08 November 2005

Time Machine

I was rooting through my drawers the other day for a pen, and I ran across one of these bad boys:

I was disappointed to find that all its ink reservoirs had dried up. I have no idea how long it's been with me; it's probably moved from house to house for years without ever alerting me that it had fallen into disuse. A couple days later, I saw this close relative in the wild:

I don't recall ever seeing the orange-barreled, or fine-tipped, version of the Bic 4-Color before. But when I saw it, I had the same reaction I have whenever I run across a new flavor of Pringles or Doritos: I Must Have It. $1.99 and a short car ride later, I was ripping open the package at home. As I got my paws on the pen, I felt a curious metamorphosis. I looked down: My shoes had become navy blue Roos, with tiny side pockets and velcro straps. My contact lenses disappeared, and in their place I was wearing think, brown-framed glasses. My hair, oh my hair: It suddenly was present along the top edge of my forehead, where it had not been present moments before. But it was unruly and helmet-ish. My metal-banded analog watch became a black plastic Casio digital watch with (could it be?) a calculator pad.

Yes, I had been transported back to 1982, when I was an awkward fourth-grader and the Bic 4-Color was what my Dad carried around. I would play with it incessantly, clicking colors up, clicking them down, trying to trick the pen into having two colors deployed at once. I would unscrew its parts and disassemble the fiendishly simple interior structure. I would draw epic pictures of fantasy worlds, each nation-state bound by borders of different colors. (It so happens that, if you have access to four colors, you can draw any map without two regions sharing a border of the same color.) But the real significance of the pen was not what I did with it, but the fact that it was my Dad's pen. It's what he used to do whatever he did to be a man. It's what he used when he did whatever he did to generate and sustain all that he had provided for me. It was his mystical tool.

Now I have my own.

I was really disappointed to find that it doesn't fit in the pen loop of my Filofax. And, truth be told, it's not even that pleasant to write with. But it gives me pleasure just to look at it, and feel its unabashed hard-plasticness. No "soft-grip," ergonomic construction here. It's just a no-nonsense, rock-hard tool for color-coding.

Maybe I'll get my Dad one for Christmas. I'd bet he would get the same kick out of it I did.


  1. I went right back in time there with you, past you to 1964 - and my three colour torch appeared too, in white red & green!
    Peter Bryenton

  2. As a computer programmer, I have made a point to use Bic 4-color pens for about 25 years. They are excellant for marking up computer listings. I use red to mark errors, black to mark corrections, and so on. I've purchased replacement ink (rather than replace perfectly good pens), and carried them everywhere. The only unfortunate thing about them is that they smear, so the first thing I do every day is to wipe each color on paper.


Related Posts with Thumbnails