Seinfeld, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Taxi, among many others, all have been classic multi-character efforts.  What would Cheers have been without the characters shouting “Norm!” or listening to Cliff’s latest blowhard theory?  How much did Newman bring to Seinfeld, and the Reverend Jim add to TaxiThe Office characters are similarly capable of carrying their show as a group, and since Steve Carell’s departure the show has remained hilarious without the downside of the pitiable Michael Scott storylines.

This year, though, the show seems to have lost its way.  Pam and Jim are having marital difficulties, and a lbehind-the-camera sound technician has emerged as a suitor for Pam’s affections.  Andy Bernard, who may be the most unevenly written character in TV history, has gone off the deep end.  It’s as if the producers are searching for a dramatic conclusion — and I wish they would resist that temptation. We want to remember Jim and Pam as the young lovers who finally found each other or the happy newlyweds, not as some estranged couple fighting in a way that seems inconsistent with their well-established characters.

I’d be perfectly happy if the last episode featured more of the enjoyable antics of Dwight and Angela, and Oscar and Kevin, and Phyllis and Meredith, and the show ended with a Jim Halpert prank and Pam simply turning out the lights of the Dunder-Mifflin workroom a la The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as another workday ends.