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 www.cultpens.com.