When I got my new credit card, I was admonished to sign the back right away. This strikes me as a fairly silly security measure — I wonder if that signature also somehow cements an agreement between me and the card issuer. But that’s for another day.

So here I was faced with a slick piece of plastic with a very small area to sign. There are no do-overs. If I choose the wrong pen and it doesn’t work out, that’s too bad. The biggest problem is the space available, however.

When I sign my name, the result cannot in any way be interpreted as a collection of letters, let alone one that spells a meaningful word. It is much more akin to the silly symbol Prince chose to represent himself with, except mine’s a mess. Whenever I sign something I start with every intention of maybe making the signature a little more legible this time, but then something in my cerebellum takes over and my hand begins to jerk spasmodically, working it’s way more or less left-to-right, then whipping around to finish with a flourish, a loop that goes all the way back to the beginning of the signature and slashes through it. This is not the sort of signature that fits on the back of a credit card.

What is it that takes over when I’m signing my name and causes me to create this scribble instead? It’s somewhat different when I sign ‘Jerry’ instead of ‘Gerald’, looser and often in two separable parts — with two big flourishes. Now that I think about it, it’s probably the ‘y’ in ‘Jerry’ that has survived enough to provide a break in the progress of the pen. I do seem to like those grand gestures.

Face with my card-signing task I tested pens and did some practice signatures, trying to write small enough. Finally I was ready, had a soft-tip pen with permanent ink, took a breath and started. Easy, easy… jerk. Once more my reptillian signature-writing brain took over, sending the pen out of the white space to get hung up in the numbers. There is no stopping now, though, and the next jerk brought me up into the designated zone again, somewhat off-course but still on the move. Loop! Twist! and at last the grand finale, which swooped the length of the white strip, rising with a bit of a tail on the end, obscuring the secret code number.

Overall, one of my better efforts.