Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Long Live the Pen


I was a child of the 80’s, and my career aspirations amounted to having my own desk in an office somewhere. What I was to be doing at that desk, I didn’t know (and I didn’t care). As long as I had shoulder-pads, a can of Aqua Net® hairspray in my drawer, and an artistically arranged cup of pens at my desk, I would be complete.

The threatened existence of pens was far from my mind.

Grade 8 typing class had me gnawing on my Jelly bracelets in agitation. The nerve-grating repetition drove me crazy. By grade 9, we put our record-breaking typing speed to the test on computers with 5” floppy disks, and for a moment, WANG enriched our lives. With all the high-tech, futuristic promises flooding the airwaves, would pens become extinct?

During all this, the 80’s boasted to be the era of all eras, and pens fought for power. Erasable ink landed in our hands, its fame riding on the coattails of pencil erasers. The pen had won the battle…for the time being. Liquid Paper® further enhanced their mortality.

In the early 90’s, I entered the office workforce – I was 19. I was THRILLED that little ole’ up-and-coming-office-worker-me had my OWN typewriter at my desk – an IBM Selectric. And beside it, of course, was my cup of pens.

I thought I was somethin’ else.

I also had – oooh, get ready – a (massive) computer, or terminal, as it was called. As a data-entry-friendly glorified typewriter, the concept of talking to each other via these boxes was still in its infancy, and you were ultra-cool if you had access to such a commodity.

And to think I took shorthand in high-school only a few years before.

19 years later, I have two kids who use pens to kill ants, and, with failed attempts, each other (pens make great darts).

I’m still an office-worker and proud of it - and my pens.

My kids are rolling their way through school, and I wonder if handwriting is becoming a lost art. By grade 4, various homework and projects must be typed and printed from computers. This leaves me typing my kid’s homework, simultaneously stirring the Mac ‘n Cheese. Watching the poor kid struggle for half an hour, only to type three short sentences, is beyond torturous. Computer classes start in kindergarten, but no typing classes. A tear plops on my keyboard as I realize they won’t inherit my shorthand textbooks.

When I find an exploded pen at the bottom of a back-pack, I cherish the moment. They’re still around, and they’re not going anywhere – the pens, I mean.

In this paperless world where we print everything for fear of losing something in a ‘crash,’ as long as there is paper, there are pens.

Pens keep upping the ante in their campaign with stealth marketing, ergonomic attributes, and earth-friendly plastics and inks. Even though they are readily tossed in the trash when they ‘die,’ they continue to persevere through generations of mouths, fostering deep thoughts. They substitute as a screwdriver, or a hair-do holder; they morph themselves to indispensability.

In same amount of time it takes to open a laptop, Blackberry or i-phone (or any other gizmo-trend of the day), fire it up, find the right document or ‘app’ to thumb-type a note, a pen could have already scribbled thoughts on a receipt. But I worry the pens are quivering in fear as more and more thumb-friendly, note-taking gadgets are created. Have no fear, my trusty little Bic® - the banks love you, and I love you.

Yes, you laugh at me as you read this on a computer, laptop or Blackberry. You think that I, too, have succumbed to a pen-resistant world – but not completely. As a writer, I always have a pen around. Much of what you are reading was scribbled on bits of paper, the ideas littering my desk as I try to piece them together into something sensible. Beside my keyboard is an ever-present pen and paper to catch miscellaneous ideas.

My desk at work has changed, but not much. Pictures of Rick Springfield have been replaced by pictures of my kids – mostly. Aqua Net has been replaced by TRESemm√©® hairspray. Shoulder-pads decompose in land-fills, and I search eBay for an ‘old’ typewriter to add to my collectibles. My flat screen monitor is thin enough to fit in my backpack. But my cup of pens stands strong.

In this questionable, ever-changing world, this I know for sure: pens are here to stay. As I jaunt down the street humming Rick Springfield songs, I want to kiss the (hunky) businessman who, as he fumbles with his Blackberry, stops to ask me for a pen. I tell him to keep it, bat an eyelash or two, and silently thank him for saving another pen’s life.

Another one lives on.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Here's to a Bug in Your Eye


I have a bug’s leg in my eye.

Backstory:

At around 5 a.m., I go for walks around a nature sanctuary by my house.

Yes, at 5 a.m.

Everyone is still wrapped in jammies and blankets, safe in their bug-free zone. Even the ducks, worms, and mice have smarts enough to stay in bed.

But almost every morning, I have breakfast – a protein-filled breakfast – during my walk.

Usually, a bug or two.

I don’t plan this. This is not something that I stumble blindly out of bed, putting on clothes backwards and inside out, thinking ‘YAY! I get to eat bugs today!’

Survivorman (survival reality TV show), or any of those other guys who risk malaria, scurvy or typhoid fever for the sake of a few TV ratings would be proud of me, I guess.

I am sure they are great guys, and although I have no doubt I will one day have a use for knowing how to make life-saving tea out of scorpion pee, they are not who I aspire to be.

And you have to wonder why no women host these kinds of shows.....

Men are from Mars, and all that, I guess....

But I digress.

Back to my breakfast.

A bug flies in my mouth, and in a fit of gagging, coughing, and frantically wiping my palms (unattractively) over my extended tongue like a cat (although not as gracefully), I try spitting as elegantly as a lady can at 5 a.m., and nothing works.

And down the hatch it goes. In one gag-filled gulp.

Some might say ‘Keep your mouth shut!’ Well, that’s just silly. When I am in power-walking mode, my arms are pumping, the pony-tail is swinging, chin is up, chest is out, shoulders are back, and all the while I am elegantly puffing in-through-the-nose-out-through-the-mouth.

But sometimes when I get REALLY into it, I confuse the in-nose/out-mouth bit, and then it’s breakfast time for me.

After I have calmed down from the whole fiasco, face still wet from gag-induced tears, I carry on, enjoying all the wonders of nature.

To the present:

I have just finished my daily breakfast, and am appreciating the natural wonders around me, when I come to a brake-slamming halt. I almost trip on my perfectly tied shoelaces, and curse all of Mother Nature’s creatures from here to Antarctica.

The cousin of who I just ate has now slammed himself (it IS obviously a boy) RIGHT into my eye in a fit of Kamikaze rebellion.

I dance around (which cannot be good for digestion), my pony tail bouncing as I rub and whack my eye. I can’t get him out. I have to get home to a mirror and pull my lower lid down to my chin for the bug extraction.

Unless I happen upon a parked car on the way home and borrow their side mirror. But I dare not for fear of the fuzz showing up, claiming an anonymous call about a potential car thief.

Ya right – LOOK AT ME! My eyes are swollen, my clothes are on inside out/backwards. I have just eaten a bug, there is spit all over my face, and my hat is askew from my frantic face-whacking. Do I LOOK like a car thief? And aren’t people supposed to be in bed at this hour?

Perhaps wearing head-to-toe Gucci for my walks will make me look less threatening.

Anyways.....I finally arrive home, race to the washroom, and yank down my eye lid. AHA! There you are, you sicko! I stick my finger in, and extract. Gotcha!

I blink and blink. And blink. And blink some more.

There’s still something in there.

Back down the eyelid gets yanked – and there it is.

A leg.

I try everything – a finger, a Q-tip, toilet paper twisted to such a sharp point it’s no wonder I don’t poke my eye out.

And I can’t get it. I rinse with water, I rub furiously, but it’s totally embedded.
One. Solitary. Leg.
Time is ticking, and I have to get to work - with a bug-leg in my eye.

I guess I should be proud, knowing I won’t let a leg in my eye stop me from going to work. I can smugly walk around work with this ‘secret’ – they don’t know how tough I really am! If I tell everyone, they will surely give me looks of admiration, whispering to each other ‘There she is, SurvivorWOMAN!’

Not likely.

So I sit at my desk, the leg still in my eye, and raise my tea in toast to you for reading this far - ‘Here’s to a bug in your eye!’

(author’s note: there is no real message here – nothing for you to learn – except maybe to wear a face-shield when walking with Mother Nature)