Danny Wallace is a Man

Danny Wallace is a Man

The struggle to find a nearby pen

The delivery man has arrived with a package and I know exactly what it is.

“It’s my pens!” I say, and see if you can believe this, but the postie doesn’t seem the slightest bit bothered.

I had recently found myself frustrated because I had to write down a number and couldn’t find a pen.

“Why don’t I just buy some pens?” I’d thought. “Then I’ll always have pens!”

I open the box and inspect my goods. Fifty pens. Mine for just over a tenner. Part of me feels I may have over-ordered, but the pens come like this, so don’t blame me, blame the manufacturers.

“Why’ve you bought so many pens?” asks Colin, who’s come round for takeaway. I am immediately a little defensive.

“Because I couldn’t find a pen the other day.”

“So you bought 50 of them?” he says, outraged. “Who are you – Mickey Moneybags? Little Tommy Coinpockets?”

I must not to rise to this.

“Now I’ll always be able to find a pen, no matter where I am,” I say, very calmly, despite this attack.

“But 50 pens? It’s no good just throwing money at the problem,” he says, but he can’t really follow that up, because in this case, I’ve proved that it is.

I flip the lid of the box open and bring out a pen.

The Staedtler Stick 430 F-9CP5.

Black lid. Orange body. It’s a German classic.

“Now all your pens look like that,” says Colin, pointing at it. “All your pens look the same.”

I nod and seethe. Colin notices the nod but not the seethe. It’s a nod that says, ‘Yes they do all look the same – and that’s a smart move. Now I’ll never have a favourite pen I’ll be sorry I lose.’

I’m annoyed because Colin seems to think I’ve given this no thought whatsoever. But I considered all the angles in the two or three minutes I spent ordering them online. Bulk-ordering is a big deal. It’s serious. You have to know yourself to be confident in doing it. So I studied the Bic Cristal Medium (sample online review: “Writing with this pen is an experience”). I toyed with the idea of a bulk lot of Pilot G2 Retractable Rollerball Gel Pens (sample review: “I must have used hundreds of different types of pen but this is possibly the best”). And in the end, it was the Staedtler than won out (“These were purchased for family use as in my house we always seem to be searching for a pen”).

“Why don’t you just have a pen drawer?” asks Colin. “Where you keep a pen? That way when you need a pen you just look in the place where you keep a pen?”

Sometimes I have to wonder how Colin’s mind works.

“Because often the pen will not go back in the drawer, Colin. Often the pen will find its way elsewhere.”

“Why don’t you just put it back in the pen drawer?”

I am starting to lose confidence in my purchase and do not appreciate the joy Colin is taking in stoking my buyer’s remorse.

“Because now I’ve got 50 pens,” I say. “Now I can leave pens all over the house whenever I want!”

“Oh, that sounds cool,” says Colin, sarcastically. “Then you’ll have a pen house. ‘Oh, who lives in that house there?’ ‘What, the pen house? The house that’s all covered in pens everywhere? Oh, that’s Danny Wallace, who buys all pens that are exactly the same all the time.’”

“There’s no such thing as a pen house, Colin,” I say. “But there is such a thing as a readily prepared house.”

I point at him, and hope that he doesn’t realise that sounded far more powerful in my head.

I look again at the Staedtler 430. I like it. But am I honestly ready to commit to it? There are so many other pens in the world.

“This is something someone in their seventies would do,” he says, shaking his head. “Someone who’s already made all their choices.”

“I’m not saying this is my Forever Pen,” I say. “I’m allowed to use other pens too. I’m not saying this means I’m going to be penogamous or live a life of penogamy just because it made better financial sense to buy a pack of 50.”

“You’ve given up on life,” he says. “Imagine if that’s how you made all your choices. Just choosing that one thing and then having to live with it forever.”

“One day someone might choose you and then have to live with you forever,” I say, which is clever, because I’ve made it about marriage.

“But I’m a pen of all different colours!” he says. “While you’re someone who buys 50 pens all the same.”

Maybe, I consider, this is the first true sign of middle age.

I decide to put all 50 pens in a drawer I’ll now call the pen drawer. That way the drawer will never be depleted but I can keep loads of other pens around the house and stay young and vibrant.

“Now,” he says, smugly, holding out the takeaway menu. “Are you ready to order?”

“Sure,” I say, then I make a big deal checking my pockets. “Have you got a pen?”


Discreetly plugging a hole in the market

Graham Ormrod was in Home Bargains when he spotted the Glade plug-in air fresheners called Discreets. But underneath appeared to be a product description and a sort of serving suggestion, all in one!

I suppose at least it would be discreet.

Because sometimes even crap food can be called delicious

Natalie Futter was in Ghana a while back and was struggling to come up with the perfect present to bring home – until she tasted a delicious spicy oil that she just knew everyone would love!

Now – what was it called?

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