The act of biro thievery

by Ify Okoli

Biros do not have long lifespan like human beings. They live for, say, one or two weeks and then they join their ancestors in the great beyond; not honourably but pretty decently. Their hearts just stop pumping blood and we, the users, just scrunch our faces in annoyance and toss them over our shoulders, reaching for the next available ones.

Unlike human beings, however, a single biro can be owned by up to fifty people in its short lifespan and may visit five across-the-Atlantic countries before you even dream of travelling from Lagos to Ibadan next door.

Think of it…you buy a biro from the Mallam’s shop down the road, use it for half a day and by lunch time, you put up a ‘Missing Biro’ announcement on the office notice board declaring your brand new Bic biro missing, complete with a smiley photograph of you solving a crossword puzzle in the newspaper with the said biro earlier in the day (for recognition purposes). Then you discover that the geeky fellow that works in marketing department upstairs, who came by your desk in the morning is using a biro that looks just like yours. It even has its top chewed like yours. You remember that the ink in your biro floated a little when you dropped it in your bag while having a late breakfast and this one too has its ink running down the transparent tube. But no, the marketing guy adamantly refuses to give it over insisting and swearing on his mother’s grave that he took the pen from his younger sister who is writing Junior WAEC. He yells at you, spitting in your face and insisting that his sister has up to five pens and anyway, is it just an ordinary biro that is biting your ajebota butt?

You get the point: he just called you a loser despite that he is the one who looks more like a loser. You swallow your pride and return to your seat swearing that you will never buy a new pen again. Never again.

Then by close of business, almost everyone is gone and you stretch out your hand and grab the pen belonging to your right-hand seat mate. Unfortunately, the stingy guy has written his name and inserted it into the transparent tube of the pen. You shake your head, hiss and very carefully, remove the name tag. You scratch the body of the pen on the floor so it can look older and non-recognisable. It’s your pen now.
By tomorrow mid-day, you are back to square one with your photograph on the notice board again: this time, you are not smiling. You are furious. Your fists are shaking in anger. Your newly acquired pen has just got missing. Again.

Don’t worry, this might sound like you, might be your friend whom you know is a chronic ‘biro stealer’. The good news is: you are not alone. Half the people in the world, surrounding you, reading this note with you are ‘biro stealers’. In fact, one of them is probably picking up your pen right now.
It’s amazing to find that it’s not peculiar to ordinary people like you and I; even celebrities, presidents are guilty as charged. You can look up the story of President Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president who has several hilarious YouTube videos dedicated to him when he stole a pen during a meeting with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. He really didn’t need to go through the whole drama of picking the pen and covertly sliding it into his pocket under the hawk-like eyes and sniffing noses of the press, when, in fact, it is normal during official visits abroad for the leaders of countries to take with them any writing materials used during an agreement immediately after the signing ritual. This guy just put a whole new tag to the word ‘thievery’!

So, where we draw the line? Who is a thief? Can you put someone who stole twenty naira and someone who stole a pen in the same category of thieves? After all, the items are worth about the same amount. When is stealing really stealing? Imagine being locked in jail or having your arm cut off for stealing your colleague’s pen. Would the punishment be justified?

I will leave you with a little joke ‘borrowed’ (not stolen) from someone else: “A father came home from work to find his wife berating their son. ‘Can you believe it? He stole a pen from his classmate!’ the mother said. The irate father shouted, ‘Where did you learn to do a thing like that? Your mother and I are honest people. And why steal a pen? Don’t I bring you enough pens from work?’ “

I guess the father has said it all…

Ify Okoli blogs at

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