On the lookout for pens

By Steve Estes

Strictly Drivel

I have always been one to admit that I am a consummate pen thief.

There is no writing instrument that is safe it it’s within arm’s reach.

I have a collection of pens that would rival a manufacturer’s warehouse.

Knowing all this, I have to ask myself the question…why can I never find a damn pen when I need one?

For instance, last week I was driving to Cudjoe Key. I got a call on the cell phone and it was someone who wanted to give me information about another number I really needed to call.

I keep notebooks in the car. I need them frequently and very seldom do I use one while driving. But I do.

My handwriting is so bad that only I can read it all the time anyway, so I take notes in the car without even looking at the notebook. I scribble what I hear, keeping my eyes on the road, and decipher it later when I need the information.

But this day, it wasn’t the notebook giving me fits. It was the collection of ink pens that usually fills my dash.

There is a small bowl-shaped depression in the middle of my dashboard. It is the perfect size for ink pens, and holds small amounts of change as well.

I reached to the dash for a pen, grabbed one, clicked it open and prepared to write. The pen didn’t work.

I threw the non-working writing utensil onto the floor and grabbed another one while asking the caller to repeat the number. That pen broke in my hand. I threw it on the floor with its empty brother.

There were no others. I knew that couldn’t be right.

At a stop in traffic for a left-hand turn by a large truck, I ran my hand along the back side of the dashboard in the groove between it and windshield. Often times if I apply the brakes a little too hard, the pens will fly out of the depression and come to rest in that groove.

I can usually retrieve the pens by running a finger along the groove and uprooting them by the point where I can grab them.

I found one, and lifted it out. It was empty.

I found another and lifted it out. It had no tip.

I found what had to be the last one and lifted it out. I was in luck. It made marks.

It quit after the third number.

I was at a loss. I was going to have to wait for the number that I needed until I could park somewhere and scrounge through the center console or glove compartment where I knew there would be more pens.

Just as I prepared to hang up, I spotted one of our son Jonathan’s crayons in the cup holder between the seats.

Hoping no one would catch me, I grabbed up the crayon and finished writing the number, then threw the crayon in the floor along with all the dead ink pens.

Pleased at myself for having overcome what could have been a time-wasting interlude, I drove on to my destination, paying no more attention to the notebook. I had what I needed.

I returned to the office, grabbed up the notebook off the seat and took it inside with me so I could use the land line to call the number. I have a headset phone so I can talk and write at the same time. It just makes things easier.

I picked up the phone, flipped open the notebook to the proper page and prepared to dial.

There were only three numbers, hastily scratched in black ink, and an impression of a fourth number where the ink had run dry.

There was nothing else. I never miss the notebook. And a crayon never runs out of ink.

Knowing something weird was happening, I went out to the Jeep to see if I had ripped out the page and forgotten about it.

And I thought I’d take a look at the crayon just in case.

The crayon was white.

Now I really hoped no one had seen me using a white crayon to write on white paper.

The number was useless. I dialed back the person who had given it to me with a fresh ink pen in hand. The voice mail answered.

But I had no intention of giving up. I went back inside, placed another sheet of paper over the crayon impressions and scratched a pencil over the raised indentations that I couldn’t read.

The numbers slowly came up. But they were so tightly spaced, due to the width of a crayon versus a pen, and I wasn’t looking when I wrote, in a very small hand, that I could barely make out the curves and lines that formed the numbers.

After a few minutes of intense scrutiny, I made out nine of the 10 numbers I had written down. Unable to get the tenth, I started dialing all possible combinations.

I got a pizza joint, a hair salon, a ticked off gentleman that I woke up, a police station and a young kid who had no intention of “going to get Mommy” for me until I hit the number I actually needed.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

I’m out this week looking for replacement ink pens. Hide the writing utensils.

You’ve been warned.

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