The problem with writing a blog about bad and/or weird customer service experiences is that if I don’t have any bad and/or weird customers, I have nothing to write about. Fortunately, I’m also a notary, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to bizarre situations, but does give me plenty of opportunities for creative kvetching.
A friend of a friend recently reached out and asked if I could notarize some papers for him. My response was, of course, “FUCK YEAH, NOTARIZING,” on account of I love being a notary even more than I love cursing. But then he explained what he needed me to do, and I was like, “Okay… yeah, that’s illegal, but thanks for thinking of me!”
I find myself in this situation a lot. Someone will bring me a pre-signed and dated document, or will want me to notarize a blank form that they’re going to have someone else fill out later, or, in the case of a particular impatient co-worker, will try to steal my stamp instead of waiting for me to come back from lunch or whatever, to the point where I have to keep it in a locked bank bag stashed in my briefcase with protective amulets attached to avert her evil intentions.
I may have overreacted a little on that last one.
But only a little.
Anyway, while I’m waiting for Forge customers to generate blog fodder, I thought it might be helpful to explain to everyone what the purpose of notarization actually is, so that you never inadvertently put a notary in an unethical position. Because if something goes south, you probably won’t get in trouble… but the notary will. Like, big-ass fines and possible jail time.
[Ed. Note: Ha HA, didn’t realize that, didja? Everything is totes the notary’s fault. Plus, if I got busted, Texas would never let me stamp anything again, and that would murder my bliss. You don’t want to murder my bliss, do you? I didn’t think so. Read on, yo.]
So, notaries: A notary, or notary public, is an official appointed by the State to serve as an impartial witness. (In some states there’s a whole certification process, but in Texas, you just send in $80, and they ship you a stamp with your name on it and are like, “Good luck!” which is a bit of fuckery, truth be told.) A notary is a ministerial officer, which means that he or she is expected to follow written laws without discretion. Judicial officers — magistrates, justices of the peace, Judge Dredd, etc. — have the authority to make decisions regarding the application of law, but ministerial officers perform functions under the law. In other words, we have shit to do, but we don’t have a say in how that shit gets done.
The main duty of a notary is to verify the identities of the signers of important documents, their willingness to sign, and their understanding of the documents themselves. Depending on the nature of what’s being signed, the notary might have to put the signer under an oath, in which he or she swears that the information contained in the document is true and correct. This is my favorite notarial thing, because when people ask me what I do for fun, I can be all, “I administer oaths,” and that makes me feel like fucking Gandalf.
A lot of people seem to think that the stamp itself is the part that matters, that it makes a document official or something. But in reality, the stamp is the notary physically giving his or her word that the signers are in fact who they say they are. This is why notarization is usually required for affidavits, mortgages, powers of attorney and wills. As an example, written testimonies have to be notarized before a court will consider them, because, y’know, the signer has to swear everything in the statement is true, and somebody has to aver that yep, he swore it.
So that, in a nutshell, is What Notaries Do™. I hope you guys found it interesting, and I hope I’ll have the chance to notarize stuff for each and every one of you in the future. Seriously. I’m pretty obsessed with it. Just do me a solid and don’t hit me up for anything questionable — if I’m going down, I want it to be for something way more newsworthy than the wrong name on a warranty deed.