Friday, June 13, 2008

Caveat Emptor

Today I went to the store to buy a pen. A black pen. You see, I'm filling out some forms which ask me to please use a black pen. I suspect a blue one is fine, but I hate filling out forms [1], and buying a new black pen now is preferable being told later that I have to fill out the forms again that time being sure to use a black pen that I must buy, even if this latter possibility is remote. It's possible that I have a black pen somewhere, but looking for it is only slightly less unpleasant than looking for information on the minute details of my life [2] that the forms require.

While I was there, I saw the pencil that I bought a few months ago. Not specifically the one that I bought, since that one was in my desk, but the same make and model. I haven't used it in a while. It's a mechanical pencil and the lead ran out a while ago. When I went to replace it, I noticed that the lead size is 0.3mm. What a strange beast. Most mechanical pencils use 0.5mm leads. Bic's disposable ones use 0.7, and I've seen a few more non-disposables that use that size in the last couple years.

I had never seen a 0.3mm. I suppose I should have looked a little more carefully when I bought it, instead of being taken in by the colour of the pencil [2]. Though one doesn't tend to go out of their way to make sure that a thing doesn't have an attribute they would never expect the thing to have. In any case, I decided that I would pick up some 0.3mm leads while I was there. Except there weren't any. There was a sign up saying that 0.3mm leads were $2.25 per package, compared with $1.25 per package for 0.5,0.7, and 0.9 (all of which they did have, in differing quantities). I also took a look to remind myself how much I had paid for the pencil. The price was also about twice as much as that of the other mechanical pencils.

I'm not sure what use anyone would have for such a pencil. The lead kept breaking on me while I was writing. I thought the pencil was broken, as was the case with an older pencil when the lead broke more often than I thought it should. One would need a gentle hand in order for this not to happen, but even with 0.5 lead, I would often get complaints from people who had to read my work that my writing was too light. If I wrote any lighter with a 0.3mm, you'd barely be able to see what I wrote.

So, next time you buy a mechanical pencil, be sure to check the lead size. Otherwise you may end buying a pencil which costs more to buy leads that the store might not even sell, costs more to use, if you can even find the replacement parts, and must be used in such a way that you may as well not be using it at all. All in all, it's a rather expensive way to communicate poorly. You can mumble for free to achieve the same end.

You've been warned.

[1] Is it just me or is there always some entry in the form that you're just not sure how to fill out? Sometimes there are two entries which seem to be asking for the same thing. Or one entry where there are two rather different things that you could fill in. In the case of one of the forms that I'm filling out now, there is a box within a box. The larger box is for my Full given name, but there is no explanation for the smaller box. There are instructions to underline or circle the name used, so maybe that's what this smaller box is for. But then why ask me to underline or circle if I'm supposed to put the name used inside the box? Topologically, a box and a circle are homeomorphic, but I imagine that even most topologists would probably care to maintain the distinction on a form that they have to fill out. And underlining or circling is certainly different from putting in a box. Even for a topologist. I hate filling out forms.

[2] Tip: If you ever plan on working for the Department of National Defence, be sure not to move to many times in the five year period before you plan to work for them. Record all address and contact info if you do.

[3] Red.

1 comment:

e.go said...

mumbling for free...ahahaha.