Office Supplies And Me: A Love Story

Published in The Ferndale Record, January 12, 2011

I don’t know exactly how it started, but I suspect it was because of my mother.

She wrote constantly—postcards, single-spaced multi-page missives on pure white, stock bond paper churning out of her old Remington typewriter, sometimes short, hand written notes, and daily dispatches in her diary. She was either at a keyboard or had a pen in her hand, and I wanted to do that, too.

But I coveted her stash of pens and pencils, the caddy on her desk with silver paperclips, and even one compartment filled with quarters—but that’s another column.

My pen snobbery began in high school when almost everyone else used BICs. I preferred the Lindy Stick Pen, dark blue, capped. Always a capped pen—no click varieties, thank you very much. Virtually everything I wrote in ink was with a Lindy. It was something about the feel, the height, and the smooth delivery of ballpoint to paper. Lindy had it all—back then.

My current long time favorite is the Queen Mother of pens: the Pentel R.S.V.P., medium point, either blue or black. They are, in heft, durability and reliability, unrivaled.

Last week I visited Griggs in downtown Bellingham for the first time in a couple of decades. It’s smaller now, not the main attraction on Holly Street it used to be, but the flavor of all things office related is still there.

I went in to buy a legal form, but stayed for everything else. Even the tax forms stacked neatly on an end cap appealed to me. The shelves of pens stopped me dead.

There they were—Pilot, Pentel, Paper Mate, Sharpie, BIC, gel pens, sparkly pens, calligraphy pens, in every color imaginable and then some. I was smitten, but chose only three favorites, got what I went for, and left the store. Good thing I had somewhere else to be or I might still be there.

Colored paper clips and push pins, file folders in neon hues, reams of lined notebook paper, walls of three-ring binders, cloth, plastic, or leather covered notebooks and journals, planners, address books, rainbow pads of construction paper, plastic report covers, staplers, spiral notebooks, composition books, yellow number two pencils, shiny pencils with superheroes, hearts, or stripes, Post-it notes in assorted sizes and colors, index cards, poster paper, rubber cement—all of them grouped together in one aisle or one store makes me a little heady.

Like when you’re craving carbohydrates and you walk into a bakery, or how The Bachelorette must feel when she first sees all of her hunky contestants—so many choices, so much territory to cover, so little time.

One of my favorite parts of managing an office workplace was opening the boxes that arrived from Staples or Office Max. Even though it wasn’t mine and I hadn’t paid for it, I got the first glimpse, the first whiff, the first chance to handle and adore the pencil sharpener, the boxes of pens, the twelve-count stacks of yellow legal pads packaged in plastic. And someone was paying me to do it.

For some, a new year means getting things organized—something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. This gives me a valid excuse to dream about and maybe even buy office supplies.

And yes, there will be fondling and sighing involved.

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