How Not to Lose Pens   16 comments

Pocket Full of 51s I’ve noted, I’m a fountain pen collector. However, I like to think of my collection as a working collection. I like to make sure all my pens are in a working state, and most of them do get used. Some pieces, for functional reasons, rarely leave the house. However, I often have a Pen that is nice, very old, or both with me.

One question I am frequently asked is, am I afraid I’ll lose them. It is a concern, but I would think it would be sadder for these pens not to be used. However, I do try to take precautions. It boils down to a few simple rules:

  1. Consider Where I’m Going I think about where I’m going and what I’m doing when picking out a pen. I wouldn’t take a super-nice pen in a place where I’m doing hurried scrawls. I may not bring a pen at all.
  2. Be Aware of the Pens I Have With Me Seems simple, but if you are not sure what you need to keep track of, you can’t keep track of it.
  3. The Pen Goes One of Three Places: My Hand, My Pocket, or Its Box at Home These are my three places; you may have different ones, or a different count. The key point is that pens go in specific spots, rather than random locations. The key thing is a “specific location.” For me, “my desk,” is not specific enough–I want it to go to a consistent spot. If I’m in the habit of randomly leaving my pen on my notebook when not using it, I will do so not only at my desk, but in conference rooms. If I leave a place even for a minute, the pen goes in my pocket.
  4. Don’t Loan Out Pens I don’t let others borrow my pens. This can range from not letting them use it for a meeting I’m not in (for friends), to simply not loaning them at all (strangers).
  5. Have Pens for Others Available I’m the first to confess that “don’t loan pens” is, in practice, hard in the face of social graces. If nothing else, it’s hard to ask someone to sign something and not have a pen ready. And if the signer needs to sign something for someone else… I have a few ballpoints I’m willing to loan; one is usually with me. I also keep a freebie pen in my bag for situations where I feel I need to have one.
  6. People Know Nice Pens Belong to Someone The pens that come out of the supply cabinet are viewed as disposable as the Kleenex and Post-Its next to them. A “communal property” mentality evolves around them. A nicer pen, one that clearly didn’t come from the supply cabinet or a hotel, is more likely to be noticed as such, and people will try to get it to its owner.

I’ve never lost a pen in over twenty years following these rules. They also seem to extend to other things not to lose.

Does anyone else have advice for not losing pens (or similar things)?

Recently, there was a call for new writers on a pen blog I follow. They filled the spot, but I was still excited. So, I’ve decided to try to make biweekly pen posts like this. We’ll see how that goes.

Posted 2010-09-14 by Mr. Guilt in Fountain Pens

16 responses to “How Not to Lose Pens

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  1. Here’s Kids in the Hall solution to this problem.

  2. Losing pens is something I used to be incredibly good at. If you can be good at losing something, anyway. I have a different approach to not losing pens – only own one. I wrote about it last year, in fact. If you only have one, and it cost you a lot of money, you’re very likely to keep a close eye on it.

    • As a collector, I’m not sure why, exactly, one would want only one pen. :)

      That said, I think the philosophy described is in line with what my point (especially in points #1 and #2): only take what you need, so you can keep better track of it.

  3. …I would think it would be sadder for these pens not to be used.

    I like that way of thinking. I feel the same way about most inanimate objects designed for a use. I like to see them doing what they were made to do, not sitting behind glass in a display case somewhere.

    On a slightly related note, I lost my trusty red ink pen the last time I was in Seattle. Although it’s only a 50 cent pen, the rest of my time in town was spent trying to find an identical replacement. I found some substitutes, but they just didn’t cut it. My writing was off for the rest of the trip.

    • When you get used to a particular pen, it can be hard to revert to something else. Probably downright annoying in Seattle to be without it.

  4. Interesting approach, especially around the loaner pens – I’ll have to use that. I use Uni-Ball Vision Elite pens – not expensive, but also not the world’s cheapest. Mine is always in my hand, or my right-front pocket, and I’m one of the few people that I know who will actually use a pen until it runs completely out of ink, then go get another one out of the drawer.

  5. Well, hello there, Mr. Guilt. I’m glad to get your new bog address, which I’ll add to my blogroll, also on WordPress. My new URL is below.

    A pen blog? Really? Is there a URL? I’ve never heard of such a thing and wondered what anybody would write there!

    Boston Margy

    Boston Margy
  6. That is a wonderful list of how you keep track of your pens. What do you say to someone that asks to borrow a pen? I never know how to politely handle that sort of situation. I really would like to know.

    The thing we lose the most are sunglasses and umbrellas. The sunglasses seem to get put down and left either at someones house, in the car, someone else’s car…etc. The umbrellas tend to be forgotten when the rain ends while I am on an outing. One thing I have learned over the years. I do not pay much for sunglasses or umbrellas!

    Freedom Smith
    • It depends on who asks, and the situation. If I’m asking someone I know to sign a document, I will hand them a pen (I’ve had one or two who were intrigued by my fountain pens, so I made a point of giving them whatever I happened to have with me). If they are in the same meeting I’m in and need to take notes, I’ll let them borrow a ball pen (usually, I have a ballpoint or roller ball as well as a fountain pen with me, in part for this scenario).

      However, I generally don’t let anyone but my closest friends take my pens with them out of my sight. This is where having a few ballpoints from the supply cabinet comes into play. Almost always, they just want something they can write with. If I pluck a pen out of a cup on my desk, they don’t care.

      (On one occasion, my boss at the time was heading in to a client meeting, and wanted to look a bit nicer. I let him take in a nice ballpoint I had with me. Given our interactions, I knew I would get it back.)

      I had a guy on the street ask me at the bus stop. I said I didn’t have any to lend. He gestured to my pocket, and I said I don’t loan those. He walked away annoyed. I do try to be nice to strangers, but I wouldn’t let some random guy who asked walk off with any other property of mine.

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