This Christmas, an overwhelmed friend with too much to do and too little time paid me to uphold the time-honored tradition of forging hand-signed holiday cards. Little did she know that when she offered me the job, she was hiring a pro.
I started early. In the sixth grade, the whole class was to take a trip to the roller rink–a field trip of dubious educational value, but of enormous schoolyard social importance. Backward skating. The hokey pokey. Potential couple skating. It was a big deal. It was a big deal, and I kept forgetting my permission slip in my desk. The night before the trip, at dinner, I bemoaned my lack of organizational skills, and the next morning, faced with a blank slip and a hard deadline, I made a snap decision, carefully signed my mother’s name, and turned the slip in to the teacher. I had done it. There I was, the smartest kid in the history of the world. I was on top of the world on skates.
…Right up until about an hour later, when I was summoned down to the principal’s office, where she awaited me with my very angry mother. You see, my mom had taken pity on me and had come to the school in order to sign my forgotten permission slip, but when she arrived, she was informed that it had already been signed. Uh-oh. There I was, the stupidest kid in the history of the world. It was determined that my punishment would be a day of detention and exclusion from the field trip, and as I sat there and stewed, I came to the conclusion that I’d made a mistake. Not in forging the signature, but at flapping my gums about the issue at dinner. I would have gotten away with it if I hadn’t tattled on myself.
I remembered this lesson a few years later. I was in high school, progress reports were to be mailed shortly, and I was failing Spanish. A last-minute scramble has always motivated me more than slow and steady excellence, and this pattern has generally served me well, save for the fact that progress reports always showed up in the mail just before a holiday, ensuring I would spend the entirety of it grounded. Rather than change my pattern and learn good study habits, I decided to try and circumvent the system. While riding to school in the backseat of my friend’s car, I forged a delightfully inventive note from both my parents, stating that they would be going on a cruise for a month to celebrate their anniversary, and since they would not be home to receive my progress report yet wanted to be certain I was on the correct path, could the office please send the progress report home with me? …What was I thinking? For a MONTH?! To whom does that sound like a reasonable or believable amount of time for a vacation? And yet when I brought it into the office and handed it to the counselor, she looked me in the eye, said they normally call parents to verify these sorts of notes, but in my case, she felt it wasn’t necessary, and besides, my grades were likely just fine. I had done it. There I was, the luckiest kid in the history of the world, albeit one who had nearly just dropped a load in her pants. I decided to quit while I was ahead, letting friends call me in sick from school and sign my referral papers from that point forward so I could always throw them under the bus should I ever be caught again. It’s the buddy system, only in this case, I’m less of a buddy and more of an asshole.
I finally came clean to my dad about this second forgery this past weekend, and he laughed and told me it was something that obviously ran in the family. When he was in third grade and his brother Larry was in seventh, Larry came home with a report card that had two “C” grades on it in suspicious green ink. When questioned, Larry insisted that it was the only pen the teacher had, but when pressed repeatedly that my grandparents believed he’d changed the grades from “D”s to “C”s, he admitted to it. The matter sat for a day or so, while grandma kept grinding on the matter in her head and eventually confronted Larry with her suspicion that he’d actually changed the grades from “F”s to “C”s, and Larry again broke down and admitted to it–there was no point in continuing to try to lie, as when grandma gets her mental teeth into something, you might as well try to stand down a hurricane. Grandma said she was disgusted and refused to sign the report card and stuck it in a drawer. My dad, full of all of the smartassery given to anyone of our name, stepped in, pulled the card out of the drawer, and scrawled “I am very disappointed in Larry. Mrs Dildarian” in a third grader’s handwriting, and then put it back in the drawer, figuring that was the end of it. A week later, Larry came home and said the school insisted upon having it back, so grandma pulled it out of the drawer, and was not only unhappy with the son who she knew had written it, but she was also unhappy with the son she’d believed coerced him into doing it.
I suppose the lesson here is never buy anything from our family with a supposedly authentic signature on it.