3.19.2010

How does the Pen Addiction Start?

Bet you if you look quickly at this stock photo of a syringe, it seems an awful lot like a pen with a spot of red ink.

For many of us, "using" and collecting nice pens is no longer a choice. It is a part of our lifestyle. But how did it all happen? How did I end up justifying that a $300 fountain pen is a better buy than a Blu-Ray player? Or an Xbox? Or a nice suit? As with any addiction, pen addiction starts off small and seemingly innocuous.

Maybe it was back in grade school, when your parents took you to an office supply store the week before school started. Stocked up with folders, erasers, notebooks and a backpack, you make your way to the pen aisle. The last cheap-o pen you used last year has either dried up or got sucked in the "black hole" of your messy room. Gel ink?! Cushion grip?! Such things are unheard of! The callus that you developed on the middle finger of your writing hand rejoices, "God be praised!"

Starting off with relatively inexpensive, non-refillable Pilot or Uni-ball pens, you get a feel for how better life is without the cheap plastic of the pen you got for free at the bank. In college, you come to the conclusion that the cheap, mass produced Bic is a tool of socialism and that fine pens, although bourgeois, represent the American Way. Uncle Teddy gifts you a nice Parker for graduating high school and you think to yourself, "boy, now I've made it." Thinking about how flashy and great your new pen is, you start to notice what everyone else is writing with as they take class notes. You go down each row, "Crap. Crap. Bic with chewed up cap. Pencil. TD Bank Pen. Crap. Crap. Wait a second..." What looks like a white speck on top a cylinder of dark, polished lacquer is actually a snowflake, and you've spied a Montblanc. Allured by the prestige of even knowing someone who owns a Montblanc, you ask the student after class if you can try it. After a period of awkward silence, you grab the pen and jot a note down to test it out. "Huh. I don't see what the big deal is," you say as you hand the pen back and walk away. Best $500 you didn't spend.

This next part may vary, but it usually involves some type of window shopping. You've ran out of ink for Uncle Teddy's pen and he forgets where it was purchased. So, you do some research. Search online, visit an office supply store, or, if you're lucky, find a REAL pen shop. In looking for the refill, you find your next pen. "I think this rollerball will suit me. After all, if I'm going to get that promotion, I'm going to need to feel professional."

Since no one could refuse to sign a contract with such a beautiful pen, you get the promotion. Attributing all the success to the pen, you get another, and another, and another. Even when times are down, a pen will pick you up! The boring paperwork that came with your new responsibilities isn't so bad when you have a smooth-gliding Pelikan fountain pen in your hand.

Where does it end? Does it ever end? Many folks talk about having a "grail" pen, or a writing instrument of their deepest desire that is made almost unattainable due to price or scarcity. But once they obtain that pen, does the want for another really subside? Pen makers and manufacturers churn our interest by offering new materials, new technologies and better designs. Their enabling ways push the addict into relapse, over and over again.

Several ways a drug addiction is similar to a pen addiction:
  • "Users" have a stock (or stash) of ink refills to fill up whenever they go empty.
  • When the ink runs out, the user gets into a frantic rush about finding refills and often has to hunt around town for a "dealer" and sometimes has to go online to find the specific compatible replacements.
  • Yes, pen shops are commonly referred to as "dealers."
  • There is a syringe involved. Some fountain pen users prefer to refill ink cartridges by using a blunt syringe and bottled ink.
So, if you or someone you know suffers from pen addiction. Please call us. :-P

10 comments:

  1. You've done an excellent job on describing this pen addiction and where it all began. My first memory of getting a nice pen was for the xmas exchange in 5th grade. A boy named Greg got my name and I was convinced it was a stupid bracelet (long narrow box and all). Imagine my surprise and utter delight to find a ballpoint pen- Parker, I think. And then it hit me, I could seek these out! No longer would I have to accept the hand-me-downs and found-arounds. A turning point in my life. Thanks, Greg!

    Jackie
    www.lettersandjournals.blogspot.com

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Jackie. It seems that a lot of people are introduced to the higher-end of pens through gifting. My wife (girlfriend at the time) gave me a Parker Sonnet ballpoint as a gift and I've never been the same.

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  3. I love it!! You pegged us exactly.

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  4. Julie,

    I usually don't like to make broad generalizations, especially when it comes to people, but when it comes to pens, I have talked to a lot of people and heard stories about how they came around to loving pens. If you or any of my readers would like to share your story, please do. I'd love to read them.

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  5. For me, it was honestly catalogs that got me interested. I remember being so excited every time the Levenger catalog showed up, because it meant I could look at all the pretty fountain pens. I was convinced that you had to be rich to have a fountain pen, but I desperately wanted one. I was always into old-fashioned things, and that contributed as well.

    Now, I don't consider myself to be "rich", but I do have a good number of the lower-end fountain pens, and love to use them. :)

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  6. Thanks for the comment, Tuxgirl. Although they are competitors of ours, I'll admit that Levenger catalogs are always very tempting. I'm a bit disappointed that they aren't making their True Writer pens as much as they used to.

    True there are fountain pens that feature gold nibs and other precious materials that are quite expensive, but there are loads of pens out there that are economical and great writers.

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  7. Saw this through your 'Top Five Articles' post.

    You got it right on the nose. I was just discussing in my blog the other day how it happened to me... from grade school on up. I haven't hit the financial point in my life yet where I can fathom dropping $100 on a pen... but some of the Lamy's I've seen are pretty tempting!

    My most expensive so far was a gift - a guy that was crushing on me (while I was married, no less!) gave me a Shaeffer Prelude Ballpoint with *real gold*. I was flabberghasted, but obviously not so stupid to give the thing back!! There's alot of unrequited love you can put up with for a really fancy pen.

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  8. Thanks, Plum! The Lamy's, especially their fountain pens, give you the most bang for the buck. Once your financial situation affords it and your addiction calls for a $100 pen, you can't go wrong with a Lamy.
    Hey, a nice pen is a nice pen, no matter where it comes from. I wouldn't give it back, either!

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  10. For me, it was honestly catalogs that got me interested. I remember being so excited every time the Levenger catalog showed up, because it meant I could look at all the pretty fountain pens. I was convinced that you had to be rich to have a fountain pen, but I desperately wanted one. I was always into old-fashioned things, and that contributed as well.

    Now, I don't consider myself to be "rich", but I do have a good number of the lower-end fountain pens, and love to use them. :)

    ReplyDelete