I have a trivia question for you. If you have anything important to do in the next three minutes, you can stop reading now.
Here is the question: What manufactured product is 90% junk and 10% quality?
My answer is ballpoint pens. I happen to be writing now with one of the 10% that is quality. I keep a supply at home.
I bought gas this morning at a convenience store that provided a ball point pen for my use that was pure junk. You could probably buy a dozen of that quality for 39 cents. But, to make sure I wouldn’t steal it, they had a plastic flower taped to its handle. Other places with pens of that quality tape a plastic fork or spoon to the handle. But it works -– I’ve never stolen a junk ballpoint pen with a plastic flower, fork or spoon taped to the handle.
But you don’t have to be in a convenience store or a hamburger joint to find a junk ballpoint pen provided for your convenience. Sometimes even banks have them. But their's are higher quality: 79 cents a dozen. But they don’t tape plastic flowers or forks to prevent bank robberies because they secure them with chains and have surveillance cameras and alarm systems.
Believe me, I would never steal a junk ballpoint pen from a bank. But if, by mistake, I’m ever accused of stealing one, I’ll plead not guilty and submit a copy of this article in my defense.
I believe junk ballpoint pens have contributed to the decline of handwriting to the point that cursive penmanship is disappearing. Mine is declining rapidly, but I refuse to use junk ballpoint pens, and I don’t intend to discuss my other reasons.
I observed the absolutely worst use in the entire world for a junk ballpoint pen on a rapid rail to Minneapolis last month. You may have seen those people who have holes cut or drilled into their ear lobes to insert decorative coins or jewelry. This self-mutilation may result in a hole as large as an inch in diameter. Well, a rail passenger on that train had a hole the size of a junk ballpoint pen. And in the hole, he had a black, ugly, 5-or 6-inch junk ballpoint pen with a shirt clip. I wanted to get off the train and walk the rest of the way, but the train was moving too fast and I had a deadline to catch.
What brings this all to mind at this time is that on past weekend, all three of our adult children were home at the same time for a family celebration (three August anniversaries and three birthdays) and I was signing a check for my share of the expense. I needed a pen and, not having one of my own, one of my children, a child I love, handed me a junk ballpoint pen and said, “use this.” I looked at it with contempt and slammed it to the floor.
“This is junk,” I said.
“But it works, use it.”
Reluctantly, I was forced to sign my name with that piece of junk. But the unfortunate result of my demonstration was that all three of my kids, and I love each one, was to call me a “pen snob,” and the accusation was seconded by Eartha –- on our anniversary. I was humiliated in the presence of my wife, children, two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law and a handful of grandchildren. What a family celebration. Husbands, dads and grandpas have feelings too you know.
But if the label “pen snob” marks me as one who appreciates quality, I wear the label with pride.
You just wasted the three minutes I warned you about in the first paragraph. But I told you this was trivia.