I have a pen-tidy on my desk in the office, which for some years has contained seven items: my favourite work-pen, a backup favourite pen that I got from some random training course, two blue pens and one red pen that I acquired when I left my first job, and two pencils (broken). This was of course the ideal steady state for the universe, marred only slightly by the fact that I don't actually like my backup favourite pen, which has the single virtue of actually working, but isn't actually very comfortable to use.
Alas, about a week before Christmas I broke my favourite work-pen. Something to do with using it to pierce the tape on a package from Amazon, which isn't exactly the intended use for a pen. Silly me. It was as a consequence of this breakage that I discovered an horrific truth: somewhere in the thirteen years since I left my first job, the three pens I acquired there had dried up and were no longer usable!
Luckily, the torment that resulted from this was short-lived, as for Christmas I received three new pens: one red, one blue, and one black, thus covering all possibly pen-related needs. Huzzah! (I should perhaps note that these were not my main gift.)
And so I was able to restore my pen-tidy to a new and exciting steady state: it now contains six items, being my backup favourite pen the I got from some random training course, two pencils (broken), and a new and shiny pen of each of the three allowed colours. Huzzah!
(Some people may argue that green pens are also acceptable. The proof that this is a silly notion is left as an exercise for the reader, and will therefore not be addressed further here.)
The pen-tidy crisis averted, the world returned to spinning on its axis, most people blissfully unaware of the horror that had so nearly unfolded.
Until, that is, a card was passed around the office, inviting the addition of an inspirational message and a signature. Aha! A chance to use one of the new and exciting pens, and in an approved colour also! And so I picked up my new and shiny blue pen and proceeded to write, " ".
To my great horror, the new and exciting pen wrote nothing! Woe and calamity!
So I tried the usual remedy of warming the pen between my hands, but to no avail. I even tested it on the emergency Post-it note, and it in fact worked. But on the card... nothing. Bizarre. At this point, driven the greatest extremity, I switched to my shiny new black pen instead, and proceeded to write, " ".
So I tried the usual remedy of warming the pen between my hands, but to no avail. I even tested it on the emergency Post-it note, and it in fact worked. But on the card... nothing. Truly bizarre.
At this point, I found myself stuck. Obviously, the red pen could not be used, as this is intended for correction and denunciation only - it would render my message not so much inspirational as terrifying. (Of course, if I'd had a green pen... but that's just crazy talk.)
Fortunately, the story has a suitably anti-climactic ending, as the black pen elected to work after a while. Apparently, it was just teasing me. So I wrote a message of suitable profundity and wit on the card ("Good luck"), and returned the pens to the pen-tidy. Once again, all was well with the universe.
But, as I'm sure you understand, I remain traumatised by this most harrowing of experiences. For, truly, what can be worse than the discovery that not one but two new pens are selectively not working?
#1: "Pathfinder: A Song of Silver", by James Jacobs
#2: "Fifth Edition Foes", by Necromancer Games