Vol. 5, Issue 1, March 6, 2007
The Mark of a Man (Space Permitting)
Man leaves many Marks upon the trail of his life, which may be Followed by scouts of suitable acumen and Zeal. The impressive tab run up at the Irish bar on the corner, the charitable Contribution made to the sailor's fund at Christmas, the entirely undeserved conviction for a Misdemeanor; these and countless other traces adorn the paths we blaze into History. (And if the trail should Weave back and forth a bit from time to time, one can only point to any number of Particularly fine Islay scotches available in my study.)
But of all these marks, there are surely none to compare with one's Signature. Even the least artistically Inclined leaves the unmistakable stamp of Selfhood in this e'er more frequently demanded set of Words. Wide and graceful, scratched in a stodgy Clump, or carefully Incised with paper-damaging Virility, our names tell the story of our Lives in miniature, or at least a Snap-shot.
I must Confess that I enjoy committing my signature to Paper. As a member of both the Legal and Journalistic professions, there is no shortage of occasions for me to practice this craft, and I look forward to it with (if I may be so indiscreet) a somewhat Unseemly relish. There is the Pen to prepare, a '98 Stokely hardwood with that scrimshaw Inset of the tipsy Narwhal from my Great-uncle Elijah; the solid bottle of Ink, the smooth clean Blotter. A chore to some, it is a pleasant exercise to me. I am fortunate to have a name with a plenitude of Serifs, descending letters, and Ligatures - from the rounded majuscule E to the swooping descendant Zed, it is a Delight and a Pleasure to add my Imprimatur to letters, Legal briefs, and whatnot.
Thus imagine my Dismay to be faced with a government Form providing no more than an Inch and a Half in which to write one's signature. I thought at first I had Missed the spot entirely, and was forced to peer through my Magnifying-glass to confirm its existence. The space is no larger than the initial three letters of my Surname, by jingo. A quandary indeed!
I sat and Cogitated for a while (apparently scratching my nose from time to Time with pen in Hand, as evidenced from the Ink-stains I found thereupon later in the Wash-room). Should I use only my Initials? - No, they are but a dim Shadow of one's signature at Best, suitable for use only by various Mid-western Politicians and French harbor-masters when checking off lists of Cargo. I could of course ignore the boundaries of the Box and 'color outside the Lines', so to speak. Alas, the signature box is Nestled amidst a careful mosaic of Fine Print. My years as an Attorney have instilled a deep and abiding Respect for fine print of Every ilk, even the spurious redundancies on a government Tax form.
Like many things in to-day's Society, the form has simply not been designed with the User in mind. This document is in every other respect a Marvel of engineering by Committee, with a maximal amount of Information packed neatly into a carefully-muted diachromatic Layout. But the needs of the person filling Out the form, the person attesting to the veracity of its Contents and signing his or her John Hancock, are not in consideration. When did the User disappear from the concept of User-friendly?
No matter: a Watley always finds a way. The form is duly Mailed along with a separate piece of Paper, a full blank sheet allowing my signature to blossom Unfettered. I have even added an Extra scroll or two to the Flourish beneath my name. The paper trail that I leave Behind may not proceed in a straight Line, but it will at least be easy to Follow.