Pencils For Jury Duty: Pencil Case Closed

The pencil-of-justice is a no-name yellow number 2 that looks like it had been sharpened by an inebriated beaver.

Recently, I got the dreaded jury duty summons in the mail.  As luck would have it, I was selected as a juror and got to see the nuts and bolts of a DUI court case.    Walking into the jury box, I spied that each of us had been provided a notepad and pencil.  And the pencil-of-justice is a no-name yellow number 2 that looks like it had been sharpened by an inebriated beaver.

Ok, before I go any further, I feel I need a moral disclaimer.  I can tell by now that some of you might be concerned that I was paying too much attention to the pencil instead of the court proceedings.  First of all, the lawyers never asked me if I would get distracted by pencils when they were asking juror questions--so it's kind of on them.  Second, I took impeccable notes...even if a part of my motivation was enjoying writing with a pencil.  People kept looking at my notepad like they wanted to copy off it.  And I defend using my own personal pencils vehemently: if I was using the beaver pencil I wouldn't have been able to keep my mind from wandering off, contemplating what a underwhelming pencil it was.  So no apologies.

I really did give the justice pencil a try, but it looked like it was going to break any second.  Being the PNG, of course my computer bag had a selection of nice pencils in it.  While the lawyers were whispering with the judge, I reached into my bag and pulled out pencil #1, a vintage Dixon Ticonderoga.  YES! A pencil that would make me happy and yet not look too ostentatious.

By all rights, the Dixon Ticonderoga USA #2 should be THE pencil of choice for jury duty.  First of all, it is actually made in the USA and will give you extra good patriotic vibes as you fulfill your civic duty.  It is just your average looking pencil, and the #2 lead will give you nice legible notes while not smearing too much or requiring frequent sharpening.  So, here I am with my fine vintage Ticonderoga, feeling slightly superior to the other 6 juror's who are still using their crap-sticks.  Much to my dismay, within the first line of notes, I felt the wood tip crack.  Y'know when the wood splits and the whole point fractures inside the wood casing...  HOW EMBARRASSING! Dammit, my Ticonderoga betrayed me, and there's nothing you can do about a broken pencil in court.

Sharpening is a deal breaker and the crux of courtroom pencil selection.  There isn't a pencil sharpener in the court room--this is probably why they use the beaver system.  Everyone entering the court building goes through a metal detector and your items get X-rayed.  I didn't try, but I doubt they would let you bring in sharpener because of the deadly blade they contain.  Even if you managed to bring one in, it would be really awkward to break out your KUM Long Point sharpener in the middle of the opening statement.  

After the crushing defeat of the Ticonderoga, the next pencil that came out of my bag was a Caran D' Ache Edelweiss 3B.  
This pencil is only available from CW Pencils as far as I know, but it is one of the best value pencils I've ever tried.  For $1 each, you get a pencil that I think writes every bit as nice as a Palomino Blackwing.  With the addition of a cap eraser, you have an awesome pencil that writes as smooth and dark as pencils costing 2 or 3 times as much.  And has a better eraser than most.  This pencil was an excellent jury duty pencil for about a page and a half, but by then that buttery smooth lead was dull enough to make me reach for a replacement.

The next pencil to come out was the Blackwing Vol 24.  This is the Steinbeck edition of Palomino's Blackwing series of pencils--get a box while you still can, they're out of stock almost everywhere except for This is a prime candidate; it allegedly has the most durable point of any Blackwing lead.  It's not quite as smooth as the Palomino Pearl, but this was the perfect scenario for a quality pencil with a longer lasting point.  
I thought the Vol 24 would be ideal, and it was as a pure writing instrument.  It is a pleasure to write with, and the lead lasts much better the Edelweiss 3b.  That being said, the sleek glossy back finish has a distinctly ominous feel to it--a mean looking pencil.  I think the prosecutor smiled when he saw me writing with it.  I'm no psychologist, but this pencil made me feel extra judgmental. The shiny black paint and fancy eraser stand out like a sore thumb...and I felt too self-conscious to keep using it during deliberation in case it would affect me or the other jurors.

Jury duty is show time for pencils and I just wasn't prepared.  My preference for soft-smooth pencils bit me on the ass.  If I had to do it over again (and I hope that's not for a long long time), I would definitely consider an F grade pencil, at least as a backup.  As the Ticonderoga taught me, even if you have a good pencil, you're going to need several of them for safety.  Reliability is key.  I'm even tempted to say that this is the time for a good mechanical pencil like the 1.1mm filled with electrographic lead.  Remember, if you don't bring the right pencil you're gonna have to deal with the beaver!  

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