Every year, it seems like I have to clean out my accumulation of pens. Somehow, they just gravitate to my drawers, and I find them on top of tables, in pockets, you name it. A co-worker came over looking for a pen, so I opened by drawer: “Help yourself.”
His jaw dropped. I don’t think he expected a drawer of pens.
I didn’t start out using pens almost exclusively. When I wrote short stories when I was a kid, it was always with a number 2 pencil — you know the kind, those yellow pencils that eventually got ground down to stubs.
My father had mechanical pencils he always had stuck in his shirt pocket. These were 9 mm pencils, yellow. You can still buy them. I liked those, too, and not the 7 mm ones because the lead was always breaking. What good is a pencil when you can’t write with it?
But then came the pen.
And it was the army’s fault.
Everything in the military is written in black ink. That was one of the early things that the Drill Sergeants kept telling us. I’m not sure why they were so focused on pens.
Maybe it was because pencils break. Maybe it was because ballpoint ink doesn’t smear, which pencil would do if written on paper stuck in a hot, sweaty uniform pocket.
Anyway I’d always have one of the Skillcraft pens stuck in a pocket somewhere. These were simple ballpoint pens — no caps, because caps can get lost. The pens were pretty infamous for getting lost. Someone else would pick it up and use it, and it’d disappear into a pocket. The pens would have quite a journey.
Sometimes I’d end up with one with someone’s teeth marks on the end. Used pens!
If I found one on the ground, I always picked it up and saved it for later use.
Out of the army, the black pen has become any color. I still prefer ballpoint and also gel pens over the Sharpies. Don’t care much at all for fountain pens (does that mean I’m being unwriterly?).
Sometimes I walk into the office supply store and see colored pens on sale and think, “Yeah, I’m out of pens, so let me get that.”
Then I find about five in the bottom of a coat pocket and I wonder how they all got in there.
Pens. You gotta love them.