Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Instrument

This afternoon, I found myself on all fours…

…checking out the lowermost shelf of pens at the national Bookstore, looking for something special.


Actually, I was there initially to pick up my TRODAT (that stamp thing that ISO-certified PGH requires all residents to have). I had mine remade to add the department where I was from (very necessary). That TRODAT stamp was something I won in a bet I made with someone…er, special/cute/nice/amazingly awesome/ or whatever(but that’s another story.) :-p

Anyhoo, today’s blog entry’s cheesiness level will be kept at a minimum, of course. You and I both know that the emotional Sonia (that’s me, occasionally) is not very entertaining. (Drama is not a dish we like to listen to everyday for dinner, right?)


It all started during one ward meeting we had at the Psych department, when I saw one of the internst sign the attendance logbook with a shiny black and gold fountain pen. I couldn’t help but look. Long (I couldn’t take my eyes off it.) I couldn’t resist asking him:

Me: Hey Jim, could I see that pen?

And he sort of gave a little laugh while I reached for the pen, and examined it closely.

It was black, shiny, elegant…and my favorite, it was ergonomic. J And when the nib touched the paper, anything I wrote, every stroke and every line came out (and stood out) like…

                        Black gold.

(Ok, so I’m overreacting, but hey… you know the feeling.)

So, while I was flipping it around, rolling it around my fingers twirling it, and all the while admiring the balance of a perfectly good pen, I could not help but sigh.

Me: Where did you get this?
Him: I got it in Binondo, Ma’am, in Escolta, at a place called “Louis’ Pen Store.”
Me: For real? Maybe I’ll go there and check the place out one of these days…
Him: It’s virtually got a lot of pens there, mostly high-end ones so I had to pick out an affordable one.

(And then he started talking about Parker pens, and saying names like “F14” and comparing his pen with other Parker models. For a while there, it almost  seemed like he was talking about cars. Which was good, and I think the kid knew about his fountain pens. )

Me: But hey, this is pretty cool…do you write?
Him: Yes, a little…but I haven’t the time lately.
Me: (handing the pen back to him), “Cool. Take care of that pen.”
Him: Yeah, this pen is going to outlive me.

Chamie, my co-resident who was also at the table with me also joined in the exchange. She knew about my thing about pens (and paper), and tried out the black pen, as well. She was pretty amused, but thought the pen too short…a longer pen, she said, also made you write in more beautiful strokes.

And myself, being the purist that I am, said solemnly, “No, it doesn’t really matter, the pen is the pen… it’s like, wow.”

(LOL. I don’t think that made much sense, though.)
My job as a resident requires a lot of writing. Writing down notes and observations of patients, referrals…psych histories (and boy, are they long).  A good pen really does matter. Like our mentors always say, “ You, yourself, are the instrument. You don’t bring anything, no stet, no CT scan (although you have to order that in some cases), no flashy equipment that will tell you what is wrong with the patient, just yourself.
And a good amount of output involves writing out lengthy histories, like I said.
And good writing involves a good pen.
(And I got one today. It’s blue, and plastic, and has a cartoon of a penguin licking a popsicle, being licked in turn by a polar bear.)

Ok. The end. 


Defense Mechanisms, 101:

ISOLATION OF AFFECT: This defense involves a split between thoughts and feelings. Painful, troublesome, frightening feelings are removed from the thoughts they usually accompany and forced from conscious awareness. This defensive style is recognizable in the person who is able to talk about things that would ordinarily make a person wince without any noticeable feeling. A doctor describing a mutilated accident victim in cool clinical terms is someone who is adaptively using isolation of affect.


  1. LOL! Did Jim mention how much he paid for that pen?

  2. Isolation of affect---I've noticed myself doing that a few times. I know what I'm sharing is upsetting, but I feel cold about it and hear sort of a clinical tone in my voice--as if the facts I'm sharing are not related to the feelings that are removed. I didn't know it had a name. But I guess everything does! =)

    I like pens too, but my handwriting looks it's best with a basic, blue, medium-point Bic pen...the clear kind. But they're not ergonomic, so I don't use them much anymore.

    Emotional Sonia may not be entertaining, but she's very endearing.

  3. @The Gasoline Dude: Yeah, he did. around 800pesos. and he used Parker Quink with it. :-)

    @Ricademus: Thanks Rick! i like Bic pens too...especially when i'm writing really slow, and in single stroke. other times,ballpoint pens can seem to catch up (and i have a light touch), so i need a "faster" pen. haha. (All this fuss about a pen.)

  4. Hey there! Interesting read you've got here. I find your fascination for details quite entertaining. :) Will add you up if that's alright. :)



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