While the plumber waited for his check, I searched for a pen. It shouldn’t have been a problem because I had a million of them.
The coffee mug on my desk sprouts a wild bloom of pens. Our junk drawer contains layers of writing implements and the end tables in our living room groan under the weight of them.
Yet – not one works.
Every time I reach for a pen, I find myself scratching through half an inch of paper in the vain attempt to locate one willing to leave a mark.
But why bother? Because no one can read my handwriting. It is horrible. Still, people demand I use pen and paper.
My wife insists I make a list before going to the grocery store.
“Write it down or you will forget,” she says.
“But I can’t read my handwriting,” I tell her.
She brushes me off. “It makes no difference,” she says, “if you write down ten items, at least you’ll come back with ten.”
It is hard to argue with that logic.
Yet under that same theory, it really does not matter if the pen works only sporadically. Ten lines of partial scribble are still ten lines.
My boss was much the same way.
“Uh, Greg,” he once told me, “the director complained that you never take notes during her meetings. It is very upsetting.”
“So what do you want me to do?” I asked.
“Don’t upset her.”
So I brought a pen and a notepad to our next meeting and dutifully scribbled for three hours. The director was impressed. Afterwards in the hall, she asked to see my notes.
I showed them to her.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, “shorthand.”
I nodded in agreement.
Then she looked concerned. “I was so busy taking notes,” she confessed, “that I entirely missed the point the agency head made about our strategies.”
I furrowed my brow and studied the first page – then flipping to the next, ran my finger along the margin. “He said we must realign our strategies with our core competencies.”
It sounded like something he would say.
“Thank you,” she said, recording the point in her day-planner. “By the way,” she added, “would you like to take the minutes of our next meeting?”
“Sure,” I said, “I’ll make a note of it.”
When I told my boss about this, he demoted me to ensure that I never attended another management meeting. When my colleagues heard about this, they too managed to get themselves demoted.
Our productivity exploded.
Everyone was pleased.
Everyone that is, except the director who lamented our lack of input. When she resolved to do something about it, I retired and my stream of office supplies dried up.
Now after years of retirement, not one of my pens work. When I explained this to the plumber, he looked at me like I was an idiot.
“I take VISA,” he said, clipping a card reader onto his smart phone.