I have three fountain pens. Four, if you count the ultra-cheap one I bought and used in order to decide if I liked fountain pens. My first real pen was a Waterman Phileas. It’s a great pen, with a fat barrel and a nice heft to it. My second real pen was a Pilot Ecrino, a gift from my wife. The Ecrino is slimmer, and doesn’t feel as nice in my hand, but it has a gold nib and just glides across the paper.

Now, the Phileas cost about $40, and I think my wife spent around $50 on the Ecrino. I’m absent-minded enough that I decided to never buy a pen that was so expensive that it would kill me if I left it on the bus.

A couple of years ago a coworker gave me a fountain pen that she wasn’t using. It had a medium nib, and just laid down too much ink for her taste. Rather than just take up space in a drawer, she gave it to me.

It was a Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique. A very nice pen indeed. You probably couldn’t replace it for less than $100, and probably more. I would never buy such a nice pen, but it would have been a shame not to use it. Since then, I’ve been using the Montblanc as my signature pen.

In my line of work, a signature means more than just my name. By putting my signature and registration number on something, I’m making certain assertions about the content of the paper, and my relationship to that client. I’m making a statement that is legally binding, and can have significant consequences down the road. I like the idea of using a good pen to make that statement.

A while ago, my Montblanc disappeared from my desk. As I said, I’m pretty absent-minded, so I waited for it to show up. But it never did. It bummed me out, both because I hated the idea that someone would steal it, and because I liked the idea of having such a nice pen. When I had it clipped into the pocket of a dress shirt, with the white Montblanc emblem peeking out, I knew that other pen users would recognize it. OK, so that makes me a pen snob. At least I acknowledge it. I had decided to take my Ecrino in to use as a signature pen, but I hadn’t gotten around to it, yet.

This morning, as my wife is doing the laundry, she says “There’s ink all over this load of laundry!” Damn kids, I think, leaving their felt pens in their pockets. In fact it isn’t until my wife finds my Montblanc tucked into the back pocket of a pair of my jeans that I put two and two together. Curse you, casual Friday!

Well, I’m glad I have my pen back (and it’s surprisingly clean, now) but I feel awful that it got run through the laundry. Fortunately, most of the load was old clothes and it didn’t matter if they got spots on them. Unfortunately, my daughter had some brand new clothes in there as well. I stopped using Montblanc’s ultra-permanent blue-black waterproof ink a couple of years ago, and the blue ink I use now is fairly water soluble. I’m hoping spot treatment will come through for me.

I guess I’ve been lucky. I’ve been using fountain pens for seven or eight years now, and this is my first major ink-related disaster.