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The Self-Importance of Being Honest

Posted by Dirck on 24 July, 2013

Yesterday, I was away from my desk helping a co-worker dredge up some physical evidence of The Regular Job’s lack of culpability on a certain matter (there’s a bank that doesn’t believe we gave them the money we think we did; it’s hard to feel any urgency on the issue).  In the course of the search, there were a few specific numbers that needed writing down.  In the pause while I reached up to draw pen from pocket, co-worker held an object towards me, saying, “Here, I’ve got a pen.”

My response: “Oh, no– you’ve got a ballpoint.  I’ve got a pen.”

Fortunately, I said this in a studiedly supercilious tone, so it wasn’t taken amiss, and she said something along the line of “Oh, yes, you use those pens.”

“Can’t make a ballpoint work,” said I, “You gotta press too hard,” and to prove my position I wrote the necessary super secret codes on an unsupported single sheet of paper.  You might manage that with a marker, but never a ballpoint.  So there.

The point of me telling you this is not to trumpet another thrilling victory of the fountain pen over the hated enemy, because even a nut-case such as I can see this for the small potatoes it is.  The point is rather to reinforce to myself about how this is not quite how we act around people (I can’t offer the line from “A Study in Pink” as I do take somewhat more notice of others than even a low-grade sociopath, but I do feel certain fellow-feeling with Dr. Cooper in the area of human interaction), and also to reinforce appropriate behaviour.  Curiously, this little exchange fits both headings.

On the former, while I can offer documentary evidence that Sheaffer avoided using the word “Pen” on their ballpoint products for at least thirty years, and while there’s an old saw about honesty being the best policy, the world abounds in examples of applying small obfuscations as a lubricant to social interaction.  What I was dealing with was not a teachable moment, and the correct response would have been, “No thanks, I’ll use mine.”  Co-worker would have understood “mine” to mean “pen”, I would have known I meant “item of the broad category ‘writing imstrument'”, and the day would have gone along just fine.  What I did was not far removed from blurting out, “Your large facial birthmark is repellent to me in a subjective evaluation.”  Truth.  Not an enhancement to anyone’s life.

However, it is better than the suppressed response.  Had I allowed that to emerge, it being something of an imputation against the co-worker, I probably would be feeling very bad about starting a feud, rather than a little self-directed amusement.  The suppressed response was less truth, and so lacks the marginal shield which truth offers; it was entirely subjective, and with reference to the previous example would have been very like shouting “YOU UGLY!”

The suppressed response?  “No, thanks.  I’ve got a grown-up pen.”  See?  Fight starter.  Even I know it.

Today’s pen: Pelikan MK10
Today’s ink: Skrip blue-black


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