Reduce, reuse and recycle has become the Eleventh Commandment. But try finding a refill for a ballpoint pen.
I have two favorite ballpoint pens. My allegiance to these pens is so deep that I have clung to them for at least four, maybe five weeks.
Both of my new favorite pens ran dry, so I wondered if I might be able to purchase refills.
There is an aisle of pens the length of a football field at the big box store. To look at each and every pen, you would need to get to the store when it opened, pack a sack lunch and hope you were finished looking by the time they closed. Wear comfortable shoes. And take a folding chair.
In the ever expanding universe of pens fat tip, fine point, gel, sparkle, retractable, indelible, washable and erasable there is not a single refill. The operating principle for the pen is "Use it, and then lose it."
There is a Walton's episode stuck in my head where someone stole John Boy's pen. It was a crisis on the order of the Bay of Pigs. They turned the house upside down looking for the pen and then turned on one another.
You haven't seen vicious until you've seen hill folk fight over a pen. You don't steal a man's pen. It either turned out to be some shirt-tail relation that had stolen the pen, or an older guy Mary Ellen was seeing on the sly. Either way, John Boy got the pen back and Walton's Mountain again slept peacefully at night.
I came of age when pens were forbidden until the fourth grade. It was a rite of passage: the fountain pen. You had to jab a little cartridge onto the poker thing so the ink could flow. If you didn't get a direct hit the first time - and there was a less than 10 percent chance you would you'd have ink all over your fingers, palms, desk, paper and clothing. Exasperated, you would then brush your hair out of your face streaking blue ink across your forehead and leaving a smear at the corner of your eye.
Children routinely arrive home covered in blue ink. Mothers would say, "Learning to use a pen, are you?"
How did they know? We thought our mothers were brilliant. Clairvoyant even.
The point is, no matter how many times that pen blew up, and even humiliated you, you kept it. You didn't go to the store and buy another one or two or three or 10. You kept that same pen and reused it year after year after year until the Bic was invented.
In one stroke, life changed. You didn't refill a Bic; you threw it out. The faster people threw them out, the faster Bic made them. People began throwing pens into kitchen junk drawers, desk caddies, glove boxes, pants pockets and purses. Soon there were 3,978 ballpoint pens per person. And only two of them worked.
Today and I hope you're not reading, John Boy the ballpoint pen has all the value of a cigarette butt.
You can spend $5 on an energy-saving light bulb, hundreds on low-flow toilets and low-water-usage washing machines, thousands on energy efficient windows and heating and air conditioning systems, but good luck finding a 99-cent refill for a pen.
Somewhere along the line we've missed the point.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.