A good pencil is hard to find

I am betting this is a topic you have never thought about.  Why would you?

But, I have become an expert on the topic, and I have news for you: you cannot find a decent pencil in Italy.

Now I am guessing that if you go to an art supply store, or an engineering store (are there such things?), you could buy a fancy pencil that would put my favorite ones from the US of A to shame.

But, I am talking about being a student here, in a language school for foreigners, and trying to take notes. Not an artist or a engineer.

I typically write with ink, because it flows so much better than pencils and I like a fine point.  But, I had to take such fast notes and so many notes in language school, and so often made so many mistakes as I wrote Italian, that my ink written notes look like a scratch pad.  More lines through words than just plain words.  A mess.

So, I looked high and low for erasable ink pens.  I found a bunch.  They were all worthless.  The points were too thick, the erasers were not good.  I ended up tearing the paper. So, I went back to pencils.  My notes had looked (and functioned) worse in the erasable ink than in plain ink crossed out.  At least then my paper didn’t have rips in it.

Another issue is that when you think you have located a decent wooden #2 pencil here, it will not have an eraser on the end.  Or, it will have an eraser that is made out of something like marshmallow fluff.  It looks like an eraser, so you buy the pencil(s, since you might stock up when you think you’ve finally spotted a winner).

So, you take out your new pencil, which you must also carry a sharpener for as well.  Because you will break the lead, many times.  The lead isn’t that great.  And, if you are like me and want a sharp point, well…you will need that sharpener.  And you will need to empty it pretty often.  And, in all likelihood, your lead will break many times while you are manually sharpening it, and before long your new pencil will be a stub, and worse, still not that useful.

And, by that point, you will have missed the entire discussion (in Italian) of the subjunctive tense. And so, now, how will you ever be able to talk about wishes, or hopes, or things like that?

You won’t.

Anyway, you finally get your pencil stub sharpened and you start writing furiously, maybe even trying to look at your neighbor’s notes (which will be in Korean or Japanese or German), while trying to find your sea legs in the subjunctive. And damn, before you know it, you have made another mistake but you feel a bit smug, since you have a new pencil, albeit a stub, with an eraser!!

You flip that sucker over and start to erase and the entire eraser breaks off at the line where the pencil meets the eraser.

So, the next day, in desperation, when you are walking to your yoga class in the Piazza della Republicca, you pass a tourist souvenir kiosk and you notice that they sell pretty Florentine paper wrapped pencils and they have erasers.  Never in your lifetime did you think you could be so excited about the prospect of a new pencil.

You don’t have time to buy the pencil because you are already late for yoga, but visions of that pencil dances in your head in every down dog you do. You cannot wait to be done with yoga and back in the loggia by the Post Office to buy that pencil.  You are obsessed.  Plus, it’s pretty to boot and, hello, if you read my blog, you know beauty is at the top of my list, all my lists!

You buy the pencil and take it home and admire it and hope it will be the one.  You sharpen it when you get home and try it out.  You discover that the pretty Florentine paper is the only thing that makes this pencil different from the ones you’ve already tried.

So, when you go back to the USA to renew your Visa at the Italian Consulate in Chicago, you take a shopping list with you.  And no one can believe it, but at the top of your list are #2 Pencils, with erasers at the end. And you feel very safe and secure, ready to go back and try the subjunctive again.

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