Red Alert

Philip “So, it looks like our pen is red.”

You know how some TV shows drop a bomb at the beginning, and then flash back to show you how it all happened? I hate that too. But that is what we are doing for this chapter of The Scriptus Show Pen Saga.

It began, simply enough, with a photo. One of Howard’s update photos. This photo:

It was sent attached to an email, the likes of which was music to our ears:

Dear Philip,

Attached picture shows the top screws being assembled with the brass joiner screw and an assembled cap ready for sanding and polishing.

The caps are in second machining operation now and should be completed by the end of the day.

Still have the barrels to make through two operations and the sections through the second operation. All seems to be running smoothly.

Best Regards,

That is to say, the email was great. The photo rang some alarm bells.

David “You know, those caps look awfully red to me.”

Philip “I’m sure the ripple will come out when they buff them.”


David “So, do you think it might be a good idea to drop him a line, just to make sure there was no confusion, and they used the right rod stock?”

Philip “I’m sure everything will be fine.”


Philip “I’ll call him tomorrow.”

[An hour passes.]

Philip “So, it looks like our pen is red.”

There was some other conversation, covering such diverse and surprising topics as ‘What the heck happened!?’, and ‘Is there time…?’, and ‘What do we do now?’ The details are trifling and, occasionally, frustration seeps through. The argument that trumped it all was Philip’s:

Philip “I can send you the entire email chain if you like, so you can see in hindsight where things went off the rails. This is not tact, but ownership.”

Remember last chapter where, in a stroke of unintentional foreshadowing, we mentioned that careful design can fall apart when faced with the reality of production? And that sometimes designers get surprised with results when it is all too late to change anything?

Well, there comes a point where you just sigh and take ownership of the situation, which is yours, and do what you can to see the best in it. There are only a few weeks left until the show, which is far too little time to make any changes to the show pen.

As the executive partner (in my marriage) put it:

Michele “Red isn’t so bad. Philip wants it to be a Canada 150 pen, right? Well, the mounties wear red serge. And the flag has a red maple leaf, right in the middle. You can’t get more Canadian than red!”

And it’s still hard rubber, which, as we mentioned way back in chapter two, is an excellent material.

We instantly sent out an email to everyone who has committed to buy a show pen (mostly people who regularly attend the pen meet-ups where Philip held his focus groups). And, perhaps surprisingly, of the 18 committments, only four changed their minds. And someone jumped in, because they like red.

Let that be a lesson to all us pessimists out there.