The other night I went to a social hour drink thing at a hip little pub by Main Street. The people attending were all writers, editors, and publishers, and I think most of us were, at best, acquaintances or had at least heard of each other. Anyway, I was sitting next to two people who wanted to exchange e-mail addresses, but neither had business cards or pen and paper. I always carry a pen so I offered it. The woman accepted the pen, and wrote down what she wanted to write on a napkin. But then, instead of giving the pen back, she set it down beside her napkin and commenced to roll it around and play with it.

Listening to their conversation, I could only think “Give me my pen back!” It was lying there on the table, but on the far side of the napkin she had written on. The moment was positively Seinfeldean. I was George. I couldn’t concentrate on what was being said, so consumed I was at this breach of pen-borrowing etiquette, that is: borrow, write, return. I watched her fiddle with my pen for a few minutes. I needed it back. I love that pen.

She still kept it on her side of the napkin. As soon as I could, as subtly as I could, I grabbed it back. She looked surprised for some reason. Maybe she’s always gotten away with stealing pens lent in good faith. Hah! Foiled you!

There will be no more pen-lending to strangers for awhile. At least, not until the social contract as it applies to other peoples’ ballpoints has been repaired. In the meantime, have some business cards.

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