Pen pain

A few days ago I was at the local bank standing in the queue in front of the teller when a well-dressed young man approached me. He caught my attention and asked for my pen to fill in a form. I handed him my pen and continued to wait in the queue. My thoughts strayed and I began to wonder why ever so often people forget to carry a pen to the bank and don’t bat an eyelid before they ask to borrow someone else’s.

I have learnt the hard way never to leave home without a pen. The lesson has been ingrained at the hands of a number of class teachers who considered it the gravest sin to arrive in class without a pen. Their wrath would manifest in unkind words at the minimum to a sharp rap on the knuckles at the other.

I completed my transaction at the counter and remembered that the young man had not returned my pen. Since it was the first day of the week and month there was a large crowd at the bank and with considerable effort I spotted him. I then went up to him and politely gestured that he had not returned my pen. By this time he had placed my pen prominently in the front pocket of his shirt.

Without either apologising or thanking me he returned my pen with a sheepish grin.
On another day at the bank the same sequence of events occurred except that the person in question was a middle-aged housewife. Unfortunately, on this occasion, I forgot to ask her to return my pen and left the bank and neither did she remember to give it back.

It was not until much later that when I had to sign a document that I realised she had not returned my pen. After losing several pens in this manner, I was determined never to lose a pen again at the bank. I shared my tale of woe with my friends. Most of them had similar experiences. While I had lost an inexpensive pen many had lost much costlier ones.

One sage friend remembering an essay from school coined the term Penrella Morals. According to him most people who forget to return borrowed pens never intend to take them away. When they realise they have done it they suffer a sense of remorse but no sense of guilt, as they do not consider it an act of great moral deviance. I consulted several experts and asked them to recommend a fail proof solution. Many ideas were suggested but none could pass the acid test. Until I had an answer I had decided never to lend my pen at the bank again.

After trying several methods, one method I use now is to always remove the cap of the pen before giving it to the borrower. This is yielding significant results, as nine times out of 10 the person looks for the cap after using the pen and then realises it is a borrowed pen to be returned to its owner.

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