One man, 50 Bic pens

(An Experiment and a Fantastically Boring Tale.)

In 2011 I bought 50 pens in an attempt to stem the constant trickle of pen disappearances.

Like matching socks, ballpoint pens have this obscure, almost life-like ability to get lost just when you need them, and this seemed to be a good reason to buy way more pens than one man could chew on.

Last week I took a fresh pen from the box, because all the others had disappeared, and it would barely write. Dried up. I tried another from the box. Dried up. And so on.

I counted the dried-up pens I had left: 22.

So the result of this experiment is that a man can live on 28 pens before he must replenish.

A couple of caveats:

  • I regularly get pens from congresses and what have you, so the disappearance rate is probably higher than 30 pens over the lifetime of one Bic.
  • The period between when I bought my Fantastic Fifty and today neatly straddles the divide between when people needed a pen multiple times a day and when people did most of their stuff online or on their phones. In other words, my pen replacement rate has presumably slowed down.

Now for the good news: according to this selection of life hacks, you can bring a ballpoint back to life by using it to ‘write’ on rubber (for example, the sole of a shoe), and I can happily say, this works.

See also:

  • How long can you use a Bic before it runs out of ink?
  • At its introduction in the 1950s, the pen shown here was called the Atomic Pen, but as the Cold War wore on and the lure of a nuclear age quickly dissipated, Bic changed the name to Cristal. The hole in the cap was introduced in 1991 to prevent a user from choking after accidentally swallowing the cap. (NotASource)

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