A Viable Way to Deter Accidental Pen Kleptos

by Liz

I work at a college. This means that there are (in theory) a lot of pens floating about to fill out  mounds of paperwork, do homework, and jot down fast notes with. The computer has not quite yet replaced good ol’ pen and paper around here! But where there is a need, there is always the shadow of hunger, waiting to gobble up unsuspecting office supplies, luring them away with candy and the promise of true love. I warn you, fair reader, what follows is a dark and hideous tale of how my pens were stolen from me.

I run a tidy little office…well, tidy enough, and I am always grabbing pens and highlighters to help my students take notes, revise one of their essays, or write down passwords and phone numbers so the next time our lab computers crash they won’t panic. To satiate this appetite for pens, Secretary/Tutor Tracie had ordered a lovely box of company pens for me. There were forty of the little suckers in the box, more than enough!

Pictured: Not my pens

A generous gift of handmade pottery from my boss kept my bevy of ball-tipped advertisements neatly stowed in my cabinet. I thought they were safe. I thought that for certain 40 pens would be enough to make up for my occasional absentmindedness or unfortunate breakage for a semester. Oh, how I was wrong!

It began innocently enough. The woman in charge of the sign-in desk came to my office three days after I got my new pens. She hung coyly about the doorway, fluttering a doe-eyed look that attempted to hide what I soon would learn was a pen-thirsty hound beneath.

She smiled and asked innocently, “Do you have a pen? The one at the front desk seems to have disappeared!”

In my naivete, I replied with a chipper “sure!” and plucked a pen from my proudly displayed stash. Who was I to refuse her? After all, she is penless and I have an abundance of pens. Surely I could spare one of my forty for her sake.

Hubris would soon return to bite me in the butt. I should have seen the spark in her eye burst into a full-on pen-induced flame the moment I revealed my precious stash of inky goodness– Shakespeare curse me for leaving them so proudly and vulnerably displayed! The desk lady plastered a saccharine “thank you” over my ears so I wouldn’t catch the echoes of her internal maniacal laughter, and for that moment, she succeeded in blinding me to her true self. I suspected nothing. She retreated back to her corner behind the ancient wall of a dusty CPU tower the color of bleached bones, taking my pen with her– the first victim.

I never saw that pen again. The next week, the desk lady was back again, hovering in the same predatory manner about my door. Again, she asked for a pen; again, I obliged. Soon she was asking every Thursday, then every other day, then each morning at 9:30 am. She no longer bothered to ask, but breezed through my door as though it were her own, grabbing one, two, three of my pens in her botched-manicured fingers and dragging them back to the front desk. Why mask herself now that I could blatantly see what her game was?

“It’s so lucky you have so many pens! They just keep disappearing and I have no idea where they go.”

“Maybe someone is klepto-ing them,” say through my teeth as cordially as I can muster.

“Klepto?” she says with blank, soulless eyes, “What is that?”

“Stealing.”

“Oh!” she laughs. “That’s probably it! I’m sure people just put them in their backpacks without thinking.” She rifles through my desk drawer. “Oh! And I need a highlighter, too!”

I was down to seven lonely, terrified pens (and zero highlighters). Amongst them was the only survivor of her “borrowing” spree: a pitiful pen that was now only part of a pen, it’s clip arm snapped off and the clicker-top unscrewed and lost. This had to stop!

The method had to be quick, cheap, and painless. This can’t be a huge, awesome internet prank because, frankly, I’d like to keep my job for a while longer. The whole “giant flower” method where you tape an enormous faux flower to the top of the pen (or alternately a spork, if you work in fast food) is super cute, but too unwieldy for my needs. I wanted something a little sleeker that wouldn’t distract or impede the ease of writing. I needed something that was stupid simple, but effective that also used readily available resources. The broken state of the single returned pen inspired me: what if it only LOOKED like my pen was broken? Humans aren’t too keen on using broken objects, even if it’s only perceived to be broken (I know you’ve passed up a shattered Easter bunny at the store even though it’s still perfectly edible, tasty chocolate). After exhaustive scientific study, here’s what I came up with:

Materials:

Any remaining pens

Scotch Tape (preferably matte, not shiny)

A Vendetta

Step 1:

Tear off a long strip of tape, or a series of smaller strips. Your goal is to build up a large mass of tape, so plan you tape strips accordingly. You want it to look like your pen fell apart and you really suck at putting it back together.

Step 2:

Wrap it! Wrap it good! You want a nice little cylinder of tape near the top of the pen, not a spiral. It’s hard to do if your pen is tapered or if you place the tape a little crooked, but smoothness isn’t important; it’s the ugly little belt of tape that is. If you have a pen that caps and you want to be able to place it on the end while writing, put the cap on the top to measure where to place your tape, otherwise you won’t be able to stow the cap up there anymore.

Step 3:

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Savor the taste of anticipated revenge! Don’t just stop at pens. You can rescue your highlighters and mechanical pencils from the same cruel fate using this method.

I’ve been doing this for the past two weeks and, coupled with a new hiding spot for my few remaining pens, it seems to be working! The Front Desk Lady has been using the taped pen for two weeks now. Even if she wasn’t the one stealing them (there may be another vampire out there who is the true culprit), she hasn’t been stalking my office as much anymore, at least in regards to my pens. I hope the tape-method keeps working! Since the tape is so far up, it doesn’t get in the way of your hand. It also has the added bonus of keeping your pen in place so it doesn’t roll willy-nilly all over the tabletop. If the tape does get grubby or peels, it’s fast to remove and replace!

Now to wrap all these wonderful pens I’ve got from the dentist, the doctor, the bank, my sister, the faculty lounge, the hallway, Pizza Hut……

😉

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