President Trump has Sharpie Issues. So Do I!

sharpie2We all know about President Trump, Hurricane Dorian, and the Alabama Sharpie Scandal. We have all seen that mysterious black Sharpie semi-circle that "supported" the contention that the Yellowhammer State was in line for an assault by the superstorm. Various weather agencies got into the act, defending or repudiating the claim. Fortunately and not surprisingly,  Alabama was spared, with the Bahamas taking most of the hurricane's wrath (for contributions to the Red Cross Bahamian Relief Fund click here.)

While the President was wielding a Sharpie, I was searching for mine. As a pathologist, I try to make a mark. And it is usually with a fine tip permanent marker that can write on glass. Is there a strange looking area on a prostate biopsy? Mark it on the slide to show my partners at the daily slide review. Do I need to determine the length of the tumor on a slide? Grab the Sharpie and draw a line to measure. Creepy cells on a cytology case? Sketch a circle around it so you can find it next time.

I wasn't always a Sharpie aficionado. I spent much of my career using an Ultra-Fine Point Marker made by Pilot. My favorite color was green, a nice contrast to the pinks and purples that the tissues on the slide were stained. I would look through the microscope, find an area that needed marking, look around for the marker, take off the cap, attach the cap to the base of the marker, make my mark, recap the marker, put it down. Lots of excess head and eye movements, and if I forgot to do the recapping, a dried out, useless marker.

Finally two years ago, after more than 30 years in practice, a lightbulb (LED type, I'm sure) went off in my head. Why not try to find a retractable marker? Did anyone make one? One Google/Amazon search later, and I had found my champion, the Sharpie Ultra Fine Tip Retractable Pen. Though Sharpie called it a pen, not a marker, they advertised that it was permanent and would write on glass. You can have your Mont Blancs, I wanted a Sharpie Ultra Fine Tip Retractable Pen.

I ordered a dozen and was not disappointed. These were the real deal. The tip easily glided across the cover glass of my slides, leaving fine, easily controllable marks. And with a single click, the point appeared or disappeared. No more stopping, looking up, capping, and recapping. Pathology Nirvana!

But that first dozen has been whittled down to one remaining marker. I have gone back to Amazon for another order, and discovered that most vendors are "Out of Stock." The Sharpie website confirmed the sad fact. Sharpie no longer makes the marker. Yikes.

I have appealed to colleagues on a pathology list-serve to see if anyone could help me find my beloved marker. One diligent researcher did manage to locate a web site that advertised that they actually had the product. I checked it out. Yup, they had the pen I was looking for...and had marked up each $3.00 item to $15.00. I may love those pens, but I refuse to be held hostage. I passed on the purchase.

Another path-lister recommended a different retractable Sharpie product. She swears it will give me the nice fine line I am looking for. I have ordered a three-pack and am waiting for them to arrive. And if they don't live up to my expectations? Well, maybe then it WILL be time to retire. I'll let you know.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and not UroPartners, LLC.

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