Anyone remember six months ago? That was when all the news reporting agencies were abuzz with stories about the intrusive TSA screenings and the pros and cons of privacy and the boundaries of pat-downs and X-ray technology that over-exposed us. It was the fodder for late-night comics and others. Perhaps we silly Americans have been spoiled for too long and have had far too little appreciation for these and other conveniences and we have truly taken it all for granted.
Why is it that we seem happiest when we let others do the thinking for us? Take for instance the “text-messaging” craze of the last several years that has helped us all avoid having to have an actual conversation. Simply send a short, curt note and voila! Communication handled. Little do we know about the recipients understanding of the message, how it made them feel or if sending it will or will not achieve the desired result. Nor have we taken the time to find out. Certainly, less thought was involved there.
Today, I received a call from two seemingly charming adults requesting mobile notary service for a disabled family member. By their appearance upon my arrival, they were bright and seemed an educated and worldly pair of individuals. First, they handed me a stack of documents and introduced me to their wheel-chair bound brother. From what I could gather, the documents would give certain permissions for the movement of the brother to a nicer apartment and his agreement to certain contractual requirements. I began (as I usually do) by requesting the brother’s valid ID for the purposes of notarization. After fumbling with his wallet for a few moments, he produced a pair of Drivers Licenses. Both, unfortunately, were expired and both were issued more than five years prior. [In CA a notary may use an expired ID and consider it valid provided it was issued within the last five years].
When I explained that the ID’s were invalid and asked for another “valid” form of ID, these seemingly smart individuals had difficulty understanding the concept of what notarization is. I explained that while certainly the expired ID’s seemed to be genuine they were not valid for the purposes of notarization which is a higher standard. Notarization means that the signer has proved their identity to me using satisfactory evidence which comes in many forms and which I listed for them. One form of such evidence involves credible witnesses who verify the identity of the signer but because both of these family members were named in the documents, they were ineligible for that option.
One of the family members became upset with me saying “You are a notary and he is a real person right in front of you”. I had to explain again that while I personally had little doubt that the signer was indeed who he said he was, the standard I am required to adhere to is that he has proved it using satisfactory evidence. In this case, I had to refuse notarization. While I truly wanted to be helpful, I had to make that difficult choice.
So many Americans have no understanding of the notary process. It is a process designed to protect all of us from fraud. The notarization of a document doesn’t make the document legal. It simply makes it notarized. What does that mean exactly? It means that when a document has been notarized that the signer who appeared before a notary and executed it proved who he/she was based upon the standard required. It is up to others (Courts, Attorneys) to determine legality.
Yes, we are a nation addicted to convenience. As a Notary Signing Agent, I provide fast, friendly and ethical service daily. But Americans need to recognize their part. Whether protecting you from terrorism at the airport and aboard an aircraft, or paying your cell-phone bill to ensure unlimited texting or carrying a current and valid identification so your documents can be notarized, we all must take some responsibility for these things. Even in a world of modern convenience, responsibility has its place and thinking for yourself is really not over-rated.