My family still seems to be in culture shock after moving to the Augusta area from a tiny military community in the Bavaria area of eastern Germany.
My children attended a small junior high/high school there with fewer than 300 students in grades 7-12. Things were pretty casual, and the kids took plenty of field trips using just a single signed sheet of paper as an all-purpose permission form. It was a copy of the same form for every trip, easily recognizable because of the dog-earned corner that was turned down in such a distinctive way. We always signed the permission form, filling in blanks for the name of student and parent, the date and the location of the trip.
Imagine my surprise when I attended an information session at my daughter's huge high school in preparation for an upcoming trip. The kids are very excited about the trip, and it will be fun, but the packet of papers was something I hadn't expected.
Among them was a permission slip requiring a signature that had to be notarized. This would be no problem, school officials said, since there were dozens of notaries nearby just waiting to be of service. They were literally everywhere, and we were advised to go to the post office, bank or city hall. A notary attending the information session agreed to stay half an hour and witness as many signatures as possible, but by the time we got in line, it wound through the huge school cafeteria. It looked like a two-hour line, so we left with the plan of getting the paper notarized the next day.
Bright and early, I went in search of a notary, starting at the post office as suggested. The woman working the window gave me an odd look, and told me they didn't offer that service. It did seem strange to me that the post office - which specializes in mailing letters and packages - would have that service, but that was the first place suggested at the meeting.
Next, I went to my bank. They had a notary, but she was not in. It was believed there was a notary at the other bank across the street, they said. There was mixed opinion on whether that person would witness the signature of someone who banked elsewhere.
Next stop would be city hall. On my way there, I got lucky when I spied a neon sign in the window of a business supply company. The notary was in, and she watched me sign the form and then she gave it her stamp of approval.
I left for Thomson, where I explained my late arrival to the small staff at The McDuffie Mirror. Where are all those elusive notaries, I asked.
Well, our office manager, Janet Wells, mentioned that she was a notary. Both members of the advertising department, Angela Blair and Cindy Dent, informed me they were also notaries. Even the gentleman in the office filling out an ad request chimed in, "I'm a notary, too."
At that moment, in The Mirror office, notaries outnumbered the rest of us two to one.
No wonder I had a hard time finding a notary. They are all in Thomson, many at The Mirror.
And they wouldn't even have charged me that $4.