Item #4: Highlighter

BEANS highlighter

Alternate title: the purloined pen.

I’ve had this highlighter since 1991. I keep it now for sentimental reasons, but also out of astonishment – it still works.

The highlighter comes from the lab where I worked. Back in those days, highlighters were a standard tool for project chemists, reviewing data outputs and identifying key results or errors. Because they were so essential, they were also the first to go missing from one’s desk, usually ‘borrowed’ by another chemist or technician. To minimize the borrowing of my highlighter, I taped my name – actually my recently-minted nickname “Beans” – to it. Thus I could identify mine in a sea of ubiquitous yellow pens.

As happens when one leaves a job, one brings a few trinkets for memory and amusement. Usually, these are things that are personalized and/or of little value. For example, I still have my name plate from my old office at another job (who else would need a name plate with my name on it?). The highlighter was just part of the jetsam that came home when I cleaned out my desk, but has remained in or on my desk for 20+ years not because I still use a highlighter but for the nostalgia of that time.

That job was my first real job, the first time I had the opportunity to work hard and prove to myself and others what I was capable of as a project manager (something I became while in that job). It was also the first work environment that I felt I really contributed to, where I believed I made a difference to the success of the company and clients, and where I felt I was part of a team. I learned there how important those elements of work were to me, and I still look for and value those today.

It was also where the nickname came from that a few people still use today. Friends from that time, and even my current boss (with whom I shared the story of the name’s origin), often call me Beans – teasingly, affectionally, matter-of-factly (I think I’m actually in someone’s address book under B instead of R). And it was familiar enough to folks back then that I labeled my pens with it.

This SNL skit inspired one workmate to riff on my name, culminating in the name Beans. It just stuck. It’s never been a teasing or derogatory term, just a cute name, usually said with fun and affection, cheerily greeting me when I meet old friends.

So the highlighter is a reminder of good old times and beloved names, and kept handy as a reminder of important lessons, including this: that even old things still work.

4 thoughts on “Item #4: Highlighter

  1. Robyn – You may realize I have a set of pens and some stationery with my name on it! No – I do not need to tell the world they are mine! It is related to my specialty – “stealing” pens, stationery and to collect little things from everyone and everywhere (including the laptop bag). A few months ago, I was “forced” to clear my drawer and count my collection (I had 25 pens/pencils at that time). Girls in our pod made me label my pens/pencils and I am only allowed to use pens with my name on it. Actually I think you should be thankful to my hoarding habit…Just so you know -this is how I rescued the pointer thing that you lost when you moved up from the 1st floor – Technically I picked it up from the garbage bin as I thought it was a cool pointer at that time…This is also why you have the “boot hat” statue now… Alex.

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