If you are in business, a pen is an important and necessary tool that helps you do your work. Yet, I’m always amazed at how many times people show up to meetings, or anywhere really, without one. Think about how often you are asked to sign something…a contract, a letter, a birthday card for a co-worker you barely know or an autograph when you’re mistaken for someone famous.
Pens are responsible for closing deals, getting loans or marrying someone. Consider this: former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson used more than 75 pens to sign the Civil Rights Act in 1964. These pens carried so much historic value that he gave them away as gifts to supporters of the bill. People like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. got a pen. What do you think they did when someone tried to borrow theirs?
A few months ago, I was in the middle of a news interview in the field, deeply focused, engaged in the conversation and taking notes on a notepad. A person with a doctorate degree and no pen swooped in, grabbed the Bic out of my hand and ran off saying, “I just need to borrow it for a second.”
Imagine saying to an auto mechanic while he is under a car, “Hey buddy, I just need to borrow your jack for a second,” and then proceeding to take it.
This is not cool, and not just because somebody else is unprepared, which causes you to be unprepared. People do weird things with pens. They chew on them, suck on them, scratch their scalps with them, draw diagrams in the dirt with them and pick gravel out of the soles of their shoes with them.
Nicole Richie, Lionel’s daughter, was recently in the news for her pre-flight ritual on board an airplane. Nicole puts on her rubber gloves and then sanitizes her space with Clorox wipes. It makes me wonder if she just saw the Mummies of the World exhibit at the Arizona Science Museum, too!
At the museum, there is a whole room dedicated to a mummified family whose members all had tuberculosis. A mural of the small Hungarian church where their well-preserved bodies had been found was on the wall near their skeletal remains. And they weren’t the only ones expected to spend eternity in the secret room of the dead. A bunch of their neighbors were in there, too. More than 260 of them! In fact, an astounding 60 percent of the town was wiped out by tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is an often-fatal disease caused by some nasty bacteria that usually go after the lungs and then just about every other organ. Medics say you cannot get it by sharing other people’s drinks or pens because it is spread through the air when someone sings, coughs or speaks. But what about when somebody breathes his deadly breath into your personal space while going after your pen? You can be sure, if I were living in Hungary when everyone was dying, I would not be lending out my pen. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. probably wouldn’t either.
Construction workers complain that their tools –pliers, utility knives, levelers – disappear when somebody “borrows” them. Years ago, I was admiring a pink-handled hammer at Home Depot. The burly sales associate in the hardware department said, “You know what we call that? Theft-proof!”
That made good sense to me, so I bought it – and he was right. No one has ever walked off with my hammer.
Unfortunately, I have yet to find a pen that nobody wants. When I do, it will be stored in a very safe place, next to the pink hammer, the flowered screwdriver and away from mummies with tuberculosis. I suggest you do the same. QCBN
By Bonnie Stevens
Bonnie Stevens is a public relations consultant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.