The Artifact?

Someday, a long time from now, an archaeologist is going to open up a dig and find an ink pen. It won’t work, of course. Unless it’s being depicted in a bad science fiction film. In that case it will be a magic pen complete with … well … let’s not give away my next story, all right?

But seriously, I think pens have completely lost their mojo.

I have a pile of them on the stand next to my spot on our couch. Ball points and gel pens, and yes even a mechanical pencil or two. I have a similar gathering on my desk here in the basement. And a third collection just like it at work. I have pens in secret compartments of my computer bag, and a couple pens on my dresser that I usually carry with me all day, attached to a shirt pocket or to the collar of a polo shirt.

The thing is, though, I rarely use a pen any more. It’s nearly a relic of the past, isn’t it? Oh, sure, I use one most nights when Lisa and I go out to eat and I need to sign the ticket. Really, though I don’t need to–they’ll run the numbers anyway. I also still carry around with me a notebook everywhere I go, and I do take notes. But where, in the old days, I would take four, five, or six pages of notes in an average day, now I’m down to a few scratchy lines. And my hand writing. Sheesh. It’s like serious pain to go back and figure out what I said. There was a time in my life that I had this huge writer’s callus on my right middle finger from all the writing I did with those pens and pencils. Now, not so much.

I do see others carrying notepads around. So don’t get me wrong … I know the pen is not completely dead, yet. But let’s face it, if you have twenty pens in your house today I bet most of you won’t get round to using more than a couple before the ink runs dry.

The problem here, for me anyway, is that hand-written notes do not transition well to email, and pretty much everything at work is email or instant messaging anymore. Heck, even the use of Word is slowly fading for general use. Excel may still be in use during this archaeologist’s time, but Word will probably be gone.


In my family, there was a time when the acquisition of a new pen or mechanical pencil was a thing of wonder. My dad was a professor, and Lisa and I were both techy/math/science people. We liked pencils and pens (and HP RPN calculators, but that is something for another post). I would hold one in my hand and feel its smoothness, putting the tip to a page and letting it run was a special feeling. A gliding pen was a thing of beauty. It still is, of course. But it’s all just different. I was thinking I should unclutter my life of these stock-piles of pens the other day, but the idea bothered me in some way. Perhaps that bothered sense is the root of a hoarder, but there’s something about a pen that is full of hope. Who knows what I could do with that pen? What words it could write? What images I might doodle? Its cartridge is full. What a life it could live if given a chance, what stories it could tell.

Who knows?

I can’t think of anything else that has that same feeling. When I think of that feeling I think of my Dad, actually. So I think, once the pen and pencil is gone for good (is that actually possible?), will that feeling be lost with them?

Yeah, perhaps I should just go back to writing this morning, eh?

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