I was writing a check recently to pay off the Capital One credit card bill when the pen ran out of ink.

I did what I always do: I tapped the tip of the pen three times on the checkbook. Then I continued writing the check, assuming the tap would have tipped the balance.

Ink flowed and I nearly made it through the cursive portion of two hundred when the ink became light and then invisible.

This time, I chose a softer surface, opting for the mouse pad that no longer had a mouse on top of it or a computer in front of it, in order to arouse the ink.

I started in on the two hundred but the ink stopped flowing and the only indication that a pen had been employed at all was the indentation on the check from the pressure of somebody who thought he might be successful if he were to press on the pen with the force of 40 men.

I'm always surprised when a pen runs out of ink. A pen seems as if it should be one of those objects blessed with immortality. Especially so when the body of the pen is solid, which many are, and it seems more like a writing instrument or piece of jewelry than the burnt charcoal stick in the fire that gave birth to all of this.

The pen worked the last time I used it and the time before that, and now in the midst of writing a check to Capital One, a check I hoped would not get cashed for several days after the company received it, the pen quit.

There is the human corollary in terms of health that we've heard and used.

"I felt good yesterday, but today I have a cold."

We like continuity. We want to be able to count on things. A pen nears the top of the list.

Ink gets cold. Especially in the winter. The winter is no time to give up on a pen. You might as well give up on your best friend in a snowstorm.

Better to try to warm them. Both your companion with a bear hug and your pen with a hand hug.

This being May, and in the wake of a slew of 90-plus- degree days, cold, thick ink was probably not the problem.

I turned the pen upside down. Then right-side up. I twirled it between my index and middle fingers as if I were a majorette and the pen were a finger baton.

This move requires caution and not many people can pull it off, no matter how badly they'd like their pens to work again.

If you're overzealous, and your fingers are out of sync, you can hurl the pen forward and stick it into the wall like an arrow. Although this is impressive, and may serve as a warning to the pen to wake up, it is no guarantee that your pen will again write.

I tapped the pen on the check and then placed the tip on the paper. This time, there was nothing at all other than the imprint, and even that was illegible. I could continue, but it would require the clerk at Capital One to don 3D glasses.

I tossed the pen in the trash. Yesterday, it worked. Today, I was both out of ink and luck.