Sign Here

Kirchenväteraltar

In the shuffle, I probably signed a paper that allows the bank to change the date of my birthday if they want. I also signed to forfeit any presents I might get.

Today (and yesterday, and tomorrow since it is not quite finished) I opened a new bank account. In order to do so, I affixed my scrawling and somewhat easy-to-copy signature to at least fifty documents – none of which I read.

CHORUS: Sign here. And here. And one more here. And another one. Ok, now sign these twelve. No, not there – HERE! And this one.

Just out of curiosity, I stopped and asked the competent and smartly dressed young woman what I was signing on one particular page. She looked at the paper for a few minutes and said: “It’s something you have to sign.”

Ah, THAT is clear now.

With a slight cramp in my signing hand, I am now fairly sure that I have a new bank account. Or maybe as many as 17, although I am not sure. I also have a wide range of plasticized cards inscribed with hundreds of encrypted numbers, none of which means anything to me at all except that I must somehow know them all now.

I put my name to hundreds of clauses and articles and terms and conditions. And I did it quickly! We want to get out of the bank as fast as possible – so we sign and sign and sign. We trust that that competent and smartly dressed young woman has not woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and decided to make her clients sign up for yoga lessons, the communist party, and a referendum against the sale of cat food on Sundays.

CHORUS: Sign here. And here. And one more here. And another one. Ok, now sign these twelve. No, not there – HERE! And this one.

I have always operated on the principle of not signing any documents which I had not fully read and understood. The signature at the bottom of every page tells the world, “I agree with whatever is written here. Whatever it is.”

The reality is that reading all the papers I needed to sign would have taken me the better part of a month. This is not a matter of the fine print (which I could not see anyway without new glasses and a magnifying glass), but rather the Regular Print, thesigning21093 stuff that is presented clearly and concisely and spread over ten thousand pages. It is the sheer volume that kills us. We see the papers, we know we should read them, and we sign our lives away all the same.

As an overall banking experience, I give it high marks. Everything was fast and efficient and very unlike a police interrogation (as I had been expecting). I left feeling satisfied and accomplished. I would gladly sign a letter of recommendation for the competent and smartly dressed young woman that helped me.

But it turns out I already did.

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