Pen fetish: To a reporter, it’s a way of life

By John Toth
Bulletin Publisher

You know what they used to say in the old-fashioned newsrooms: Don’t loan anyone your pen. You will never get it back.

Pens in the old newsroom were valuable. You could leave a $20 bill lying around on your desk, and it would stay there as long as you want. But leave a pen unguarded, and it would disappear in seconds.

That’s an old newsroom joke with some truth to it. The reality is that if I would have put any amount of money on my desk back in those days, it would have probably disappeared along with the pen, since we were paid next to nothing.

Even though I have not worked in a newsroom for a while, this need to guard my pens has stayed with me. There is no worse feeling than going to a crime scene and realizing that I do not have a pen.

I could borrow one from the cops, but that wouldn’t look professional. Good thing I don’t do that type of reporting anymore. It was fun while it lasted, but we all have to move on. I’m a columnist now, as well as some other things, depending on whom you talk to.

I wish that back in those days I would have been able to access websites like eBay to get a good deal on pens. The problem with doing that was that there was no eBay, or the Internet.

Yes, young readers, there was a time when we didn’t have stuff like that, it’s just hard to remember. We’re creatures of habit, and eBay is habitual, as is the Internet. Those who disagree with me, get off Facebook and pay attention.

Here is how I solved my pen problems. I searched eBay for a good deal, and found someone selling misprinted personalized pens made for companies and businesses.

This individual went around collecting all these defectively printed pens, and put them on eBay to see if they would sell.

Where was this guy when I worked in a newsroom?

He was selling 5 lbs. of pens for $17.99, including shipping, and described exactly how he picks the pens he sends. Just in case there are some defective ones in the bunch, he takes a handful on top of all that, and throws it in.

I thought that was very gentlemanly of him. He had me convinced.

I ordered a box, and it arrived in less than a week. There were 500 pens in that box, all pretty decent looking. Not too many dogs in the bunch. A writer’s dream. I was in heaven. Yes, they have writing on them, but who cares? These are great pens. I especially like the misprints intended for a funeral parlor.

Here is where I made my mistake. I started bragging about it, and everyone wanted some. So, I gave a handful to my mechanic, to my friend Brad, who manages a restaurant, and soon I realized that I needed more pens. I only had about 300 left.

I didn’t want to run out, so I ordered two more boxes.

I now have more than 1,000 pens ready to be used. It’s a great feeling.

If I used each of these pens until it ran out of ink, I would have enough pens to last for a million years (I used journalism math to arrive at this conclusion).

Guess what everyone is going to get for Christmas this year?

Or, maybe not. I don’t want to start running out again.