For the nostalgic scribe, a pencil is and always will be the missed tool of choice in the computer age. There is something about a pencil. The smell of graphite, the earthy wood shavings, the raspy sketch of the pencil touching paper… it’s a beautiful symphony all by itself.
I remember as a child being given the plastic hand sharpener in a school box of supplies. This was a neat – to have your own hand sharpener. But in the garage was an old, antique looking metal sharpener that was mounted to the top of a wooden cabinet. The sharpener looked like some machine, yet it was utilitarian in use – it was manual, you had to hand-crank it to sharpen your pencil. Hearing the grinding sound as you cranked your hand around and around was hypnotic, beautiful and when you were done sharpening your pencil, you just wanted to dig in your pencil box for more to sharpen because you didn’t want the sound to end.
Then there was the emptying of this chamber that was interesting all on its own. The ground up metallic looking bits of pencil lead were a smoky charcoal grey powder and the fine shavings weren’t like the hamster bedding you’re used to seeing with the plastic personal sharpener at school. These shavings were so fine, they looked like saffron threads, curly and intertwined into a poofy pile of Barbie hay. There wasn’t really anything you could do with this, but it seemed a shame to throw it away.
When the electric pencil sharpener came out that was really exciting. The revved up motor was a thrilling change and you couldn’t possibly over-sharpen. It stopped automatically when you were done and yes, the shaving chamber produced the same type as the hand crank ones. Though it wasn’t as archaic as the hand-crank one that reminded you of the musty smell of library books, it did the job and was a very advanced change in electronics.
Let’s not forget the eraser. Not just the convenient JuJuBee sized niblet on the top of the pencil (which always seemed to disappear, long before the pencil shortened)… but I am talking about the beautiful choices in erasers – from the long bubble-gum pink rectangle eraser to the gooey white and animated character erasers that became all the rage when Hello Kitty came onto the scene.
In 1st grade, there was a very kind girl in my class named Diane who shared her lunch with me when someone stole my lunch. And to thank her, I remember getting her this fancy circle eraser that was on a roller. It came with a brush on the other end to ‘dust away’ the eraser bits. She was excited and thought it was really cool. I remember the other kids in the class all wanted one and how proud Diane was to whip out the eraser and use it to erase a ‘mistake.’ The thing was, Diane was a smart girl and she didn’t make many mistakes. But it was fun to pretend to erase and use this new fangled gadget.
It was also where ‘drawing with an eraser’ became the greatest insurance to draw freehand without making a pencil mistake. Who knew?
I miss the days of the pencil. Today, pencil isn’t so much a noun as it is a verb. “I’ll pencil you in my calendar.” The sad part is, this is a lie. Today calendars are on computers and in Blackberry phones and the only ‘pencil’ that is used is a skinny piece of black plastic that touches a screen.
But pencils are still needed at the DMV, the infamous number two pencil is still needed for scholastic tests and pencils are still used in Bingo. So there is hope that even in this electronic hi-tech age, that pencils won’t die. Greenies like computers because it means using less pencils and saving more trees. And I get this.
Though I think there is something to be said for the pencil and its longevity in a time when so many other things have become obsolete altogether. It has lived longer than the erasable pen – and that’s a whole other blog.
The pencil. From sketch to scribe, it’s something we really can’t and shouldn’t ever be without.
Baseball shows you where life is at… And what matters most, is that you go up to bat. Perhaps you’ll strike out – Maybe you’ll hit a home run. But if you only get to walk… It’s about having fun. What’s in your swing? Is it with all your might? Do you play with passion? Are you in for the fight? Go into the outfield – Be part of the team… It’s what you’ve got to do, to fulfill your dream. You have to give it your all. And be ready to work. There is no easy street, flooded with perks. Everything comes at a price, And this you must know – If it seems easy now, You’ll have it harder – when you grow. Invest time base-to-base. Pay your dues and respect – For that is how you must play, if you wish to collect a check. Catch the errors of your ways, And be on pitch every time. Be a good sport. Don’t pout and whine. Show up and be there, Leave your ego at the door. It’s not all about you, Or how much you score. It’s about taking the time, To be thankful for blessings – And to have faith and belief, And no second guessings. Life’s about sharing and giving, Expressing how you feel, Being truthful to everyone, And keeping it real. Life’s not about losses, Or each victory – It’s about doing something that matters, With your soul peaceful and free. Life’s about caring and loving, Consciousness and thought, Positive actions – And giving it all you’ve got. It’s about taking the time, To say ‘I’ll be there for you…’ And honoring your word, In everything you do. You may be on a team, But you’ll be all alone – If you don’t remember what matters, when you slide into home.
Many eons ago, I was working at Disneyland. Suddenly, upon the audience exiting, I saw a tour group pressing their hands and bodies against the wall of the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln theatre. “America The Beautiful” was playing. They were feeling the vibration of the wall and humming. I saw a few people in the group signing, and I was excited to see this.
Never before has my awareness been heightened about how difficult the English language is, more than when dealing with deaf culture. Sign language isn’t universal. As I was hand-spelling English words with my fingers, it became quite obvious the deaf tour group was foreign, as I was trying to sign to a person who didn’t speak English.
The other day, I saw a little boy point at the doggy in the window and declare to his mother that even dogs have first names and middle names… and the one he was looking at was named Jack Russell. I had to laugh. It was pretty interesting for him to put that together, without realizing that was indeed the breed of the dog. And while this would be a cute observation just watching any kid declare this, it was interesting because this child was speaking fragmented and broken English. It made me realize that we use hundreds of words each day, and perhaps of all languages, English must be the most confusing.
We have homonyms like THEIR, THERE and THEY’RE. Those are probably just as confusing as the synonyms little and small. We have street slang, business lingo and never mind the made-up words and acronyms texting technology has created for us like LOL, LMAO and BFF.
In everyday English, we use French words on our American menus for cuisine isn’t French at all, like “Soup Du Jour” at a truck stop diner. And we use terms like ‘bring home the bacon.’ We don’t literally mean stop at the grocery store and pick up a pound of the breakfast meat, but rather bring home your paycheck.
We have cutesy supplements we add to people’s names, like Kelly-Belly, Sher-Bear, Silly-Billy and Slim Jim. It does not mean that Kelly is fat, Sher is a grizzly, Billy is silly or Jim is too skinny. But I guess to someone just learning English for the first time, this might be confusing as they may think we’re offending someone or criticizing them, when we’re merely accenting with adoration as we say their name.
Then we have names for things in the animal kingdom like CATFISH, BULLFROG, FOXHOUND, SPIDER MONKEY and BIRDDOG. And none of these animals have actually mated with one another to create such an animal hybrid species. How do you explain THIS to a person who is learning English? It may not make any sense and only further confuse the process of learning our language.
Foreign people are not deaf, but I have observed human nature take over in people shouting louder as if to get their message across.
Many people complain about pressing 1 for English, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on voicemail systems for other languages and having DMV tests and voting ballots instructions in other languages. Basic street signs in other countries don’t accommodate the English-speaking to tell us where to go or how to do things But the one thing which has become obvious to me is that there is a Universal language:
a smile, a wave, music, dance, animals, nature, food and kindness. These are the things which bring people together, unite us in joy and unite us in spirit. And it’s these things which you really don’t need words for at all.