Monday, July 16, 2007

College-ruled is so much hotter than wide-ruled...

If bookstores are a nerd Nirvana, then office supply stores must surely place a close second, like maybe a Pearl Jam or an Alice in Chains. (Sorry.) While visiting my old college stomping grounds this past weekend, I indulged in a little office supply browsing and wondered if I was the only person in the world who got sweaty-palmed and dry-mouthed over a fresh new legal pad or a five-pack of Uni-ball Deluxe Fine Point pens. Then I looked at my friend, who was clutching a college-ruled notebook to her chest and, I believe, doing a small dance of joy, and realized, “I am not alone.”

It was a comforting feeling because all of my life, I have possessed an unhealthy fascination with office supplies. I love me the paper clips which are so handy, so moldable and these days, so brightly colored. I giggle like a small school girl in the presence of mechanical pencils with their fine points and the little clicky sound that precedes each fresh new centimeter of graphite. And then there are the notebooks. I’m sorry Shakespeare died before the mass production of college-ruled notebooks because I am certain his greatest sonnets would have been composed in their honor. Even without the sonnets, we can still revel in (and possibly roll around on) the spiral bounds and the taped-spine composition books, the six-sectioned behemoths and the slim, single-sectioned petites.

And we can exalt in the glory of the champions, the thoroughbreds, if you will: the Moleskins. Oh Moleskins, how I love you. Your elegant cardboard insert tells me you were used by Hemingway and Van Gogh, but you don’t need star power to make you shine. I was smitten the moment I saw your simple black cover and the saucy little band that holds all your pages together. I buy Moleskins the way Marion Berry used to buy crack – with impunity and very little thought for the future. What the hell am I going to use my stack of Moleskins for? Well, I’ll tell you. I use them for everything, from big plans and outlines to stray words and recipes. I use them for my short stories or for that novel I may accidentally finish one day or for my secret mash notes to Anthony Stewart Head. They are a smooth-surfaced repository for every crazy thought I have.

Which gets me to what I believe is at the root of office supply appeal: everything you buy at an office supply store suggests a new beginning. You buy a shoulder bag to house that new laptop you got, the one you’re going to edit your short film on. Or you buy a new set of pens and think of the poetry you’re going to write. Or you snag a new organizer, thinking how finally, with this one book in hand, you’re ready to become a profoundly efficient, orderly and yes, wealthy, adult. All you needed was a fresh start…and a few hundred dollars worth of office supplies.

Photo of Porsche-designed pencils from


Mickie Poe said...

Bookstores make me feel relaxed and office supply stores get my blood flowing with excitement!

I always find myself putting those little pink car-like erasers back in the bin before I leave. Who needs those anymore?! But I love them, oooooo, I loooove them.

Liz said...

Ooh, yes! Erasers are great. When I was a kid, my dad used to have one that was shaped like a skinny wheel and it had a little broom attached so you could sweep away the eraser crumbs. I loved that thing.

Steve said...

You both scare me.

Kirsten said...

I once had a hilarious conversation with a clerk in an office supply store. I was staring in awe of the pen display, and he asked if he could help me.
Me: "Well, I'm looking for a specific kind of pen..."
Clerk: "What's the brand name?"
Me: "That's the problem, see. I chewed off all the identifying features." (pulls a much-chewed pen out of bag)
Clerk: (barely batting an eye) "Hm. I don't think we have this one, but this pen has a very similar nib..."

twig_tea said...

Oh man, I love me some office supplies. I used to spend hours after school, waiting to be picked up (couldn't be bothered to pay the bus fare to get home myself) at the local mall office supply store, re-organizing the pens by colour, type, etc. I used to carry around two (at one point, even three) pencil cases, because my "necessary" supplies took up too much space for one.

My absolute childhood favourite were the Yikes! pencils that were engineered to create swirly shavings when you sharpened them. They were the best pencils ever!

Mary said...

I love the big bookstore catalogs we have too...they have EVERYTHING. And you can get things you can't just find in the bookstore like "Oh, that floormat would look GREAT under my desk chair..."

agent57 said...

When I worked at an art supply store, I used to scoff at the people who bought Molskeins. "They're so overpriced!" I would say. (not to the customers in question, of course.) "How can a note/sketchbook possibly be worth that?"

Then someone bought me one for Christmas, and man... they're glorious. Nice smooth pages, strong binding, that little pocket in the back... and the way they smell. Mmmm.

My only problem is that this little sketchbook is too glorious for me to feel comfortable drawing in it. It's been a year at least, and I've only used three pages.

Mickie Poe said...

But...but, they're not REALLY made from the skins of moles, right? Please?

Liz said...

No, I don't think so. If they are, they're made from super huge mutant moles with very faux-leather like skin. :-)

Corenn said...

I read you all the time, but am a chicken, so rarely ever comment. However, I *couldn't* pass this one up because WORD, SISTAH.

I loooove notebooks (college-ruled only, of course) and legal pads and those Pilot V5 pens that have the little window so you can tell when the ink is low? I love the *potential* represented by a blank page, and that attitude extends from office to school to art supplies.

And since you brought up Moleskine, YES, GOD, YES! I always want to buy the ones with more pages, but I end up getting the three-paks of smaller ones because they come with some perforated pages. It's always a tough choice, though, and if I had unlimited funds... well, best not to dwell.