Fountain of pens lies drying, dying

Editor’s note: Because of a family emergency, we present this Cole Classic, excerpted from April 2, 2000. Burt will be back with fresh adventures next week.

I dug furiously through the desk drawer trying to find a working pen.

One after another, I tossed dried out and chewed up pens back into the drawer, and rummaged for the next one.

“If they don’t work, why are all these pens still in the drawer?” I bellowed, throwing another inkless wonder back into the pile.

Oh. Yeah.

They’re there every time because instead of throwing them into the wastebasket, I, like many patriotic Americans, put them back.

Maybe it’s the same theory as the reaching for the last cube in the ice tray or the last glass of Kool-Aid, only to recoil and flee: If you empty it, you have to refill it.

So instead of throwing things away, our homes become cluttered with masses of nonworking parts. And I personally do not need that kind of competition.

Why do we feel compelled to save things we will never use again?

OK, those pants in the back of my closet don’t count. I will slim down to svelte again someday, just you wait and see. And then I will need those pants. So those aren’t useless and shouldn’t be considered as part of this argument.

My point is, we all keep some useless stuff around, like pens that don’t write but scratch holes in otherwise nice, clean documents.

Of course, one can buy refills. It might be cheaper than replacing the pen. Perhaps I should price them some day. I know it’s got to be environmentally friendly to refill a pen rather than toss it into the trash to feed somebody’s landfill or toxic waste dump.

Besides, maybe next time the pen will write.

But other stuff, useless stuff, why do we keep it? I bet almost every house has a laundry basket without handles or broken ribs or both. You can’t carry it anymore without hugging to your chest like an overgrown baby.

Of course, it does still hold laundry and one never knows when an extra basket will be needed. So maybe save it just a bit longer.

The same can’t be said for the single shoe in the closet or the six single socks in the drawer. C’mon, it’s been three years. Face it, the mates aren’t going to show up again.

Unless I find singles just like them at a yard sale. So they stay.

But the furniture people have stored in their basement or garage, what’s the point? Do you think someday you’ll get the urge to slither into the far corner of the basement and sit in that chair in the cold dampness of cobwebs?

Of course, there’s a good market out there for restored furniture. Antique is best. So letting my old furniture season a little longer in the basement actually is an investment. When I pass it on to my kids, it’ll be just like giving them a treasure chest full of gold.

But really, I think we all know if we’d be honest with ourselves, that we all keep useless stuff, things we’ll never use again, stashed around the house somewhere.

Except me.

I realize now that I have valid reasons for everything I have. I’ll write those reasons down as soon as I can find a pen that will write.

If you can’t find a pen with ink, you can send e-mail to Cole at