I click on the “Place signature” button, move the cursor left, and click again on the signature line of my PDF invoice to sign the document.
Dagnab it. I’ve done this lots of times. Well, a few times. And maybe not recently. But it should work. What’s wrong?
Using the “Hit that key harder” protocol, I make several more failed attempts until I realize that I don’t have a stored signature in this version of Acrobat, newly loaded on my new laptop. Oh.
I click on the “Create signature” button and quickly generate a reasonable facsimile of my standard signature by drawing fluidly with my mouse on my actual desktop.
After five minutes and thrice as many attempts, I take what I have and call it good enough. Lopsided and shaky, it looks like something produced by a not very robust centenarian.
Nevertheless, this New Way—converting invoices to PDFs and signing them electronically—is many times faster than the Old Way.
And, of course, this Old Way was much faster (measuring the submission-to-payment interval) than the Truly Ancient Way, which saw me sending hard-copy invoices to clients by snail mail, with all its inherent points of delay or even outright failure.
But the Law of Conservation of Improvements (popularly known as the Law of No Free Lunch) dictates that by gaining time I must have lost something, and that something is this: I can no longer disavow any signature that uses my name.
Prosecutor, menacing: Do you deny that you signed this?
Me, shrugging: How can I? I can’t recognize my own signature right after executing it.
Awkward, even ominous, pause
Me, thinking before speaking: Umm, forget that I said “executing.”
How did I get here?
First it was delivery people, dropping off packages and special envelopes. “Sign,” they barked, there being no time in their day for small talk, and handed me a device both too big to be held easily, and too small to be held firmly. Shoulders hunched and both arms held tightly against my body, I scraped the stylus across the tiny screen, and they were off and running. Usually literally.
Then it was department stores in the USofA with their own screens atop awkwardly angled stands with no wrist rests. Again I acknowledged my purchases with a scrawl that was unlike anything I’ve ever produced with a pen, but that seemed to be just what they were looking for.
Then the plague spread to car rental companies, which asked me to initial here and here and here and here and to sign there, agreeing to more conditions than those required to build a nuclear power plant. Yet somehow, the contractual rigour did not extend to requiring anything like a recognizable signature.
And now I’m creating rough electronic approximations of my signature.
What on Earth will be next? I dunno, but it’s bound to be better. Well, faster.