While the plumber waited for his check, I began the long and laborious search for a pen.
It should not have been a problem because I have at least a million of them.
I have three large coffee mugs on my desk and each one sprouts a wild bloom of pens. My junk drawer is layered with writing implements and in the living room, pens lay scattered like twigs across the end tables.
Yet – not one works.
Every time I reach for a pen, I go through the same ritual of scratching through half an inch of notepaper in the vain attempt to find one that is willing to leave a mark.
I am not sure why I bother – because neither I nor anyone else can read my handwriting. It is horrible.
Still, people demand that I use pen and paper.
My wife insists that 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 mentioned that you don’t 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. In the hall after the meeting, 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 was making about our strategies.”
I furrowed my brow and studied the first page – then flipping to the next, I ran my finger along the margin. “He said we must realign our strategies with our core competencies,” I told her.
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?”
“I’ll make a note of it,” I said.
When I told my boss about this, he demoted me from System Architect to Software Engineer to ensure that I never attended another management meeting. When I told my colleagues about this, they too managed to get themselves demoted.
Our productivity exploded.
Everyone was pleased.
Everyone that is, except our director who lamented the lack of input from the architects. 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.