COLM O'REGAN: Oneup(pen)manship: A good pen is hard to find

CAN I borrow your pen?” asked the man in the bank queue. I tensed visibly. Searching my pockets for another pen, I realised that I had to give him the one I was hiding. My good pen.

He must have sensed my chagrin. “I’ll take good care of it”, he joked. I struggled to smile, convinced he wouldn’t.

He filled out his lodgement slip and handed back the pen. I nearly snatched it.

I know. On the list of things one should be concerned about, ‘your nice pen’ doesn’t even make the squad. It doesn’t even make the league-development panel. But I’m unapologetic.

When you find the right pen, you don’t want to let it go. I know there are those among you who have a pen that you cherish, or mourn a pen that you cherished but SOMEHOW left in the office of a ‘bit of a langer’.

You may even have gone to slightly silly lengths to retrieve that pen.

“Hi ... it’s Colm. Yeah, we met last month ... yeah ... um, I didn’t by any chance leave a pen behind me, did I? ... What? No, it’s not valuable, just a ... pen ... Ok. No sign. Ok ... [hangs up, mutters under breath]. Langer”.

It’s not about the cost of the pen. Often, it’s just a matter of time. Your hand and the pen took a while to warm to each other, but soon the words are flowing.

It’s also about what you’ve written together. For some, it might be the memory of the old PaperMate 1.2 medium ballpoint, whose top you chewed and with which you wrote essays for the Junior Cert about ‘A Time You Had A Decision To Make’. You still see them turn up from time to time, like a relic.

If it was a car, it would be an old, growling, diesel Volkswagen Golf. Who can forget the satisfaction after an exam of the pages of foolscap, each page pleasingly brailled by the writing on the other side, the smudge on the palm (I was left-handed), the pen practically panting with the amount of “in the Merchant of Venice, Shylock is the outsider”-related nonsense it had written? A pen that does not work properly is like an incorrectly tuned radio. You could use it, but gradually it will drive you insane. In fact, if the Americans in Guantanamo Bay ever wanted me to get to admit to anything, all they’d need to do is make me write a shopping list on the back of an envelope one thousand times, with a pen snaffled from the front desk of the Kilhoorohawn House Hotel. Hotel pens are the nadir of shite; made all the worse because they are misleadingly luxurious, presented in the livery of the hotel and nestling on a little notepad.

They seem to invite you to compose a letter to the Duke, urgently requesting an audience with him to discuss the war in Prussia.

Instead, you are left howling as you try to carve out so much as a phone number.

You could order a good pen online, but be careful. If a courier delivers it, they may ask you to electronically sign for it on a handheld machine.

You try to write your name, but, instead, can only produce a scrawl that a three-year-old would leave with a crayon on the new wallpaper.

I had a longer ending for this article, but I wrote it longhand and the pen ran ou

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