Note: I warn you ahead of time this post may change the way you feel about me as a potentially normal human being. I’d advise not dwelling on it too much and just chalking it up to “Oh that Will… the lengths he’ll go to about something so trivial — and then write about it!” But if you want to overthink my sanity or lack thereof, that’s OK.

Whilst most of my communication is done via fingertips and a keyboard, my job has me writing violation notices in triplicate on an almost daily basis, and as such I’m always searching for a gooooood ballpoint pen to provide whatever boost to my crappy penmanship. My journey has led me to find two of my favorites. The Staples 1.0  and the Paper Mate Profile 1.4. Both of these instruments are gloriously smooth. In fact the latter claims to be the “World’s Smoothest Pen.” I am unable to refute that trademarked boast, but I don’t agree with it, I think the Staples 1.0 edges it out.

Trouble is the pen containers themselves that encase their ink cartridges are relatively bulky –additionally so with the inclusion of rubber grips — and as a result, carrying the requisite two (“always have a back-up!”) in my uniform shirt pocket while on duty is not an option.

Enter Pen No. 3. The Bic Clic Stic, the very model of compact and slender efficiency, two fit in my pocket like they were custom built for it. See how it and the Staples 1.0 compare, below:

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The only problem is the Clic Stic does not write to my satisfaction. Not that it’s bad, it’s perfectly acceptable. But in the environment within which I scribe, i.e., usually while on my feet outdoors holding a ticket book at somewhat of an awkward angle while trying to write information legibly in very small areas on a slightly unstable surface, it’s just does not feel as comfortable as either the Staples or Paper Mate.

With an acceptance of form over function, I made do with the Clic Stic because of its overall design until it dawned on me a few weeks ago, that I might be able to do a simple hack involving the taking of the ink cartridge out of the Staples and/or Paper Mate and swapping it for the one that comes standard with the Clic Stic.

Of course, when that dawning occurred I was down to my last Staples 1.0 and upon removal of the pens’ respective guts I found the Staples ink cartridge was about a quarter-inch longer than the Bic’s. Since an irreversible trim would be in order with no guarantee of success, I wasn’t about to risk sacrificing it without some back-ups on hand.

And that brought me to a local Staples last weekend, where I spent 10 minutes wasting my time scouring their huuuuuge selection of pens only to find that particularly store on that particular day didn’t have a single Staples 1.0 in stock. Much grousing ensued and led to me taking a box of Paper Mates to the register. When the cashier asked me if I’d been able to find everything I wanted, I curtly told her absolutely not. When her bored looked turned to one of mild surprise I insisted she not worry about it because the last thing I wanted to do was waste more time talking about it. After all, a pen’s a pen, right? Wrong.

Next I went to Staples.com and found a box of a dozen of them was only going to cost $5.29 — but get this: the only shipping involved a whoppingly excessive $9.95 charge. Much WTFing ensued until I discovered that Staples offers free delivery to its stores for customer pick-up, so I selected that option and a couple days later after being notified via email that my order was delivered, detoured on my way home to pick it up. I was humorously not surprised to find my box of pens — roughly 5″ x 3″ x 1″– had been shipped in a box that was easily 18″ x 12″ x 4″. Ironically, Staples has apparently never heard of padded envelopes, which they sell.

Long story short, I sat down yesterday with six of the Clic Stics and six of the Staples 1.0s, and about six minutes later, having successfully completed the final pen hack I now had the best of both worlds where form equaled function: a half-dozen fully operational Clic Stics holding their freshly trimmed and installed supersmooth Staples ink cartridges. And there was much rejoicing.