To look at him, you would see a short, thin, well-dressed man. Little would you know that inside was a racing mind with limitless ideas. This was the plight, the nature, the instinct of the writer, one who could create a universe, not in seven days, but rather in seven minutes.
The writer had the imagination to invent anything, to birth any character, and script any message. A writer, through forethought and revision, could perfect what a character says and does, so that the outcome would be exactly what should happen, instead of what would actually happen. And so, who was worthy of such acclaim — the almighty creator: the writer.
To be honest, it was an involuntary mode of constant reflection, reasoning, fantasizing, hypothesizing, and ruminating. His mind observed, deconstructed, and extrapolated opinions of the world that he had to dramatize through a story.
But who was this writer? Was he as ordinary as he seemed from his outward appearance? The writer’s name is “Bic” Penman. It’s really Barry Penman, but his friends couldn’t help amusing themselves by calling him by the brand name of a popular pen. Other nicknames that didn’t have as much lasting power were “Penmanship” and “Bearman,” which was a hybrid of Barry and Penman. But “Bic” somehow stuck.
Barry…rather Bic, finished another long, fruitless day as an employee of a federal contractor where he was underutilized. His majestic literary talents that could rival Hemmingway were overlooked by his bureaucratic employer. Instead, he was expected to write technical manuals on computer systems. This was on a good day. For most days, he was reduced to editing, proofreading, and fact checking. During these stretches of perfunctory duties, his talents went into atrophy.
It must be premised that, for this federal contractor, Bic and his colleagues were contractually restricted to work only on assignments that were approved by their designated government points-of-contact. He could not begin new initiatives on a whim even if he saw a way to improve efficiency. Any and all actions were regulated by the government client, the Department of Transportation, which drove him crazy. Therefore, for proficient employees who completed their assignments in a timely manner, there was little to do but chat up a storm with colleagues.
Bic’s office floor was staffed by about 100 employees called the Project Team. It consisted of various technical professionals: engineers, computer security personnel, analysts, developers, testers, and help desk colleagues. Unfortunately, Bic was stereotypically a reclusive loner who slinked around rather than engaged in debates over the Wizard’s playoff win or recap of the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Much of the staff were the twenty-something generation who interacted with each other seamlessly. But Bic already had a daughter their age and felt a little out of place at 50. His mind would occasionally entertain the idea of retirement in the not-too-distant future, which made him feel dismal in respect that he should be at the height of his success. But instead, he was relegated to writing dry technical manuals that read like this: “From the desktop, double-click the Account Management System Application Icon. When the Home page appears, click the Account Management tab on the main menu to reveal the drop-down menu. Select the New Account option to display the New Account form.” It could put a colicky infant to sleep.
But he couldn’t up and quit. Technical Writers were royally paid. It was one of the few jobs as a writer that commanded high compensation. The job’s only flaw was that the writing demands were moronic. Technical writing was the most unimaginative, straight line in Information Technology. And to an artist like Bic Penman, it was not only boring, but offensive to his sensibilities.
To get through the unbearable ennui of handling dry technical manuals, Bic managed his day with cleverly disguised diversions. He’d leave the office building and walk across the street to the café and get a coffee. The coffee was a critical prop to get through a boring day. Not only could he nurse it for a couple of hours, but it enabled him to get up from his chair every 20 minutes and warm it up in the break room. Of course, after the fifth time he “nuked it,” the molecular structure of the coffee mutated into some other life form that was more bitter than he was. So, of course, that meant he must go back to the café to get a fresh cup. This ploy could repeat three times throughout the day.
The policy for lunch time clearly references the duration to be no longer than 30 minutes. This applied, apparently to all those who have read this policy and to those who blindly obeyed it. That person would not be Bic. Since the 100 employees on the 5th floor of the Transportation building took their lunch break at various times between 11:30 to 1:00, clearly the comings and goings of all these people caused enough confusion that Bic could slip away for at least an hour. Rules didn’t really apply to him anyway. When he drove through a stop sign and the passenger complained, “Hey Bic, you just drove through a stop sign.” He replied, “Yeah but you didn’t read the fine print. It said, ‘Stop if you damn well feel like it.’” So, let’s say Bic was not quite a conformist. A good employee? Well maybe under the right circumstances where his mind was challenged and a lot was expected of him. But in the lackadaisical culture of federal contracting, the mind was clearly a wasteland. He was in essence in prison doing his time, waiting for retirement.
After lunch, it was back to his diversions. On a pad he calculated how much money he could save and invest each year. Then he projected just how many years it would take for his estate to be worth a million dollars. That was his magic number when he would retire and do something more meaningful with his mind and life. By packing away the money now, he could retire at 58 and start his publishing company, write more books, and maybe teach college courses.
At 5:00 pm, Bic exited the office building. The winter evening took away the daylight early. For his commute, it was another long walk through the dark streets of Washington, DC to get to the Metro. Bic slung his hand bag full of his notes over his shoulder and hoofed it across town.
Bic’s way home took him through an underpass. The freight trains rumbled overhead. The pedestrian tunnel was even darker and more reclusive, but it was the way he always walked. Midway through the tunnel, a figure emerged. He was a youth, but looking to be recognized. He was tall and thin, hooded and menacing. Bic knew something wasn’t going to go his way, especially when two more grown men made themselves known from the darkness. Bic stopped walking. He looked over his shoulder seeing the dimming light of dusk from the tunnel’s entrance. Retreat was on his mind. Before he could conjure any other plan, three more bedraggled men circled him. Bic couldn’t avoid noticing the hallmarks of the clichéd thug: missing teeth; dirty, baggy clothes; scraggly facial hair. Like a pack of sewer rats, they surrounded the well-dressed professional knowing exactly what they wanted. Almost with ridiculous expectations, Bic asked, “What do you want?”
One of the older members of the circle motioned to the young thin one to assert himself. He spoke boldly, “Gimme your wallet, Mr. Park Avenue.”
Just then, Bic kicked into survival mode. A swell of confidence filled his senses. He was under-employed, but none-the-less, an artistic genius. This self-awareness gave him an overpowering sense of self determination. Right or wrong, he knew he had a purpose in life: to capture it by writing novels that had not yet been written. If he had to experience the gritty underworld by getting robbed and beaten up, so be it. It would be the stuff of his next great novel.
At this critical moment, the youth got into Bic’s face expecting the working man to give up his “hard” earned dollars. Before any of the gang said another word, Bic sucked in his gut and pressed out his chest in an instinctual posture of self-preservation. He then bellowed, “Do you know who I am?” The gang was silent. They were expecting Bic to cave. It looked like they would have a beat down. Hearing no response from the gang, Bic answered his own question, “I,” he paused for emphasis, “am a Technical Writer.” The gang members recoiled. Bic picked out a writing instrument from his pocket. “I am armed with a mechanical pencil.” Bic brandished his pencil like it was a gold cross before a vampire. “If you don’t let me pass unharmed, I will write you each a disparaging note!”
The gang members uniformly gasped, then cowered at the threat. The homeless man yelled out in vain, “I think he means it.” Another one of the gang mumbled, “That dude’s crazy.” Three of the men high-tailed away, but three others stood in a stupor not knowing what to do. Then one of the hooded men cried out, “I don’t believe you would do that, man.” Bic lost his patience, “All right, you first.” Bic wrote a note on the back of a receipt he had in his pocket, and then did the same for the other two. The three gang members squinted in the dim tunnel. One complained, “I can’t read mines. His handwriting is worse than a doctor’s.” Then he made out the note and lost his composure, “Noooo! It says that I’m jejune.” Another one bawled out, “He wrote that I have a picayune mind!” Then he started whimpering. “Take it back, please.” The last one cried out, “He wrote that I’m a cliché of the underworld not worthy of fictional depiction.”
Bic placed his hands behind his backside as would a scholar and strolled through the underpass leaving behind the emotionally destroyed hooligans to ponder their lost souls. Then Bic awoke from his spacy daze and realized he was still at work and that his eyes were open, locked in place waiting for the minute hand to reach 5:00 pm. His life had become so miserably stagnant that his mind had to generate excitement by creating a world of its own. He was truly a writer who created something out of nothing.
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