my manager’s comfort pen

The people at Pilot Pens were kind enough to send me (i.e. Thousand Movie Project) a care package with like fifty of my favorite pens inside, something crazy, and while writing the last 120-odd pages of Various Positions last year, along with a buncha blog posts and journal entries and the entirety of My Three Repugnant Children, I’ve gone through most of them, almost a pen a week, so that now, nearing the bottom of that supply, I’ve resorted to the fairer, livelier, more distracting colors I’d left for last.

            The glittering pink.

            The metallic purple.

            The “fun,” bottom row of the G2 variety pack.

            And I take these goblins around with me everywhere cuz I’ve always got a backpack fulla work to do, but I’ve realized that they come in handy at the pizza place, too, since pens are a precious commodity at any restaurant and, given the blazing flamboyance of my current supply, none of my colleagues can steal one for personal use and then claim to’ve brought it from home.

            Also, my magenta scribbler makes for a conversation piece with customers—customers who will then use it to scribble a tip on the receipt I’m handing them.

            I lost a pen at the restaurant the other day, a kind of deep fair shade of blue, and I figured a customer had walked off with it but then at work one morning I saw my manager filling out paperwork with the eccentric pen in question.

            I guess it just floated around the restaurant and ended up in his pocket.

            That was a while ago.

            But I noticed yesterday that he’s been carrying it around for a couple weeks. Signing little things here and there.

I notice, too, that the ink level isn’t really going down.

            So he clearly isn’t using it very much…

and yet he’s clinging to it.

            Two preciously elusive items in a restaurant are pens, as I said, and small cups—especially if you work at a bar with shot glasses, a shot glass being a small pretty thing transmitting a liquid that inclines people toward clumsiness and theft. Next time you find yourself in idle conversation with a bartender, ask her how often the restaurant has to buy a new set of shot glasses.

            My point, though, is that pens tend to vanish once they enter a restaurant. They’re small and passingly useful and easy to overlook or forget—never around when you need them.

Often as not, if you see someone rummaging through their purse, you’d be right on the mark to just wordlessly hand them a pen.

            That my manager, through a storm of distractions over the past two weeks, has somehow clung to this pen is remarkable. After setting it down on a table, assessing the myriad crises to which management is heir, he somehow remembers to pick it up and put it in his pocket again. Normally, if there’s ever a distinguishable pen floating around the restaurant during a shift, I never see it again after that shift. Either it falls into some endless crevice behind a register or someone takes it.

            But this one endures.

            Why?

            My guess is that he finds the color soothing. Lord knows his job is stressful enough.

The pen I’m talking about is the center color from the middle row.

One of the things I most admire about my manager is his ability to stay relatively calm and forgiving through even the most chaotic nights—and frankly I’m in fairly constant awe of restaurant managers. They’re often duplicitous and libidinous and I remember writing somewhere, maybe on this blog, that I suspect there’s hardly a family restaurant in America where the male managers haven’t leveraged their authority for sex with an employee. And I stand by that. Nonetheless, those who do their jobs well and with integrity have to carry a whole buncha shit in their head, not just the finances of the restaurant and the hazards of a particular wonky toilet in the women’s room and the drinking habits of a troublesome regular and the birthday of an employee—they also have to know where the ketchup is. They have to know how to make every dish on the menu from scratch in case the kitchen is short-staffed. They have to be able questions about allergies. They have to have an explanation for every shortcoming and change in the restaurant. An answer for every question. Often, if they work for a larger company, they’ve gotta be able to hop from one location to the next and run that restaurant seamlessly as well.

            Tricky job, and there’s a million people doing it, the most pedestrian-looking folks on earth, overworked in body and mind and yet somehow managing to conjure the necessary patience to smile and plead forgiveness of the customer who feels his meatball is overcooked.

            Anyway. Maybe this luminous blue pen is part of what helps my manager to keep Zen and, if so, I’ll buy him another..

            Yes I suppose the pen is his totem, made so by merit of its color—a shade I consider one of the least desirable in my 20-odd pack of G2 gel pens with a .07 mm point (sounds like a heavy-handed product placement, I know, but it’s not; I’m just a nerd; get on my level)—

                        —(matter of fact: you might actually already be on my level, nerdwise, and you just don’t know it, because I’ve now seen on several occasions that there’s a meme floating around Instagram showing rapturous softly-focused glory shots of the Pilot G2 and a caption saying, “this is the best pen don’t @ me”—followed, inevitably, by a scroll of comments with people saying, “Hey, yeah, I used to steal those,” people who probably never fancied themselves the sort to harbor preference among writing implements, the sort who never write anything in their lives save perhaps their signature and a ransom note—even they, like God’s children, are fostered and aided and loved without condition by the Pilot G2.)

            Let it here be repeated for the millionth time: one man’s less-desirable pen is another man’s comfort.

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