Common sight in these parts to see students studying in coffee shops, especially in the more popular chain places like Starbucks, Tully’s and Doutor. There is no time limit for using a table, and one cup of coffee is enough to allow the use of a table for several hours, even in the busier shops, like Starbucks. On Sundays and holidays especially, students seem to prefer doing their studying out of the house. But it is often a battle on those small tables to find space for all the books, notebooks, study aids, the jam-packed pen case, and the ubiquitous cell phone and iPod.
There is a Doutor coffee shop near my house which I enjoy going to several times a week, sometimes for a bite of lunch, sometimes to enjoy a book with a glass of iced coffee, to jot some notes or lines in my journal, and sometimes just to be in a familiar and cozy atmosphere with others, reading, talking, fiddling with a laptop, or studying.
One student I see in Doutor has become a familiar face, and I learned the other day that he is a high school senior, and now in the most grueling stage of preparation for university entrance exams. We had seen each other enough times to at least offer a nod of the head, if not an actual greeting, but on the last occasion I initiated a conversation, wanting to know a little about the contents of his tightly packed pen case, which sometimes lay on the floor for lack of table space. I don't carry a zippered pen case myself, but usually just a simple three-slot fountain pen case (Pelikan), and an eyeglass case from Levenger which includes a pocket for my pencil. The bulging pen cases I often see students carrying had me curious. So, I asked the young man in Doutor if I could take a snapshot of his pen case and its contents. He didn’t mind at all, and went a step farther helping me to catalog each of the items in the case. Here’s what I found:
Contents of a typical high school student’s pen case:
1. Five Mitsubishi HB pencils
2. Eight mechanical pencils (4 Zebra, 2 Pilot and 2 with the name worn off)
3. Three Zebra hi-lite pens in pink, green & yellow
4. One multi-colored Pilot ballpoint pen
5. One erasable Pilot ballpoint pen
6. One combination pencil and ballpoint pen with a name seal on the top
7. Two Tombow erasers
8. One roll of Pentel white out tape
9. One small plastic pencil sharpener made by Kutsuwa.
10. Three packages of lead refills, all 0.5, one each of HB, 2B and B
11. One set of small multi-colored Post-Its.
12. Twelve ballpoint pen refills: blue, red & green
13. One ‘success with study’ good luck charm, or Omamori
Noting the assortment of mechanical pencils, I asked the student what was in his opinion the most popular brand among his classmates. He surprised me by saying he would ask that question in his class the next day and tell me the results when next we both turned up in the coffee shop at the same time. As luck would have it, that was two days later. Here are the results for the 37 students in his class:
Favorite mechanical pencils (by maker) in a typical high school class:
Pilot 20 students
Uni 9 students (Uni is made by Mitsubishi, the Kuru Toga a very popular model.)
Pentel 5 students
Zebra 2 students
Ito-ya 1 student (Ito-ya is a huge and wonderful stationery & office supply store in Japan)
As far as pencils go, I am happy with only one, and can’t imagine trading it for anything else. It is a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck 167 Platinum mechanical pencil. (bottom photo) The large gauge 0.9 lead guarantees that it never breaks or snaps in mid-sentence, something of a personal pet peeve. It has a comfortable heaviness that I like, and is 110% dependable. I use 2B lead made by Pentel. This pencil is never far from my reach at any time of day, and is a true workhorse for me.