The statement, “Change is the only constant in our lives,” recently gave new meaning to my way of thinking. For many years now, Chuck and I have taken our grandkids on a two or three-day getaway during Christmas break. This gift, although I try to disguise it in various ways, is basically an envelope with a message inside describing the activities, accommodations, etc. that we will be participating in. As Andrew says, “Envelopes are the best gifts from Grandma and Grandpa.”
In the past, I have typed this information using a basic font but this year I thought I would get ‘fancy’ and use a script. Not a smart move on my part. Imagine my surprise when the grandkids opened up the letter and had difficulty reading it. Now these kids are doing extremely well in school so I was puzzled and then Tammy shed some light on the situation. “They don’t teach penmanship in school anymore so the kids can’t read written work,” she informed me. I was aware of the fact that cursive writing was no longer on the school curriculum but I had never stopped to think about the impact these changes in this basic form of communication, had on everyone.
It then occurred to me that if the young people today can’t read or write script, how do those under the age of 25 sign their driver’s licences and other important papers. In the past, handwritten signatures were considered the gold standard for legally binding contracts but now is this practice disappearing? Has technology devalued signatures to the point where they are now worthless? Will we revert back to signing with a mark, an X, or will we move forward to using an emoji, an electronic thumb print, the use of retina recognition, etc? Even pen and paper are being replaced by a keyboard and email. The future will certainly be interesting.
The pandemic definitely speeded up the death of the handwritten signature. Unable to be physically present to sign important papers, technology provided us with the ability to use electronic and digital signatures through Docusign and other e-signature companies. Tax returns, real estate papers and various contract agreements are just some examples where these methods are now used. (Wills, trusts and powers of attorney, however, are exceptions and cannot be signed electronically.)
Deliveries to our homes are now acknowledged by our sloppy attempt to use our finger on an electronic signing pad which in no way represents our pen to paper autograph. When was the last time you signed for a credit card transaction? Just a tap or a pin number is all that is required. But really, think about it. In the past, did anyone ever check your signature to see if it matched the one you had written on the back of your card? I know someone who use to sign his transactions with “the dog,” and no one ever questioned it. So where was the security in that? Give me a pin that only I know, any day. Online orders require a password and the CVC code located on the back of your credit card to represent your legal identity. Bank cheques are seldom used as e-transfers and other online banking features have become the new normal. I see all this as progress, as an improvement over the old ways.
The importance of a signature then steered my thinking into another direction. What will happen to handwriting experts? Will they lose their jobs because there will be no more handwriting to analyze? Will crimes go unsolved? Will famous people – movie stars, sports personnel, prominent figures in their fields, etc. no longer be asked for their autographs? Will existing signed paraphernalia become worth a small fortune? Silly questions I know, but what are the answers? Food for thought.
I have no issue with these advances in technology. I will not mourn the passing of the signature as we knew it yesterday. After all, look at the other changes we seniors have seen and adapted to over the years. Change is not a threat but rather an opportunity. Will I be able to keep pace with this transforming world? Well, here is my plan of action. I will just delegate this task to my grandkids. It will be their job to help Grandma stay abreast of the times.