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Pen-y For Your Thoughts
I have a thing about pens. It's not like I have a custom-built cabinet or dedicated blog (yet). I simply appreciate the functionality of the writing instrument. A lot. Please, don't pity me -- I've come to grips (ergonomic and contoured) with my fixation. I find unashamed joy in the way gel ink, rolling ball and fine-line markers gently glide on paper. They make writing grocery lists easier to stomach, so to speak.

I don't just favor fancy, newcomer pens. Some of my favorites are hunted-down freebie pens, hungrily clawed from neat rows on tables at business expos and neighborhood festivals. Whenever I use one, it brings back memories of feigning interest, avoiding eye contact and embarrassing my kids.

My latest freebie inventory found pens from a title company, high school guidance office, assisted living, dentist, credit union, canoe rental, and plumbing and sewer company. I also have souvenir pens from the Hard Rock Cafe (Seminole Hotel and Casino -- never been), "Dent Clinic," WMAL, JMU College of Education, and (ironically) Office of Security Polygraph Division.

That doesn't include dozens of pens my family has collected from hotels. If it's got ink in it, I grab it ... unless it's tattooed.

I not only value the style and comfort of pens, I am grateful for their usefulness. Despite conveniences of the electronic age, they are still necessary. For example:

1. Signatures on checks

2. Autographs on playbills

3. Reminders on Post-Its

4. Doodling during meetings

5. Lists that are written (and crossed-off) by compulsive list makers who include such things on such lists.

That's why I always have a pen handy: two in both my purse and glove compartment, and no less than six pencil cups full of pens (which makes them pen cups) scattered throughout my home. If it were socially acceptable, I'd have one hanging from each ear. I like whipping one out when a person is in need (of a pen, not an ear), not unlike an Old West gunfighter. It's the closest I'll ever come to being the town hero.

If I spot a good pen being taken for granted, I will use my powers of persuasion to adopt the poor dear. If that doesn't work, I'll creep the owner into giving it to me, like in this recent exchange at my doctor's office:

Me, signing in: "Oh, this is a nice pen."

Receptionist, absentmindedly: "I guess."

Me, staring at her: "Really nice."

Receptionist, suddenly aware of the creepiness.

Me, cradling pen.

Receptionist, in a "nice, doggie" tone: "Uh, you want it?"

Me: "Thanks!"

To instill appreciation of a good writing implement, I traditionally put pens in my children's Christmas stockings. Imagine the reaction from a 16-year-old after opening a (wrapped) pack of Pentels. "Wow. Pens." I'd like to think he wasn't sarcastic. I'd also like to think he used them to write thank-you notes. I crack myself up.

I'm quite territorial with my pens, which explains the bravado upon giving my pen to a flustered departure gate ticket agent last year.

“Tell you what -- have my pen! For keeps. No need to thank me. It's a gift from me to you." In retrospect, it probably wasn't necessary to say that into her microphone.

After leaving a winery a few years ago, I realized I had accidentally left behind my Pilot Precise V5. In my defense, the "complete wine tasting tour" was a great bargain. I asked/ordered my husband to turn around. "Jean, I'll get you another pen." "No, you won't find that one! Hurry, before someone ruins it!" "How on earth does someone ruin a pen?"

We both fumed on the drive back. And we both left the winery shaking our heads -- me, holding my pen; him, gripping a bottle of merlot.

[May 27, 2009]

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