Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pen 15 Club

This probably dates me in a way that ought to be embarrassing, but when I was a little kid, the height of scandal and humor was to ask someone if they wanted to be a member of the "Pen 15 Club". It didn't take much imagination, even at six years old, to realize that if you write "Pen 15" really close together, it's quite a dirty word (to a six-year-old, anyway) and therefore it was hilarious to write it on your hand in permament marker. Of course, merely being six years old and having a permanent marker was enough to make you cool.

I have a weakness for good pens, especially rollerball pens with a point of 0.5 mm or less. Although I do a lot of my writing on a keyboard, my (paying) job requires me to keep a lab notebook. And because I remain too poor for an iPad, pen and ink and dead trees will have to do for me. There aren't that many rules for keeping a lab journal, but just about everybody everywhere insists on writing in ink.

In any event, one of the things that has plagued me to distraction ever since I moved here is that it's hard to find a decent gel ink pen anywhere. Why a gel ink pen? Because the ink stays put, come hell or high water--and high water is a very real possibility in a lab.

Although corporations have access to the likes of Staples, the little people are reliant on the office supply sections of department stores like the V&D or the HEMA. For the most part, their selections are pretty good, although the Dutch preference for a two- or 23-ring binder continues to flummox me. Cheap ballpoints are sold by the box, while sligtly-nicer-but-still-cheap gel pens are sold individually.

My main issue with the pens available in this country, though, is not that they are expensive, or even their relative unavailability. As a non-hooking lefty, any pen I use will stuck when I push the point along, but the problem seems worse here than it did in the States. I hate writing with a ballpoint--the ink never flows nicely out of those, even for righties. Furthermore, the ink that comes from a fat point (0.7 mm) never dries before my hand comes along and smears it. And wouldn't you know--gel ink pens are only sold with 0.7 mm points.

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