There is a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry writes down a phrase in the night on his bedside tablet of paper…and can’t read it in the morning. When it is finally discovered what it is that he wrote, he says, “Why did I write that? That’s not funny!” So much was hanging on the meaning of his scribbles…yet it was, ultimately, not worth the time and trouble he’d spent trying to decipher it.
Are my scribbles worth deciphering? Sometimes, yes. Usually. I think. If there’s no bread or chicken for dinner, then for sure they were! But I wonder how many brilliant thoughts have been lost due to the messiness of my writing? When I was in third grade, my teacher threatened me with remedial cursive class. She said something to the effect of, “If you can’t write your capital “G’s” better than that after all the practice you’ve had, you’ll stay after school with Mrs. So-and-So.” (I don’t remember Mrs. So-and-So’s name…I’ve blocked it out.) My eyes got huge and my heart thumped a little faster. I’d never been threatened with staying after school for anything, ever. I knuckled down and worked on my cursive “G’s” as well as my other worst letters: capital “F’s” and “T’s” and lowercase “s’s” and “r’s” and “z’s”…not to mention those crazy-weird capital “Q’s”. (What’s with those?) I also worked on my capital “L’s”…but just because those were fun and my favorites.
I never did have to stay after school so I must have improved to some degree, though to see my handwriting today you might wonder. At least the “G” in my signature is legible. Every time – okay, probably not EVERY time – that I sign my name to something I think of the day I opened my first-ever checking account. I was 12 or 13 and was depositing around $200 of saved-up babysitting money. I remember the teller instructing me, “Sign your name here.” And my mom saying, “Write neatly. This is the signature you’ll have for the rest of your life.” WHAT? My head spun around to see if she was serious or not. THE REST OF MY LIFE?!! I think my mouth dropped open. The pressure was unbelievable. YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! I CAN’T DO THIS! I took a deep breath, shut my gaping mouth, gripped the pen, and scrawled.
When I got married, I felt almost guilty writing my new name.
Now, when I put my John Hancock on anything, I am intensely aware of how all the “n’s” and “l’s” of “O’Donnell” turn into a scribble of childish proportions, a mountain range of jagged, illegible lines. My mother would never approve.
She probably wouldn’t like the state of my house, either, which the aliens are zoning in on as we speak.
QUESTION: Would the aliens take you…or reject you as too tidy?