Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"It writes upside down!"

The other night I happened to catch the Seinfeld episode in which a member of the retirement community where Jerry’s parents reside insists the comedian take the Space Pen that so impresses him (“It writes upside down!”). I bought one of those pens at a store called the Museum Company fifteen years ago when the overpriced outfit was still in operation at a local mall.

I was very impressed with its small bullet-style design. It reminded me a bit of that tiny oxygen apparatus that saved James Bond's life when trapped in a shark-infested swimming pool in Thunderball. If the Space Pen was as durable as the manufacturer claimed, it might make a good companion for the Zippo lighter I’ve been dependably using since 1971.

Fisher claims to have invented their Space Pen in 1965 to meet the needs of the NASA space program. Over at Wikipedia I learn that Fisher invented the instrument on its own then sold NASA on the idea. Fisher makes other claims, most of which those of us who are not astronauts can only accept on faith, including the promise that the pen “will write dependably smooth upside down, under water, over grease, in extreme cold and hot temperatures, with an estimated shelf life of 100 years.”

I found it didn’t write as well as expected right side up, always requiring more pressure than a pen purchased in a package of ten for 99 cents. I was also disappointed that the black ink wasn’t as dark as I hoped. After I bought a refill for the ink cartridge, the pen's performance did not improve, and the novelty item for which I paid $17.50 (in 1998 dollars) was pretty much relegated to that pile of stuff that I didn’t throw out because, well, it was allegedly worth something.

Inspired by that Seinfeld repeat, however, I brought the pen out of its black plastic case, tested it, and found that it works well enough, kind of choppy but competent. The ink is still not as dark as I’d like, but it’s a quality product. Hopefully, I’ll never need to put it to the test to determine if it really writes in “extreme cold and hot temperatures,” but it does write upside down.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks


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