I’ve carried a pocket knife since I was 12 years old, pretty much every single day. I use it to open envelopes and packages, make the occasional mechanical adjustment around the house, and even tame my cuticles. Okay, especially to tame my cuticles (I have very unruly cuticles).
I am a loyal Victorinox girl, and my first genuine Swiss Army knife was the Pocket Pal, which Victorinox calls “your reliable partner in all events.”
I got the Pal to cut the plastic straps on the newspaper bundles when I was a newspaper carrier, back in the day when they let little kids haul hundreds of pounds of newsprint around on their backs in dark neighborhoods by themselves at 4 in the morning. I’m pretty sure kids are not allowed to do that anymore. At any rate, my brother and I shared a route for a time, and his preferred method of removing the straps was to burn them through with a match. This was a bit tricky and dangerous, of course, and it didn’t work too well in the rain (where we lived, it rained more often than not). I needed a safe and foolproof method.
At that time, one month’s subscription to the daily paper was $5. When I’d collected enough to pay my bill to the paper–back in the day when they let little kids walk around their neighborhoods by themselves at night going door to door collecting cash and giving receipts, oftentimes being asked into the houses to get out of the rain and visit for a few minutes–I could keep all remaining collections as my salary for the month. So one month of delivering the paper every day to one house was the price of this knife, which made it very dear to me. I used it every day, and carried it for years. It nearly took off my pinkie finger one night when I was 14 and decided to slice an apple that I was holding in my hand (so dumb). The scar is still visible; that blade cut clear to the bone. I love my Pocket Pal still because it reminds me of my first job and the pride I felt at earning my own money.
Eventually, though, I felt the need to have a more versatile tool that could more neatly manage my cuticles, so several years ago I opted for the MiniChamp, “the compact all-rounder among the small pocket tools.”
This is the knife I carry now and use every day–the blades, the scissors, the toothpick (sometimes), even the tweezers. I’ve had to mail it back to myself from the airport at least twice when security took it away from me. You’d think I’d know better than to try to carry such a scary lethal weapon onto an airplane more than once, but it’s such a fixture in my pocket that I can’t imagine being without it.
The best of my knives, though, is the granddaddy of them all, the SwissChamp, “sometimes called a toolbox for your pocket.”
It truly is a toolbox, and every single tool on it works exactly as it is intended (as far as I know; I have never actually used the fish scaler). My sister brought it back from Europe when she did a foreign study year in the early 1990s, and gave it to me just before I embarked on a self-supported solo bicycle tour of the Oregon Coast. I carried it on my belt in its two-pocket tool kit (containing everything from a rescue mirror and whistle to fish hooks and Band-Aids) and used it every single day. From cutting up veggies for dinner to making minor gear adjustments to yes, even the quick field manicure, this knife proved invaluable. It’s still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, not only for its sheer utility, but also for my sister’s thoughtfulness in knowing long before I did that I wanted and needed this amazingly cool kit for so many reasons. I still remember the awe and joy I felt when I opened it, hardly able to believe anybody would gift such a beautiful prize to me. My sister has a way of hitting the jackpot sometimes like that.
A Victorinox knife is one of the most beautiful and useful tools in the world. Keep it clean, keep it sharp, and keep it close to you. Everybody should have at least one.