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.