“I need your John Hancock.” I think just about any American would know what this means. Hancock’s signature is so emblematic that it is synonymous with the word signature. His signature is quite elegant, befitting of the time I suppose when a signature revealed more than just an identity, but the whole character of the one behind the signature. I did some research on Hancock’s signature to find that it has been scrutinized to the last possible degree. Some say his signature is larger than the other signatures on the Declaration of Independence because Hancock was the President of the Continental Congress which issued the decree meant for King George. Some further suggest that the signature is large because Hancock wanted the king to be able to read the signature without glasses and the extra flourishes say a lot about Hancock’s ego. However it might be, Hancock’s signature is the signature par excellence.
The first time in my life when I became aware of the seriousness of a signature was when I was in high school. I was at a bank signing a lot of travelers cheques (remember those?). My dad was leaning over my shoulder as I signed them in front of the cashier. Apparently, and true to my nature, I started to rush and my dad could see that my signature was evolving into mutant forms of the original. He told me to slow down because different signatures could mean to someone else that the cheque was invalid.
Through the years my signature has changed. By this I mean to say that my signature was at one time legible. Now, it is a heavy-handed flourish of harsh lines which form a series of peaks lying at an angle. As I mentioned previously, I tend to take the short cut in life’s routines and my signature formed itself for the sake of speed and not legibility.
In a parish office, I affixed my John Hancock to many documents and some of the time, these signatures were so repetitive that I once had a rubber stamp made. Our parish bookkeeper permitted this only with the agreement that the stamp would be used on internal documents that would likely never be viewed once filed and that I would keep the stamp under lock and key. I agreed, again for the sake of efficiency.
In recent years, I got into the web of electronic signatures, e-signatures. Sometimes, I had to open special programs to sign in such a way and at other times, my typed name or initials connected with an offsite signature site that ‘verified’ that the initials are valid and correspond to a real person, not to a robot.
Some people’s signatures as well as their script is so messy (mine) that it becomes distinctly identified with that person (me.) In my later years, I typed documents and asked that they be proofread and edited. For the few times that I would hand write something, it was common that someone would return to my office and ask me to decipher. To be honest, there were times when I could not read my own script!
Most recently, my signature has been front and center since I am living outside of the United States and I am signing contracts. When I signed my lease, for example, I had to sign a few times because what I scrawled did not match perfectly my passport signature. Finally, I got it right and the notary felt comfortable enough to corroborate that the person signing the lease was, in fact, little old me. Further complicating matters now, I am finding that my legal full name should be used on all documents such as social security administration forms, passports, visas, etc. No more middle initials for me! Messiness is still allowable however because as you have probably noticed on most forms, your are asked to print your name and then sign it.
With this then, I affix my John Hancock.