gave me a Parker ballpoint pen for my eighth grade graduation
and I used it throughout four years of high school. The teachers
at the parochial school that I attended enjoyed assigning
large quantities of home work; I consumed no less than two
refills per month and often one each week. I really liked
that pen. It had a gray barrel, a brushed aluminum cap and
the distinctive Parker arrow clip.
college the day after high school graduation and got a part
time job as a bellman, courtesy van driver, and weekend maintenance
man at a motel to fund my education. Sometime during that
first summer semester, I lost my beloved Parker ballpoint.
I bought another Parker that looked just like it at the university
book store. Unfortunately, it was inferior to the original.
I was called to the Front Desk, where the clerk instructed
me to drive a guest to the airport. I helped the man into
the van and put his luggage in the back. I started the engine,
began driving toward the parking lot exit, removed my Parker
from my shirt pocket and pushed the button on the pen, then
I said some things that I would never want my mother to hear.
As I brought
the van to a stop, the passenger asked me what was wrong.
After a few seconds, I recovered the pieces of my former pen,
handed them to him, apologized for my use of foul language,
and, as we resumed our trip to the airport, explained my dismay
with the writing instrument. I told my passenger that I was
required to record the beginning and ending mileage and purpose
of every trip with the courtesy van in a log book. I had intended
to use my personal pen to record the odometer reading, but
the pen exploded in my hand.
on the barrel had become stripped and the spring caused the
barrel, spring, and refill to shoot across the vehicle, leaving
only the cap in my hand. I told the man that this was not
the first time that one of these Parker pens had broken in
this exact same way. I told him about the pen that I used
for all four years of high school, how I lost that beloved
pen, and how I had been buying a new Parker pen every month
for a year. I told him that I was contemplating changing brands,
maybe a Sheaffer. But I lived in Wisconsin, not Iowa, so I
wanted to purchase something that was made 'locally.'
asked me if there was anything different about the new pens.
I told him that my original had a rubber barrel, but the new
pens had a hard (and brittle) plastic barrel. After replacing
the refill a few times, the threads on the barrel would become
worn by the threads in the metal cap, to the point that the
threads on the barrel would become stripped.
in the rearview mirror as the man carefully inspected the
pieces of my former pen. He then asked, "may I have this?"
I said, "sure, but why would you want it?" The man
smiled and said, "because I am the President of Parker
Pen Company." Then he removed a beautiful solid gold
pen from his coat pocket and asked my name. After a few nervous
seconds, I told the man my true name, but I was not feeling
to good at that moment.
on pins and needles the rest of that week. If the man had
not lied to me, then the motel manager might soon call me
into his office and reprimand me for what I had said about
the poor quality of Parker pens.
later I had decided that the man must have lied and that I
was not going to be in trouble. Then I was called to the front
office. The manager told me to come into his office and close
the door, then he asked me if I knew anyone at Parker Pen.
I became worried that I was about to be fired. When I replied
"no," he held up a package addressed to me in care
of the motel, with a return address of Parker Pen in Janesville,
WI. He reminded me that it was strictly forbidden for employees
to receive packages at work and he insisted that I open the
package in front of him. When I asked him why, he told me
that he did not want to be any part of trafficking in illegal
drugs - I was a college student and it was the 1970's after
package we found two Parker ballpoint pens (with rubber barrels)
and a note that simply said, "I hope you like these."
I laughed and told the manager that it was probably a tip.
When he looked at me quizzically, I told him that I had taken
a man who worked for Parker to the airport the previous week.
I did not tell the manager about the exploding pen or that
the man claimed to be the President of Parker - I figured
that was more information than he really needed to know.
the pen with the black barrel while on a vacation in Canada
in 1983 and the pen with the gray barrel on the island of
Cozumel in 1991.
no proof that the man was the President of Parker. But, then
why send me a pair of pens? Maybe he did work for Parker or
maybe he was just wanted to "pull my leg" one more
time. Unfortunately, I may never know the whole truth (twenty
five years later).
I do not
always keep my opinions to myself, but I do try to be more
careful with whom I share them.
Copyright (c) Rod Ragner, 2001. All rights