Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Forging My Own Autograph

The allegation by Maine state officials that some of the signatures on the failed petition for a vote on slot machines in Washington County were forged reminds me that I've been meaning to write about the problem -- my problem -- with signatures in general. In short, if you're circulating a petition, you'd do best to avoid getting my name on it.

My signature varies immensely from one autograph to the next. There are a very few swirls that are similar; however, I've more than once had my identity challenged by cashiers who fancied themselves graphologists. They look at the signature on the back of the debit card, and it's wildly different from the signature on the receipt. Then I bring out the driver's license, and astonishingly different third signature emerges.

Thanks to all the merchants of America who have installed PIN keyboards at their checkouts for helping me avoid this situation anymore.

The main reason that my signature varies so much is that the space they give me to write it varies so much. On the little white strip on the back of the debit card, I must write very slowly and carefully to keep on the writing surface. On most receipts, there's tons of room. The letters of my signature are free to be themselves! And I'm usually in a hurry, too. And I'm too lazy to memorize what my signature is supposed to look like to appease the rest of civilization.

Some of the very first documents that I signed where my signature was important were bank checks. In college, for one semester I was treasurer of my fraternity. All the outgoing and incoming officers had to go to the bank en masse to effect new signatories on the house accounts. At the end of the semester, we had to return to pass on the accounts to the next suckers. At that point, the bank officer protested
that none of the current officers were signatories of the accounts; they had apparently misplaced the paperwork. We had to track down a few folks who had graduated to send letters to the bank. I returned to the bank with the letters and a stack of canceled checks with my signatures on them. The bank officer explained that nobody really looked at the signatures on checks unless they had some reason to suspect something was amiss.

I'm not sure what would be more amiss than seeing a signature of a name that wasn't on the account.



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