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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm feeling kind of old today

Anyone who knows me understands that I am not into flashy, ostentatious gewgaws. But I do enjoy owning and using quality things.

I've never felt the need for a shiny new gold Patek Philippe or Rolex. I'm quite happy with my vintage stainless steel Swiss watches from lesser known companies like Enicar, Lanco and Mulco.

The same goes for writing instruments. While some people like flashy fountain pens from Mont Blanc and other high-end manufacturers, I'm perfectly happy with my simple black vintage (1930s) Sheaffer.


There is no question that my choices in watches and pens are to some extent ornamental. Otherwise, I would be wearing a Swatch and writing with a ball point Bic. But I don't care what others might think of these little vanities. They are meant to catch only my own eye... and they do that many times per day (not to mention making my heart go pitter pat).

Since most people only want to know what time it is, I have never had to lend out my watch. But it sometimes happens that someone sitting near me in a meeting needs to borrow a pen for a moment... putting me in an awkward position.

If the person asking to borrow a writing instrument is my age (or older), and has presumably had experience with a fountain pen, I generally hand it over without a thought.

But many of the younger crowd remain blissfully unaware that between the age of feather quills and the invention of the ballpoint pen, writing instruments underwent a long golden age of craftsmanship and innovation.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to stop some Generation Xer from trying to rip off the screw-on cap of my Sheaffer, or worse; from trying to scratch out a few words with the 14k gold nib stabbed upside down onto the paper.

This morning it happened again.

I was sitting in a meeting next to a pretty young thing who has made fewer trips around the sun than most of my neckties, when her ballpoint ran out of ink and she started searching her pockets and purse for a replacement.

Having come up empty, I could see her scanning her neighbors and those across the table for a likely donor. Since I was speaking and presenting the PowerPoint deck on the screen, I was busy with the computer mouse ... and not writing.

Without even asking, she reached into my shirt pocket, removed my beloved Sheaffer and began tugging at the cap. I stopped talking briefly and set aside the mouse long enough to pantomime a twisting motion.

She finally freed the cap and looked in wonder at the shiny gold nib. I could tell from her expression that she'd never encountered one before, but I couldn't really stop what I was doing to give her a tutorial. All I could do was observe her out of the corner of my eye as she made a few fruitless passes on the paper with the nib at right angles to the paper.

Again, I put aside the mouse and made a leaning gesture with my hand to try to get her to tilt the pen over at a more oblique angle... but this concept seemed to elude her.

After she'd torn a couple of jagged holes in the paper I finally stopped my presentation, gently grabbed her hand, and with my other hand, removed my pen from her infant-like grasp.

She seemed startled by my intervention and blurted out, "I thought religious men aren't allowed to touch women!"

I quietly responded, "That's only if the touch is intended to be romantic in nature. I can assure you, after seeing you try to use my pen like a Neanderthal, I couldn't possibly feel less romantic towards you!"

And with that, I put my pen gently back into my shirt pocket and went back to my presentation.

I'm feeling kind of old today.

Posted by David Bogner on November 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack