Random Pens

This morning the pen I was using ran out of ink. I felt around in the pocket of my work satchel and pulled out a fistful of potential replacements, and realized that my bag carries the most random assortment of cheap pens you can imagine.

I’ve got some unbranded pens that I picked up at the supply closet on my floor at the firm, as well as one branded Vorys pen that was sent out by the firm with some fanfare years ago and that I feel like I should save for a special occasion where using the branded pen would be warranted. (I haven’t quite figured out what that special occasion might be, but perhaps I’ll instinctively know it when It arrives.) Then I’ve somehow acquired a pen from a bank, two pens from hotels, and a pen from a tire and auto parts shop. Other than the pens from the firm supply closet, I have no recollection of how I got any of these pens.

I’ve also got some slightly higher quality pens in the mix, but I have no idea how I got them, either. I’m not a pen snob. I can’t justify laying out the money for a high end fountain pen or weighty Cross Bailey with replaceable cartridges, which in my view should be reserved for people with fine handwriting who write important letters on fine stationery. I don’t fall into that category. I’ll use pretty much any pen that is at hand because my handwriting stinks and the only person who is going to read my scribbled notes on legal pads is me.

I carry around more pens than is necessary, but I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry and I don’t want to find that I’m out of pens when I really need one. And in looking at this motley collection of writing instruments, I realize that the pen pocket of my satchel is the workplace equivalent of my sock drawer. For me, at least, the sock drawer ends up being a repository of one-offs that I keep around in hopes of finding the other sock someday. My pen pocket is the same way because you never know when you might really need a cheap pen.

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 . . . .