Fancy Pens and Pencils

From where I stand, or sit as the case may be, one of the most intriguing charges against recently-resigned Putnam County Property Assessor Travis Roberts is that he spent $754 of taxpayer money to purchase premium pens and pencils, most of which cost about $24 each. Comptroller investigators have said Roberts “disclosed that he really liked nice ink pens and took pride in his penmanship, although he acknowledged using county money to buy them was wrong.” (Herald-Citizen, March 28, 2013).

The story caught my eye because I, too, love nice writing instruments, though I’ve never paid anything like that kind of money for them.

Back a million years ago when I was in high school, a Cross brand pen and pencil set was a fairly common graduation gift. I received a gold set when I graduated. And though I have no earthly idea who gave them to me, I still have them, stored in the Lane “keepsake box” I also received for graduation. I’m fairly certain I’ve never written more than a sentence or two with that pen or pencil. They were simply “too good” to use.

In checking prices on the Internet, I learned that a new 10k gold-plated Cross pen-and-pencil set now costs $178. Wow. Good thing mine are still in pristine condition.

I suppose my very first writing instrument must have been a crayon, followed by the fat yellow pencils first and second graders were required to use back in the olden days. My radically progressive third grade teacher allowed us to use ink pens for school assignments except–of course—arithmetic, because it required a lot of erasing. From elementary school all the way through college, I favored clear-barrel Bic Stick pens, partly because they were inexpensive and partly because I liked to chew on their pointy plastic caps. Until I lost the caps, which almost always happened before the ink ran out.

When I became I news reporter for the Nashville Banner, I grew partial to retractable pens because they were quick and easy to click open and closed and they fit perfectly inside the spiral rings of my reporter’s pad. I hoped they made me look like Lois Lane, though in truth I have no idea what kind of pen she used in covering stories for the Daily Planet.

In the 1990s, I discovered gel pens, which were invented in 1984 in Japan. My world changed forever. The first gel pen I fell in love with was a Pilot V-Ball. I still have a couple of them and though I adore the way they write, the removable cap is a nuisance.

When I stumbled upon a Pilot G-2 several years ago, I knew the search for the perfect pen was over. These pens have it all. They’re small enough to fit in a pocket. They’re retractable. They have a clip at the top which allows the pen to be easily attached to a clipboard or notebook. The barrel is clear so you can eyeball the ink level in a jiffy. And they have a two-inch grooved, padded grip in exactly the right place. Best of all is the way these pens write. They glide across the paper almost effortlessly, with no skipping or sticking or globbing. And they come in a variety of colors, including bright neons.

The only downside to the Pilot G-2 is that, even when purchased in quantity at big box retail stores, they cost almost a dollar apiece. Which I lately have come to realize is mere peanuts.

(April 6, 2014)

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