We’ve all heard the cliché that the pen in mightier than the sword. Typically it refers to truth, ideologies, satire and propaganda changing the world. Rarely is the pen thought of as a tool for physical action and derring do.
Buuuuut, today’s heroes are one tough pen and the man who wields it to save lives. Meet Colin M. a paramedic with a passion for pens. A longtime customer of ThePenMarket.com, we’ve struck up a friendship via e-mail, and when he told me what you’re about to read I couldn’t keep it a secret.
TPM: Hi, Colin. Welcome to “Drippy Musings.” I know that confidentiality prevents you from saying anything that would identify your patient, but please tell us about how you used a pen to save somebody’s life.
CM: A few months ago, my partner and I were responding to a 911 call about a car that had ran off the freeway and crashed into a tree. We arrived before the fire engine, so I decided to head in and assess the scene while waiting for fire and rescue. I approached the car down a fairly steep embankment. It was not heavily damaged, but it was wedged tightly into the brush and the doors would not open. I attempted to contact the driver and noticed that the patient, a woman in her mid 40’s, was not conscious. I banged on the window, hoping to rouse her, but when it was clear that she was unconscious, I checked to see if she was breathing and did not notice any chest rise. I reached for my spring glass breaker (We try to avoid popping glass, as it goes everywhere and can injure a patient, but when the patient isn’t breathing or conscious, the decision was made for me) but when I brought it to the window, the mechanism jammed and I could not get it to fire. There were no large rocks nearby, and we do not carry heavy rescue tools in our ambulance. I was down a steep embankment, my pocket knife was not a safe tool for the job, so I grabbed for the only thing I had available, the brass Delike Alpha in my pocket. I didn’t know if it would work, but I had to try. I pulled it out and placed the diamond tipped dome shape in the lower corner of the window and struck it several times as hard as I could with my hand. (Wearing duty gloves, this still hurt like hell.) On the eighth or ninth hit, the glass gave and the window shattered. I was able to climb in through the window, and when I opened the patient’s airway, she began breathing on her own. I held her airway open until heavy rescue arrived, and we were able to extricate her by cutting the doors, themselves, off. We wound up transporting her to the local hospital, and so far as I know, she survived the accident. I did not expect my pen to even work, much less survive, but much to my amazement, the thing still caps and uncaps just like normal and writes just fine!
TPM: Why did you originally get that pen? How did it become your daily work pen?
CM: Originally, I got it because I saw Chris on his youtube channel, Chrisrap42, showing it off. I liked the “bent nib” it had and was curious. I had a Kaweco Sport and really hated how short it was when unposted, also didn’t like the nibs much. I wound up really loving how hefty it was, the quick cap/uncap, the smooth pseudo-architect nib, it could take a proper converter and that it could be used posted or not. That extra centimeter of length really improved on the design that was obviously stolen from Kaweco, and the fact that it was rounded made slipping it into my uniform pocket very easy. I drop my pens from time to time on duty. I get into wrestling matches with crazy patients and have been kicked squarely on the breast pocket pen before, which resulted in a ballpoint ruining a shirt. The Delike really took the beating and kept coming back for more. It’s got a plastic insert for the threads, but it’s smooth and has proven to be able to survive multiple full-force strikes when held against glass, so I genuinely can’t think of a better pen for the job.
TPM: What was it that first got you into pen collecting?
CM: I remember being 8 or 9 years old at an office supply store, seeing a row of Waterman Phileas’s in the case. I begged my dad to buy one for my mom’s birthday (They were around $80 back then.), and she used it for years. I used dip pens in art during high school but never really got into fountain pens myself. I started making pens in my dad’s wood shop and selling them, and kept a nice little one I made from some thuya burl and would use it on occasion, always growing frustrated with the fact that it would dry out and skip constantly. But when I started back in school, I was bored one day browsing Amazon and noticed that I could get a Pilot Penmanship for about $5. So I bought one. And it didn’t skip. It didn’t dry out. It wrote amazingly. Then I bought a Pilot Metro and shortly after bought my first two vintage pens from you, a 50’s Sheaffer Craftsman and an American Pencil Co. Venus. I’ve been spending more money than I should ever since.
TPM: Off duty, what are your favorite pens? Why?
CM: The pen I reach for on a daily basis more than other is probably a heavily customized TWSBI VAC700R made by Pablo at FPnibs.com. It’s got a monster flex XXF 14k nib and custom feed, and I love using it. Also like to take my Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age around. When it comes time for a final exam, my “good luck” charm is my mom’s old Waterman Phileas. It’s battered. It’s brassed. It needs restoring. But it writes like hell after over 20 years in her purse (I’ve since upgraded her to a Pilot Custom 74 with a 14k music nib). If I am going somwehere and need to show off a little, the Mont Blanc 149 I purchased from you.
TPM: What do you like to write about? Why?
CM: Right now, most of my writing is either in patient charts or writing extensive notes in class. I find it a good experience to help practice my handwriting and cement concepts from class. Right now I’m reviewing EKG interpretation over the summer. I also practice learning Spencerian and more ornamental penmanship using dip nibs and my monster flex TWSBI. This thing is genuinely about as soft as a Comic G nib.
TPM: Tell us some of your favorite inks. What do you like about them?
CM: I like inks that don’t smudge. Smudging drives me nuts. My favorite is hands-down Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses. It was my first bottle of ink. It’s both vibrant yet professional, and the black component to it is Bulletproof. I’ve got about 120 bottles of ink these days, not including samples, and it’s hard to choose favorites. I love Noodler’s Dark Matter because of its historical roots. I love Pilot Blue/Black because it’s 350mL for $20 and just always behaves, and I love good old Waterman Blue because it’s a lot more vibrant than people believe. Lastly, there’s the Goulet exclusive, Liberty’s Elysium, a permanent ink that I don’t think could possibly be more blue. I am honestly more into inks than pens themselves, I use them in all sorts of projects and recently used three to stain some shelves for my wife.
TPM: Thank you for sharing your story with us and for keeping us safe with your pen collection!