Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A What!?

Herewith a cultural note. I was looking for what looked like a rather nice product, a Staedtler 5-nib Calligraphy Set—intended as a gift. The Web told me that Walmart had it, and so to Walmart I went to get it. Amazon had it too, but Amazon imposes a wait.

I confess I kind of doubted that Walmart would really have it. The nearest such store to us is a sad ghost of Walmarts in more aggressively prosperous regions. But I went anyway. As I marched along I came across two rather young Walmart ladies, best to call them girls: they seemed barely in their twenties. Not trusting that the word “calligraphy” would have much traction here, I asked: “I’m looking for some fountain pens.”

Both ladies gave me strange, puzzled looks. “Fountain pen? What’s that?” I swear to you their puzzlement was genuine. I said: “It’s a pen that you write with.” Just at that point another Walmart lady came out of an aisle; she, however, was in her middle forties. The girls turned to her. “He is looking for a fountain pen,” one of them said to her. “What is that?” The older lady fortunately answered them in exactly the same words I had used: “It’s a pen that you write with.”

Long story shortened. I bought the calligraphy set from Amazon after all. Walmart failed me as did Office Depot. And so did a more local stationary store. But I truly do wonder what images flashed up in the minds of those two young girls when they heard the phrase “fountain pen.” Some kind of fountain? Which also acts as a play-pen?

How do you write “I am a has been” if you don’t have an iPhone or your thumbs are sore?

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