Pursuing a Parker pen

Vector XL ball point in Tranquil Indigo and Sonnet fountain in Laque Black with silver trim.

Vector XL ball point in Tranquil Indigo and Sonnet fountain in Laque Black with silver trim.

It all started when I tried to buy a new Parker ball point pen…

I consider Parker pens to be one of the best pens available. I have a number of reasons why I prefer Parker to other brands. First, Parker started in Janesville, Wisconsin and still runs its US customer and warranty services there. Second, I received my first Jotter as a gift from a family friend when I was still in high school, and I really admired the click-style at the time. Third, every Parker pen I’ve owned has always worked extremely and reliably well. Fourth, I’ve always had outstanding customer service with Parker’s warranty department when I have had a problem (I’ve only had to send a pen to them once and request a replacement ball point cartridge twice). Finally, Parker has always designed reliable, excellent pens. I have plenty of reasons to admire Parker.

I’ve used the Parker Jotter for as long as I can probably remember. My dad had a couple years ago that he rarely used, so I used them and really admired them. I received my first “very own” Jotter pen and pencil set when I was in high school. I especially liked the distinctive Parker Arrow and the solid click of the ball point pen. Although I couldn’t really afford (or justify purchasing) higher-end Parker ball point pens during my youth, I found the Jotter to be the most versatile pen. I even had a Parker Jotter fountain pen for a while. After graduating from college and starting off in my career, I continued to use Parker Jotter ball point pens. I would eventually discover something new from Parker…

Jotting with the Jotter

During college, I had moved on to Paper Mate pens because of my experience in restaurant services and then retail. You tend to lose pens if you let customers or coworkers borrow them, so I stuck to less expensive pens. I also had (and still have) a number of pens that use the Parker ball point refill, but most of these either felt cheap or wrote poorly. Construction of these non-Parker pens is typically made of fairly inexpensive materials and manufactured in a quickly-developing nation (i.e., China). As for the writing, either the pens don’t hold the refill properly, or I’m psychosomatically trying to make them fail… in which case, I’m either nuts or just a Parker snob. When I put the same refill in a real Parker pen, it writes perfectly. So I’ve chosen to stick with Parker.

One day, I set off to purchase a new Parker Jotter, the reliable workhorse that I had admired since I was young. What I found would change my world…

A new discovery

Parker released new lines of pens, two of which I was interested in trying. The first was the Infusion (also known as the Dimonite). This was a very wide-barrelled pen with colored grip accents at both ends and a “pinch” in the middle. It was a very comfortable pen for writing, but not very practical in my pocket. At close to $20, I purchased one (and lost it… D’OH).

The second pen was the Vector XL. Parker had made the Vector for years. I was familiar with the roller ball, but Parker also made a ball point, a pencil, and a fountain in that line. I was not a big fan of the Vector because I was not into roller ball pens (although I did use Uni-Ball Roller and Vision pens and in college for a couple of years), and I thought the Vector had a very plain look. But when I saw the Vector XL, I thought it was a pretty cool looking pen. The only thing I didn’t like was the color selection: Tranquil Indigo (dull blue), Volcanic Smoke (somewhat brownish black), and Celadon Ice (translucent white with a green tone). But I purchased a Tranquil Indigo Vector XL and fell in love with it almost immediately (I got past the color issue by the time I finished writing my first paragraph with it). It’s pictured at the top of this post on the left.

I purchased a few more Vector XL ball point pens so that I could use them in numerous locations (home, work) and keep different colored ink in them (blue, black, and red). So after using this pen almost exclusively for over a year, I found the need to purchase another. That’s when my quest began.

The search begins

I went to the UW University Bookstore, the official Parker dealer in town. They were out of the Vector XL. I asked the sales associate if they had more coming in, and he said that he did not plan on bringing them back. So I checked Parker’s Web site, and discovered that the entire Vector line was gone. The Vector XL was to be replaced by the I.M. (sold as the Profile in the United Kingdom). When I visited Scotland in June 2006, I had virtually no time to really look for it.

After returning to the states, I continued to look for the Vector XL or the I.M. Neither seemed to be available. So I called Parker and tried to find out where I could get one. The best answer I received was that they offer different pens in different parts of the world, and the I.M. shown on the Web site is not one available here (a click-style ball point is available in the US at the time of this post, but I really prefer the turn-style). So here is my gripe: why offer a pen on your worldwide Web site if it’s not available worldwide?

In the meantime, I started planning my one-year anniversary with Kristen. Although I had a ring, I wanted to throw her off by giving her something to be proud of. She likes to write, so I thought about buying her a mid-range Parker ball point pen. We looked at the Parker Web site together and agreed on a fairly nice Insignia. I then went to the nearby University Bookstore and looked at what they offered. I ended up buying a Sonnet in Black Laque with gold trim. The pen diversion worked… Kristen had no idea that I was going to propose to her that evening.

Rediscovering the fountain pen

The next day, Kristen and I drove to Daly’s Pen Shop in Milwaukee. I tried out the Sonnet in a fountain pen and became totally hooked. It’s the Black Laque with silver trim in the picture at the top of this post.

I have to warn that I’m not really a pen collector. Until recently, I didn’t own any of the high-end Parkers; in fact, most of my Parker pens are worth less than $15. Although I’ve owned a fountain pen in the past, I stuck with ball point pens because of their practicality in today’s world. With the continued use of word processing on computers and the Web, finding time to write with a fine writing instrument such as a high-end fountain pen can be tough to justify. Nonetheless, I admire fountain pens. When I saw the Sonnet on-line, I thought it was a lovely looking pen. But when I held it and wrote with it, it felt right to purchase it.

As a result of purchasing a Sonnet, I started keeping a paper journal again. I started carrying the Sonnet and journal with me to work. When I was in the mood, I would pull out the pen for taking notes during meetings. I have been hooked ever since. I liked it so much that I wanted to purchase more fountain pens. Even wikipedia’s fountain pen article mentions that writing with a fountain pen is more comfortable than with a ball point pen. And one private school in Scotland requires students to use only fountain pens in order to maintain legibility and the dying art of writing.

So I started back on my quest to find the Parker I.M. Since I already had experience with the ball point pen, it made sense to pursue this one, especially since it costs much less(about $15 instead of $140 for a Sonnet, or $105 at Daly’s). A coworker offered to look for it while visiting Barcelona, Spain. After searching the Web, I found it available at Casa De La Estilografica, a Spanish pen retailer, so I asked him to check it out if he had time. But then I found a listing of on-line pen retailers at PenHero.com.

After spending an entire evening looking at retailers across six continents, I found the Parker I.M. only at Casa De La Estilografica. But it only carried two of the three colors I was looking for. Plus, in case my coworker was unable to make it, I wanted to see if I could still order on-line. But because I don’t know Spanish, I couldn’t read if it offered internation shipping to the United States. So I continued searching.

I opened Google and typed in “parker im OR profile fountain pen.” Capitalizing the word “OR” causes Google to search for the terms “im” or “profile,” but not necessarily both. After searching a couple of pages, I came across a post on Fresh Every Day – Posts Less Frequently (lerwegian.wordpress.com). The author stated that he purchased his Parker Profile fountain pens from Cult Pens (UK retailer of hard to find and niche pens). I checked out the eRetailer and learned that it offeres international shipping to the US. Well, that was a no-brainer. So I ordered four of them (two in Royal Blue, one in Deep Black, and one in Amaranth Purple, and one ball point pen in Royal Blue). As of this posting, I’m still waiting for them (I ordered them just yesterday).

So I am still a little upset that I had to go overseas to find the pen that I was looking for. But I also learned to really fall in love with a whole new aspect of writing. The move to using a fountain pen regularly will prove interesting, and a method I would like to continue using. I still have a number of ball point pens that may soon start collecting dust (or may become collectable in about a hundred years). Someday, I would like to own a Parker Duofold fountain pen… the true icon of Parker’s legacy. But for now, I will keep writing.

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