I've mentioned my frustrated search for a fountain pen -- not an expensive gift one I'd be afraid to use, but one reasonably cheap enough that if I lost it I'd be irritated but not angry with myself. The campus bookstore and other places sell ink cartridges for fountain pens, but none of the clerks know where to find a pen.
Until. At the Ngee Ann City mall on Orchard Road, a new arts store complex opened up, just one level above the Kinokuniya bookstore. (It's called the Fourum, as it's on the fourth floor.) This is a real arts store, not the halfhearted pile of black-paper sketchbooks and gel pens that pass as the arts supply section in most bookstores; this is practically overflowing with tubes of acrylic paints, and A0 size construction paper, and life-size mannequins wearing jaunty caps and posed to look like they're browsing. If anyone in Singapore had fountain pens, they would.
And, well. They did, indeed, have ``Diplomat Magnum'' fountain pens, a reasonable selection with barely translucent bodies and a little triangular wedge so it's easy to spot the ink cartridge running out. The one problem ... they only had blue ink cartridges. This may seem like a trivial point, but I like black ink approximately 2,038,114,388,401,701 times better than I like blue. If I must write in blue ink I will, but I'll be sullen and I'll sign inaccurate dates to documents. There were bottles of black ink, but you can't go from bottle of ink to this kind of pen.
So I found a sales clerk and asked if she knew where to get black ink. She looked at the same shelves I did, found the bottle of black ink and wondered if that would do. The inability to pour ink back into the disposable plastic cartridges is a fairly abstract concept, and I generally do poorly talking that abstractly with a sales clerk, but somehow, we both understood. She got another clerk.
The new clerk looked at the same shelves I looked at and found the bottle of black ink and wondered if that would do. I explained the problem of putting the ink into the cartridges, and he thought, and went to a locked counter where there were little boxes of blue-black ink. I like black ink only about 383,812 times better than I like blue-black, but still, I'd rather have black. He looked and found a set of black ink cartridges -- twice the length, though, and he warned me several times, 47 cents more expensive, at S$2.31 for five cartridges. I thought I could swing that, but only if the cartridges fit. He couldn't tell since the box doesn't say what models or dimensions of cartridge the pen accepts.
So, the clerk, saying ``you have to take gambles in life'', opened the pen's blister back and the box of ink cartridges. As gambles go, this isn't a very daring one. He checked whether the long tubes were the right length to fit inside -- and they looked like it -- and took off the pen nib to see if the cartridge could be plugged into the tube there. It could, and he showed me, and then he quickly undid the tube and re-closed the pen and put it back in the box, before I could try it out. But, ultimately, it was a reasonably small cost and if I got a usable fountain pen it was worth it, so, taking to heart the pen salesclerk's advice about the need to take pen-related gambles, I bought it.
When I got home, I found inside the body of the pen were two empty cartridges, one plugged into the nib, one stuck in the back. The full-size cartridge will fit easily ... if I can get the empty cartridge stuck in the far end of the tube out. It doesn't shake out, and the only skinny things I have long enough to poke the tube with are other pens and pencils, which are roughly the same radius as the fountain pen and thus, unsuitable.
My consolation is that this is really funny to people who take amusement in other people's fountain pen drama.
Trivia: The Pulitzer newspapers began distributing George Herriman half-page and full-page comic strip one-shots on 29 September 1901. Source: Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman, Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, Georgia Rilet de Havenon.
Currently Reading: Pogo's Will-Be That Was, Walt Kelly.