CLERK: You here for your notary?
ME: That’s right.
CLERK: Raise your right hand and repeat the three parts of the pledge on the plastic cahd there on the counter.
ME: I have a few words to say first, if I may.
CLERK: I don’t know, it’s lunchtime, we get a lot of people in here . . .
ME: Thank you. Fellow Massachusettsians, or Massachusettsoids, whichever is correct. I stand before you today to take the oath of office of Notary Public, a high calling and a noble office that dates back to ancient Rome, if you can believe Wikipedia.
CLERK: That’s what my kids use for their term papers.
ME: I’d like to thank my wife and my children for supporting me in my decision to renew my commission as notary public. They couldn’t–or wouldn’t–be here today, but if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have a family. I consulted with them before I made the difficult decision to expose myself to the junk mail you get as a notary from companies that try to sell you rubber stamps. I asked them–is it worth it? I put it to them as candidly as I could, and they were unanimous. “Dad,” one of my sons said, “I couldn’t hear you–I was listening to Kiss.” His mother and I are excited that he’s taking an interest in the classics.
I asked my other son who sent me a text message from college. “I couldn’t care less,” he replied. “What’s a notary public anyway?” I’m encouraged that, like many other young people, he is showing a new-found interest in public affairs due to the excitement of the upcoming presidential election.
I asked my wife, whose only consideration was whether I could handle the demands of the job. “Do you like this fabric for the chairs in the dining room?” she asked with a look of concern on her face.
“At $2 a signature it’s not much money,” I replied, “but it’s probably the highest public office I’ll ever occupy.” She gave me a big hug and said that I should follow my dream, even though she had recently dreamt that she’d been chased by a notary public in a bear suit asking to see her driver’s license or another acceptable form of identification.
GUY IN LINE: You gonna go on all day or what?
ME: I’m just about to start my peroration.
GUY IN LINE: You been oratin’ for awhile there.
ME: The peroration is the concluding part of a speech in which there is a summing up and emphatic recapitulation.
GUY IN LINE: Oh, okay. Go ahead and recapitulate if you got to. I went before I came here.
ME: Thanks. My wife said–are you sure you can press that heavy metal seal? You’re getting on in years, you know. I reminded her that you don’t actually need to use a seal. You just “do your notary thing”–asking the person if the signature is their free act and deed, then sign the document and write down when your commission expires. That’s it. You can keep notarizing up until the moment you’re ready to keel over and die.
GUY IN LINE: Speakin’ of which . . .
ME: Just a second. My wife stood by me during the dark years after I lost my justice of the peace commission. That’s when the big bucks were rolling in–$50 for a wedding, $75 if it was out of town! We were living high on the hog.
CLERK: Not that I care, but what happened?
ME: Politics–it was all politics. I got a call one day from the governor’s office saying I hadn’t given any money to his campaign, and I had only performed two weddings in seven years. They said they wanted to give my commission to a fat cat-bigwig donor who lived in my town. I was crushed.
GUY IN LINE: I dunno–two weddings in seven years. Sounds like you were kinda doggin’ it.
ME: It wasn’t for lack of trying. I put “Chapman’s Chapel of Love” in neon lights on top of my garage. My neighbors took me to the Zoning Board and I lost. What could I do?
GUY IN LINE: Cheez, that’s too bad.
ME: Water off a duck’s back under the bridge. In any event, I’m here today to reclaim my rightful place as a notary public, ready to drop whatever I’m doing to authenticate a signature on a retail installment sales contract for a Subzero Refrigerator.
CLERK: Make your check payable to “Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
ME: How much is it?
CLERK: Sixty bucks.
ME: I’ve got my AARP card–don’t you have a Senior Citizens discount?
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