I am vexed; irritated, miffed and nettled, too. I know I tend to get annoyed at silly things, but the pencils are the last straw in a day filled with irritants.
Don't snigger, I use pencils. All right, snigger if you want to. Yes, I know I am not a mother of a schoolboy any more and that there are oodles of kinds of pens to be had out there, but I use pencils. I have my reasons.
I print prize puzzles to solve at leisure; they can't be solved in one sitting, anyway. Now it is arrogant and silly to start filling the solutions in ink, when you aren't sure of them. What if you fill in a provisional solution in ink and have to change it later? How many times will you overwrite before it looks a right mess and you have to print the puzzle again? It makes sense to use a pencil then.
I always have a notepad nearby, to jot down thoughts and ideas, phone numbers or messages, or a list of things to do the next day. This pad is where I arrange my daily life.
I use the notepad for poems too. While I jot down post ideas or thoughts with a pen, I use a pencil for the poems. Don't laugh, it makes sense. When you are fiddling with the order of words or lines, when you are dithering over a word, wondering if it sounds right, it's simpler to use a pencil.
Even if you space the lines wide, how many crossings out, over-writings or writing above or below will it be before the whole thing is a thorough mess and you can't make sense of the lines anymore? So I work with a pencil. It helps too when I am translating. I write down the original stanza by stanza, leaving a six or seven line gap in between to fill in the translation. If I worked with a pen it won't be long before I'd have to use another page and start all over again.
And for some reason, my handwriting is always neater and more legible when I write with a pencil. Give me a pen and I will write you a scrawl.
It's my bit for the planet, too. I don't know how many trees make a notepad, but if I can manage a poem on a single sheet of paper by using a pencil, I'd rather do that than waste some three or four because I was using a pen. This is the reason why I print on both sides of a paper, too. Crosswords and such trivial pursuits ought not to consume much of our precious resources, so even if flipping back and forth is inconvenient, I prefer to do that than waste an entire side of a paper by leaving it blank.
Maybe this is my upbringing. We were repeatedly admonished not to waste things, to stretch things and make them last. Things were recycled; clothes were handed down, bed sheets became slipcovers became kitchen towels became dusters became floor mops until they became tatters and imaginative uses were found for those, too. We conserved things. Built-in obsolescence is an obscenity to me.
We were trained to turn switches off before leaving a room, close a tap tight, conserve water (Madrasis can give lessons in water discipline to Frank Herbert's Fremen, ha); save, reuse, preserve, conserve was the mantra dinned into us. Perhaps this is why the hijacking of the adjective conservative incenses me. The original meaning of the word was being careful of resources and managing them well.
All right, rant over. To get back to my grouse: pencils.
Mothers of school-going children know all about pencils; how they keep getting lost, misplaced, stolen, taken off by a bully, whatever. What they never get is worn down to a stub. They seem to get sucked into some black hole before they get half way used. I remember writing with pencils that were almost too small to get a decent grip on. But these days, pencils never last that long.
Maybe it is shoddy manufacture, maybe nobody cares but these days, pencil points keep breaking after you reach a third of the way down the length. It doesn't matter the make, brand or company. I've tried all sorts. My current crop of pencils is Steadtler, but no matter who make them, the points break off as you sharpen them once they become shorter.
I know what I am talking about, okay? I've just spent some ten minutes trying to sharpen a pencil. Any pencil. I have three Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 2Bs in front of me, of varying lengths, the shortest being three inches and a half (yes, I measured them). Not one of them will take a point. I sharpen them, and the points keep breaking off.
I have the Times Crossword Club Monthly to solve, some cryptic clues I am trying to compile in Telugu, a poem I am working on and the pencils won't get sharp. Why? Is this a conspiracy to aggravate me?