Right now my adventures, and for that matter my blogging is at a minimum, the semester started just under two weeks ago and the laser focus is back. That is not to say that college is not an adventure. I have already taken this farther than you ever could have convinced me back when that I would. I have committed fully to the experience, minus living in a dorm and such, I am married and have a child after all. Maybe that is why I always show up to school with a smile on my face, I live with one child, not five thousand adolescents experiencing freedom for the first time. I am sorry if that seems low, but I have lived in the barracks, it seems to be about the same.
Anyhow I have created a small group of pencil junkies at school. Two of them asked for care packages when I took my little trip to CW earlier in the month, and they were well provisioned. Now in all fairness one of those people was Carl. I already knew Carl, the fact that I applied to the college he works at is pure coincidence. The other person is Tyler, who graduated right after we met, but we decided we would make such good friends that he drove from Rhode Island to come and see us, talk pencils and watch X-files.
These two are innocent of something I have committed before. I have witnessed this going on some at school and at various places at large and this is just my take on it. No matter what our passion or how passionate we are about it, never should we ever be snobs.
I have done it, I probably still do, although I would say I do it in the privacy of my own home, but even then I fight it. I have recognized my need to be appreciative and thankful and I try to work on it. That is why I am here, with an exhortation against stationary snobbery.
First let us recognize that many of the pencils, pens and notebooks we love are luxury items from a relative perspective.
It is ok to admit it. They are luxuries, they are indulgences, they are the exploration of our passion. We also cannot allow them to be what causes us to belittle something that is ALL that someone else has. This is not a rant on equality. It is simply a consideration. Imagine a middle school child among us whose family keeps them supplied with all their needs school supplies included, but a blackwing is simply out of reach. That does not mean that we should not write about them, that we should not post pictures of them. I simply beg that we stop to consider before we describe something that is functional as “cheap” or “garbage.” Let us consider some of our less expensive utensils and paper.
There is very little to be called fancy about these items. They are filler paper in a binder, a notebook with no name, and pencils selected from the brands of staples, CVS, office depot, Dixon, and the novelty holiday sort given away at school parties. They are also the the items who witness the labor and drive of those who want to succeed. Those who have had the supplies they needed and maybe had to erase a little harder to use the hard red eraser, but wanted to ensure their homework was perfect. As I said they are not fancy. The paper has no name, the pencils are mostly named after the store they are bought at, but you can put a point on them and do work.
When I was in school my mother made sure that within reason we got the supplies we wanted when the school year started. FiveStar and trapper keeper were common, along with boxes of Ticonderoga and Elmer’s. Now that I am paying for my school supplies I still buy the brands I like for college, but I stare very hard at what a five star notebook costs (and for the price realized I could take school notes on Moleskine) and wondered why my mother didn’t tell me I was insane that paper is paper.
I am not innocent in this. I must constantly flog myself with the memories of Iraqi children who were living in relocation camps who aside from probably being excited to have enough to eat, could not contain themselves when they found out that we had sent word home that there were schools, but no supplies and people had come through and shipped us boxes and boxes of supplies. The generosity of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me. This is my exhortation, that before we call something garbage, before we describe it as cheap, that we consider for a moment those who treasure these tools as their own, that they are more careful with their no name number two than we are with a 602 due to having forgotten.
I write this not out of self righteousness, but out of the awareness that I have never shown the gratitude and joy that I saw on the face of a very specific Iraqi girl from the camps when I sat down beside her on the hood of a small broken yellow car in the camp, and from my pack pulled out a small backpack full of supplies for her. We should live to achieve that kind of satisfaction and appreciation.
Hrolf The Ganger.