The infamous Push Pencil.

Three different
narratives about
the same boring
Push Pencil.

Three reasons
why the Push pencil can give
you anxiety.

Three Reasons why the ‘Push pencil’ can give you anxiety. (You may know them as ‘Non-sharpening pencils’ or ‘Pop a point pencils’ or whatever name you gave it.)

Don’t get me wrong, I loved this pencil. I used them all the time in elementary school - I vividly remember my excitement when I discovered these after years of using the wooden pencil. I had the same spell when I found them again in a dollar store, 8 pencils for a $1.49 almost 20 years later. I somehow had assumed that owning one of them made you look cool, similar to how using your iPad to write on instead of your notebook - that kind of cool.

But this pencil can cause anxiety. No, I’m not kidding. If you’re someone who is easily embarrassed or would freak out if your activity is diminished by some unknown force while taking notes in class, this isn't for you. The pencil is cheerful no doubt but if you grew up to have sweaty palms - Oh no, (of all the things that can go wrong in your life with those sweaty palms) I can bet that the slim transparent plastic exterior cover of this pencil will let it slip from your hand and drop, probably rolling under the furniture where you won’t have access to. 

This pencil is also the reason I can never be committed to using erasers. These pencils come with a plastic cap that have an eraser on its end (Its honestly cool because you can either post the cap at the end of the pencil so you can turn the pencil to erase or hold the cap like a smaller pencil to use the eraser.) So now that we’re done with the good part, there has been instances where I have pencils with a lost cap or a lost eraser. That’s not right, I have to disown you, you don’t get to leave me. No. These erasers usually come in the same colors as the pencil’s outer cover, its cute and all that - but they leave behind this horrible, horrible pencil smudges after erasing. I cannot begin to tell you how this has affected my trust in buying or using erasers following that trauma.  

What happens with those tiny lead whatchamacallit? The pencil consists of a plastic body that has a series of pencil leads.  Each lead is about a centimeter long and is attached to this little white plastic whatchamacallit (I’m sometimes overly technical). When one lead wears down, you pull it out from the top, push it into the bottom while making a tiny circle impression on your thumb and celebrate not having to sharpen your pencil. But of course, eventually all of the sharp leads would wear down and you would end up spending most of your time simply snapping the leads in and out, coursing unrewardingly for that one lead that is somewhat less weathered down than the others, Not that its not amusing. Now imagine losing one of those nine (so odd) tiny lead plastic thingamawees. The pencil literally becomes useless and your last resort would be to hold one of those tiny leads and use them between the ends of your fingers. This can be done although it requires determination and practice. But of course, not me. Sweaty palms.

An Error in my Nostalgia?

The wooden graphite pencil has served us for centuries, but in the 80s came the innovation of these Push-pencils which could classify itself under mechanical pencils. I would say this invention was a  ‘Ta-ta’ to what could have been a relatively green way to use a pencil (100 trees for your paper and 100 trees for your pencil and now there’s plastic too). The Push-pencil was first developed in Taiwan by the Bensia Pioneer corporation and it’s easily found on the internet when searched as the ‘Bensia Pencil’.

I think the idea is a novel take on the basic structure of the graphite pencil. As you know, a graphite pencil has a lead that goes through the entire length and stops at the end. But what the Push-pencil does is that it takes the idea of the lead going through a normal pencil goes ‘no no no no’ and breaks it into tiny parts that becomes a reloadable lead cartridge system. When the writing tip becomes blunt from use, you simply pull it out from the writing side and insert it into the other end, thereby completely eliminating the need for a sharpener. I also remember having colored pencils in the same way, each plastic thingy had a colored lead on it. Thinking about it now, it could have been a bad design, to get to one color, I’d have to go through all the previous leads. But honestly I found my way around it as a kid, I put the colors I used most together so they would come around the same time. This also makes me think that I might have complained less as a kid.

The introduction of the Pop-a-Point pencil also made obsolete the traditional trip to the classroom’s common pencil sharpener or the trash can to the end of the class where you would go to sharpen your pencil but what you would really do is take a break from a mind numbing ‘addition-subtraction’ class (oh wow, that could have been the beginning of my ‘damn I need a coffee break’). On an average, you could go about writing as long as you want with a normal pencil provided the lead becomes blunt and you sharpen it. But with the push pencil, each lead is so short the sharp part would last half a page and you could finish the sharp parts of all the 9 leads in a day or two. In addition to finishing these leads, you also have to keep in mind, losing the tiny leads or breaking them. And all that homework, I now know why I had so many of these.

These are super un-economical and I think they found the perfect audience for the product by giving these to children not only because they would simply be excited to use a pen like pencil when they’re only allowed to use pencils (who says no to upgrades). But also the same audience who would break them and cry, wanting more. So much for feeding consumerism right at the beginning.

This is definitely one of those things that makes you go, did I really like this so much as a kid. Was I being delusional getting excited about it after all these years? An error in my nostalgia?

Substance of Materialism

In my opinion, I would call the Push pencil a mediocre design. These pencils were an attempt at making the use of pencils a fun experience for kids. It was sold at affordable prices and one didn't have to carry a pencil sharpener in case the lead became blunt. It consists of a poorly made plastic tube that can easily be broken by child aged 5, it’s worse because it can be dangerous with sharp edges. It consists of these smaller plastic sections stored with lead tops embedded on one end and the other end is left hollow allowing another plastic section to snuggle behind it. Most of the time you can't wait to finish the current point before moving on to the next one, so really that Push pencils end up being your collection of various lengths of blunt pieces of graphite.

Why did I love this as a child, or did I? I remember having different colors and also seeing my classmates bring in new ones almost every week with different designs on it. This is really like the Schumpeter’s gale (something new brings about the death of whatever existed before it). The system of owning just a couple of wooden pencils, an eraser and a sharpener and being minimal was just fine. Now with the upgrade, We still had a wooden pencil for back-up in our tiny fancy pencil boxes if something had to happen to these decorative plastic pencils. This was it! This was probably the beginning of following superficial fads as a 7-year-old or digging into consumerism as a child but only this time, my parents were all for it! To this day, the habit has never left, I always have to have backups with everything I use, I own fancy ones and then there are the ones that will always save me. Why won't I just be happy with just the saviors?

Why make something so dainty and give it to a child? Really. Was it actually comfortable to use as a kid? I would never know but it sure isn’t great to use as an adult. Who would have tested these for us as kids (definitely not my parents)?  These pencils were not just limited to graphite leads but also had colored ones. These never worked for me because I did a lot of coloring and the leads would go blunt in less than a minute of using them. I lost the plastic sections so easily, they would slip from my hand and just be lost in space. Were these pencils really affordable? To me, this looks like the greatest marketing gimmick that has never been spotted (Because who cares about push-pencils). It surely is un-economical and easy to go unnoticed because the consumer has the mind that jumps up and down at discovering dogs poop the same way as humans. Way to go Bensia (From an internet search which confirms they have the patent to push pencils) for coming up with this innovation you’re proud of, not to break your bubble, but seriously, you’re the substance of materialism.

Imagine yourself as a 5-year-old kid. This is what Bensia did to you. You want these pencils in different colors, you want all the leads to be sharp, you also want those extra boxes with the refill cartridges. Oh wait, what about the push-erasers and push-color pencils, You want that too because Suzan had them last week. The ones you have currently don’t match your lunch bag and you saw some with pandas on them, that's what you fancy this week. And if my mom were your mom, she would be relieved to buy you 100s of these so you could break them, play with them, write with them (If you ever wanted to) or whatever, She’s just happy you’re not torture-crying her for a new iPad that you saw your neighbor's kid get.

Good move, Bensia. Sorry, Mom.