Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Blue Pen

Somebody stole my blue pen.

Yesterday, I was working at a different desk and I walked away to make some copies. In the meantime, I think someone sat down there, used my pen, and walked off with it thinking it was their own.

I’m very particular about my pens. To my delight, I found out that the department secretary, responsible for ordering pens, has the same affinity toward the same pen. And so together, in secret e-mail meeting, we ordered a set of the pens and stashed them away in a secret cabinet known only to us.

The recent disappearance of my pen couldn’t have happened at a better time. Friday is the secretary’s last day at our workplace. And since she kept the secret stash of pens under constant, guarded surveillance, I requested that she turn over the stash to me.

I haven’t heard back. Perhaps she doesn’t take my request seriously or it got overlooked in a shuffle of e-mails. But to me, it’s quite important and warrants immediate attention – and action. Turn the pens over to me, I plead. Don’t make me send another e-mail flagged in red.

It’s for the company’s own sake.

You see, today I am using a different pen and it feels totally wrong. This morning, I found another pen in my desk, a black one, and reluctantly picked it up to assist in note taking, phone messaging, name signing, and other random office deeds. Work just isn’t the same. Right now, I am sitting here looking at the other pen, staring at it while shouting OUTLANDER in my head. I probably will only get half as much work done. I’ll be totally unfocused, much less productive, and overly distracted by silent protest of this imposter pen.

I try a pencil, I try a Sharpie, even an ultra fine tip marker. Nothing is the same. Nothing is as comfortable as my blue pen.

I decide to take action, to literally take the matter into my own hands. No pun, or pen, intended.

I formulate a plan. On a mission to find the thief, and my pen, I sneakily walk up to the administrative building. At first, I suspect my director. Former-convicted-penthief and all- around-office-supply-mooch. I stop in to say hello, check on a few things. I quickly scan the desk. In a mess of papers, forms, and files, I look for the familiar blue body and slim shape of my favorite pen.

But it’s not there.

Where could it be? Pen, oh blue pen of my mighty word. Of to-do lists, fee structures, grocery lists, and important dates. Where have you wandered? Whose desk are you sitting upon? Whose hand do you hold? And do you like it there better?

The secretary is of course holding her own blue pen so I certainly don’t suspect her. I skip over her office and give a polite smile as to not give way to the covert operation I am currently conducting. Operation BP. Operation BLUE PEN. Gone missing. Must be found.

My pregnant co-worker? Could she be the culprit? Pregnancy has been known to do strange things to a woman so pen thievery would come as no surprise. I walk into her office and sit down for a brief talk. In the back of my mind, I am performing the ultimate act of multi-tasking as I attend to our talk while scouring her desk visually for my favorite pen.

No dice. No pen for that matter, either.

I’m getting desperate. I don’t know how much longer I can go on with this other pen. This is not a pen for me. I don’t trust it, I don’t like it. It’s too fine, with a ballpoint like a razor that keeps tearing through the sheets of paper on which I write. I will never get through the day like this.

But I need to. Later on today I have one of those death-by-meetings. A two hour bore-athon of useless information overload. My survival depends on that blue pen – for doodling, for chicken scratching, for scribbling SOS’s to the person next to me about how much longer can this possibly go on and what has that person done with her hair.

And then, hope in the form of an e-mail appears in my inbox. The secretary has responded to my request for the secret stash of blue pens.

“They’re in your mailbox,” she replies.

At last, freedom in the form of my favorite blue pens. I walk to the other building and in my mailbox sits six perfect, slim, lovely blue pens. I bring them to the meeting, all six, which stirs up quite a conversation.

“What’s with the pens?” someone asks.

“Why are you carrying around six pens?” another one questions.

“I like them, they are my favorite, I will write with no other,” I admit while proudly clutching my clutch of six blue pens.

“Oh, yes, I feel the same way about my pens,” another co-worker quietly confesses.

So it’s not just me. Everyone has a thing about pens. I wonder what it is. Is it tactile? Is it scent? Is it color of ink? For me, it’s the feel of the pen and the way it writes on paper – thick, blue, solid lines and letters. Secretly, I also like the smell. And I’ve been known to lift my notepad to my face and take a sniff. The clean scent of freshly written blue ink. I also like to sniff my scotch tape. But that’s another thing all together.

Sitting through the meeting, my pregnant co-worker gives me a nudge. “Can I borrow one of your pens?” she asks, cautiously.

I look at her. Really, she knows about me and the pens. I can’t believe she dares to ask. There will be rules, there will be limits. She may even need to sign a waiver.

“I’ll give it right back,” she adds. And with that, I lend her one blue pen. She quickly jots something down and puts it back by my place. All is safe again, order has been re-established in my work-related world.

Afterwards, I walk out with pens in hand. Like a squirrel stashing nuts for winter, I think carefully about where I will store these pens. The top drawer? Too risky. Too many people rifling through my desk for post-its, pencils or calculators. The bottom drawer, hidden in the blue hanging file? Perfect. No one dares go down there. And that is where I stash my secret cache of pens.

Later on that day, before heading home, I sifted through my bag looking for my car keys. And wouldn’t you know that stuck near notebook and buried beneath my gloves was my original favorite blue pen. I immediately took it out and wrote a note for tomorrow. And it makes me feel better knowing that once this pen runs out, there’s a whole hanging file filled with back-ups, my blue pens, waiting just for me.

This is what a desk job does to you. This is how it seeps into your mind and makes you think about the petty, useless details in life like the length of your telephone chord, the color of your mouse, the comfort of your chair. It’s more than an exercise in ergonomics. It’s the little things that help you get through a big day of bullshit. And if a pen is all that it takes, then I’d consider that a mighty cheap deal for my company. They should provide a steady stream of favorite pens. It would be that easy.

Until tomorrow, another 8 hour day, I can’t wait to write again for the work that needs to be done. With my blue pen of course. And then I’ll sniff the paper. And maybe even the tape.


Whatever it takes, right?

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