Signing up for trouble

One’s signature is often believed to reflect some facet of one’s personality, writes George N Netto

art

Signatures come in fascinating shapes and sizes, some visually appealing and some not. Apart from being one’s ‘personal stamp’ as it were, one’s signature is as unique as one’s fingerprint. Further, one’s signature is often believed to reflect some facet of one’s personality. Determination is supposedly perceived in mine, according to a practising signature-analyst.

I’ve found that a comparison of signatures can be intriguing. Some are ridiculously large or small. A pint-sized colleague had a signature that belied — or rather, made up for — his small stature. It was visibly obtrusive in any letter he signed, spread-eagled across almost the entire signature space.

On the other hand, the signature in my car’s insurance policy is so minuscule that once a cop checking it wondered whether it had been signed at all.

A former British boss’s signature eerily resembled a suicidal snake, in miniature, that had hopelessly tied itself up in knots while another superior’s reminded me of a hibernating earthworm uncoiling itself
languorously. Yet another odd signature that caught my eye looked — believe it or not — very much like a raptor swooping down on its prey. By far, the most convoluted signature I’ve ever come across is a former colleague’s — a veritable maze of small circles, loops, whorls and squiggles apparently meant to thwart the potential forger. Pratap certainly did ensure that none could duplicate the oval of ‘abstract art’ that passed for his signature.

Talking of forgery, as a teenager I found I could produce an exact facsimile of my father’s none-too-simple signature (unknown to him, of course) thanks to regular (and stealthy) practice. I still can. However, I never misused this ‘skill’ except once to bail out a younger sibling in trouble. He had pestered me to ‘sign’ his unflattering school mark-list so that dad didn’t get to see it — and belabour him. I obliged him, salving my juvenile conscience that it was merely an act of brotherly help and not forgery. The deceit, incidentally, went undetected. A bank once prudently returned one of my cheques because my signature didn’t quite match the sample registered with them. I had to go to the bank and personally convince the sharp-eyed clerk of its genuineness before it was honoured. Ironically, a month later the same bank cleared a cheque of mine that I’d absent-mindedly initialled rather than signed.

Like many others, I’d always thought my signature looked impressively professional until an outspoken doctor friend brought me down to earth one day with the caustic comment, “Frankly, to me it looks more like an ECG that’s gone berserk.” And a colleague who didn’t believe in mincing his words once remarked that my signature eerily resembled a shark’s fearsome dentition. Viewed dispassionately, I realised both of them did have a ‘point’ there (sic), considering the needle-sharp serrations in it.

I once stood by as my British boss signed a dismissal order for a habitual absentee. As he did so with a flourish, the nib of his fountain-pen tore right through the paper. “Dammit!” he exclaimed in disgust and, abruptly changing his mind, asked me to get another letter typed giving the employee a final warning instead.

Whether it was superstition or second thoughts that got the employee a reprieve, I couldn’t figure out. But, somehow, he was convinced that I’d bailed him out and remained ever grateful to me thereafter — a case of totally undeserved and misdirected appreciation, if ever there was one. 

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