Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Most Dangerous Time of the Year

I share Little Flower Petals' weakness towards office supply stores, and now, as schools are starting back up, it's an even more dangerous place to walk into. Not only are the usual school-related items marked down, but in the preparation for what's the largest sales days of the year -- judging from the length of the checkout lines -- the staff have been required to find space for all the wares, meaning a stem-to-stern clearout of the shelves.

Don't get me wrong: I would be thrilled if we had a decent independent stationery shop here in the suburbs, and not the outpost of a major corporate entity. "Suburbs" and "independent business" do not typically overlap, though, so one must make do. The up side is that the larger stores tend to carry stock much broader and generally weirder than a small shop. I've been using this store to ship out typers from the great clear-out project (still going!) so I've of course found myself wandering back to the "Clearance" tables hiding in the back of the store, heaped with the residue of past stocking mishaps. I was in again yesterday, for a project I'll discuss in a moment.

During the shipments, the store had found -- somewhere -- boxes of old pin-feed computer paper. You know the sort, maybe, if you're of a certain age. This is the kind of paper with tear-off strips running down both sides, and perforations between the pages. It dawned on me too late that this would be a suitable BAROP substitute, being both in its own container and pre-cut for easy pagination after typing. The store had a couple of boxes of paper for a while at what I assume was a good price, but they appear to have been snatched up at last, no doubt by some local business still keeping their dot-matrix printers alive. I suspect the DMV.

Fresh trinkets made it out to the tables, though, including a heavy-duty pencil pouch with a large pocket in the front -- for a calculator, maybe? Always handy to have around, I decided, and chucked it into my basket. I also found some nice embossed note cards which will get added to the family collection of potential thank-you letters, and a pair of rectangular Moleskine-brand pencils that formerly carried a Moleskine-brand price. And then, high on the fumes of savings, I went wandering the regular aisles.

Theoretically I was in the store to have a ream of sugarcane-based paper cut and bound into notebooks to keep by my phone and keyboard at work, and at home, and anywhere else I need a stack of fountain-pen-friendly paper out and available. While waiting for the binding, though, I got into trouble in the clearance table, and then wound back through the pen aisle to discover that Bic has hopped aboard the Disposable Fountain Pen Bandwagon with Pilot. They're now selling their own plastic-barreled pens. I usually see these as a challenge -- they say they can't be refilled, but is that true? The Pilot Varsity makes a very respectable eyedropper pen, for example, once you learn the magic spell: pull out the nib and feed, rinse, refill, and re-use. It's a very cheap way to get into nicer pens and inks without a lot of fiscal outlay. One of these days, I'd like to treat myself with a vanishing-point pen, but I'm afraid I'd always be fussing over it. It's hard to fuss over pens that cost $5 for two.

So, in the days to come, I'll do a disposable pen compare-and-contrast blog entry, testing out the new sugarcane paper pad as well. And maybe that will keep me away from the office supply store for a while... or until the next typer gets adopted.


Phil said...

On a Sunday night, I like to go on ebay and enter "stainless steel fountain pen," then sort for lowest price + shipping. I got one for $1.99 from China, now on it's way. These are nice pens, with included ink converter. Only problem, this is a fine point and I would have preferred medium or broad.

Little Flower Petals said...

Curious about those Moleskine pencils. Those are the funky flat ones, right? I'm guessing they're more prestige than practicality, but I'd be interested to hear what you think of 'em.

And I hope the notebook project turns out to your satisfaction! I'm still very happy with mine.

Michael Clemens said...

@LFP: that's right. The woodcase is a rectangle, though the lead appears to be circular in cross-section like a "real" pencil, and the included sharpener is the standard twist kind.

It was an impulse purchase. I can't imagine paying the original $17 list price (!) for these.