Write on

I can never find a pen when I need one. And when I do locate the stash of pens in the back of the junk drawer none of them works (although technically they still all work as advertisements for the companies that paid for them). Back when pens were a business accessory, everyone had a fancy one that never needed to be abandoned due to lack of ink. I had a chic gold one engraved with my name, until I left it behind somewhere along with my notebook. Someone is probably still out there impersonating me. The joke is on them though, because I have the matching mechanical pencil.

Pens with a half-life longer than 15 minutes are on their way out because apparently handwriting is on its last legs (or more correctly, its last arms). Specifically, cursive writing is in the academic cross hairs as a subject that we no longer need to teach and block printing is probably not too far behind. Much like we no longer make kids learn long division or the dreaded times tables because their efficacy has been eclipsed by calculators and spreadsheets, electronic modern conveniences are also pushing pen-pushing into oblivion. Apparently, anyone under 25 can’t read cursive script let alone write it.

This is disconcerting to me for many reasons, not the least of which is a skill that took me many years to learn, and that most would say I have still not mastered, will shortly become obsolete. All of the blood, sweat and tears that caused the fountain pen ink to run on the paper were for naught unless someone can figure out how to give me about 6 years of my life back. And what will happen to all of those cardboard examples of the platonic form of cursive letter formation sitting above the blackboards, just in case you forgot which way the loop on the lowercase Q was supposed to face? If I was smart, I would corner the market on curly alphabet castoffs and wait for the mid-21st century version Antiques Roadshow to make my fortune.

I think this is also another nail in the literacy coffin. It’s bad enough that texting has hastened the demise of spelling and grammar. Now signing our names is going out the window. In fact, most of the time I only need to wave my plastic card in the vicinity of the payment processing device. No need to even enter a PIN number to complete my transaction, let alone sign anything. And even I am using e-transfers instead of paper cheques, a very reliable bellwether since my iPhone is currently a great-great grandfather.

I am a little concerned that the livelihood of graphologists is in grave danger because this may actually be life threatening. According to Dr. Oz, your handwriting can be a diagnostic tool for pregnancy, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and suicidal tendencies. If that’s the case, the money we are saving by cutting out penmanship classes had best be diverted to the healthcare system immediately. And 3M better examine its Postit Note business model post-haste. If no one is able to write (or perhaps more importantly read) a sticky note, I think the ramp to the road to obsolescence is just ahead.

But come to think of it, anyone who wants to set up an unhackable and encrypted method of communicating secrets in the near future will only need a pen and paper. My Kickstarter page is now accepting start-up funds via bitcoin. Free branded pen to the first 100 investors.

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