Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pens and M&M's

I've been asked several times, what I would take with me to Haiti if I went back.
I always reply "Pens and M&M's".

More on M&M's in another post.  Right now, I want to talk about pens.

Last week I was running errands in town and I was writing a lot of checks.  Halfway through the morning, I lost my pen.  My experience in Haiti really made me notice having lost my pen.  As an experiment I spent the next couple of hours using other people's pens and noticing using other peoples pens.

Pens are a funny thing.  If you have them, you never think about them.  You lose one, you find one.

You walk away with someone else's accidentally and unless its one of those fancy expensive ones (which I never use anyway, because I hate the way they're so heavy in my hand), its a sort of "no harm, no foul", thing.

If I need a pen, I can borrow one, I can buy one, I can even steal one with little fear of retaliation.  Societally, we don't even register it as theft.

You will know the world has ended, when there are no pens.

It's a terrible feeling for there to be no pens.  No pens, not even a pencil.  It felt like everything else could be replaced or jury rigged.  You can give less or save it for those who are in dire need.  There's always some technique or Macguyver-esq hack you can try.

No penicillin?
All right, we've got amoxicillin somebody sent us.

Running low on normal saline?
Shit.  All right. Only give it to the ones who really need it.  

No pitocin?
Damn it. All right, I'm going to show you how to do uterine massage.

But pens...That's like the last thing in the world you can do without.  Hospitals run on paperwork.  Even if the paperwork is only to remind you what you've already done for this patient.  You need to record vitals, drugs given, treatments, symptoms.  Even if you're not actually in a hospital, you need to record what you've done for a person.

Pencils might do it, but you need to be able to read what you're writing.  If you have a lot of paper together, the pencil smears. And pencils seem to come from the same place pens do.

This begins to apply to all those little ubiquitous supplies that we think nothing of picking up when we start to run low.  Often we have to have a whole system for getting rid of the excess.  Sticky notes, labels, markers, trash bags.  These are the things that will disappear in SHTF collapse, because everyone always thinks of toilet paper and MRE's.

Me, I'm putting aside a few boxes of pens for the next time I have to deal with some variety of collapse.

No comments: