Is it weird that I’m totally jazzed about an eraser?

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 5, 2014 10:42 PM

I have a pencil that is my version of a blankie. I can’t come up with an idea without it; I can’t even work without it. I don’t always use it but it has to be on the desk next to me. Or on the eat-at bar next to me when I move my laptop out of my office in order to feel like I’m having more of a life. In the morning, when I come into the office, I have a ritual. I open the Mac and hit power. I open the PC and hit power, then type in my user name and password. Then I locate my pencil, which is often on top of the pile of papers and notebooks stacked on the right side of the desk. When my desk is relatively clean, which it is right now, it’s easy to locate. When my desk looks more like a third-world country, I often have to lift and move and peer and scour before I locate it. But I simply cannot start work without it on the desk in front of my Mac.

Yes, I realize this makes me borderline pathological and paranoid and obsessive compulsive. I have a sister who is a therapist and a best friend in the profession as well. They are both simultaneously shaking their heads, rolling their eyes, furrowing their brows with worry and laughing out loud. In no particular order. Ladies, remember that furrowing causes wrinkles. But feel free to have your fun.

My pencil is blue. It is mechanical, taking 0.7 size lead. It was made by Pentel, in Japan, and probably came in a package with at least three other such pencils. I care not a wit about the fate of the others. I have no idea where they journeyed to, or if they still survive somewhere in the house. I suspect they’re in Kevin’s office as they are not in mine. Which isn’t to say that I don’t have a number of other pencils.

The drawer in the credenza part of my desk is home to several old-fashioned #2 wooden pencils, in varying states of sharpness. Somewhere in one of the other drawers is an unopened package. I have several other mechanical pencils as well. There’s a turquoise one from Staples; lead size .05. I have three Bic Pencil #2s, taking 0.7 lead. Their only difference appears to be the color of the clip. I have one that is purple, one that is yellow, one that is black. The body of the pencil is a clear gray. I also have a Pilot Pencil #2, extra fine with a 0.5 lead size. It is the color of a school bus. I have nothing against any of these pencils and have used them on occasion. But they do not retain favorite status. That is reserved for my Pentel.

According to pencyclopedia – and yes, there are evidently many others like me out there, breathing oxygen meant for sane people and panting about the whereabouts and whatfors of their own mechanical pencils – there are no less than 44 separate models of mechanical pencils, in more than 150 variations including length, width, color and lead size. There are pencils for professionals and for amateurs, for office dwellers and even for collectors.

The first pencils people used were actually very much like mechanical pencils. Pieces of graphite were wrapped between some sort of wooden holder so that people’s fingers wouldn’t get messy. The first mechanical-type pencil was found aboard the wreckage of the HMS Pandora that sank in 1791. The first patent for a refillable pencil was issued to Brits Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins in 1822. More modern types sporting thin lead were pioneered in Japan by Tokuji Hayakawa, a metal worker, who made some improvements. Though it wasn’t immediately successful, Mr. Hayakawa did eventually find some success with a little company he started called Sharp.

I don’t know how long I’ve had my precious blue Pentel. I know we’ve been together at least five years and probably longer. The padded, soft rubber grip is worn and spins a bit off center. The eraser was been used so much that it was worn flat. Note the use of the word “was.”

This morning, my husband went out to run some errands, one of which was to stop at Staples in order to print our wine labels, something he was going to do yesterday but never got around to. He came back a short time later and came into my office. He had something small grasped in his closed fist and a big grin on his face. Without a word he leaned over and kissed my cheek while simultaneously depositing a brand new Pentel mechanical pencil eraser on my desk. I burst out laughing and quickly went about removing my flattened eraser worn black with work and replacing it with the spanking white eraser. I giggled and clasped my hands together, a five-year old finally getting her Easy Bake Oven.

Tonight, as I write this, my trusty pencil is in front of the keyboard as always. It has always helped me to think better. Now with its new eraser, it will also help me to delete those thoughts that aren’t really working. That’s always worth celebrating.  

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