April 2011 - Notary Blog - Signing Tips, Marketing Tips, General Notary Advice - 123notary.com
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April 27, 2011

Low Ball Signing Companies

Low Ball Signing Companies 

Notaries are always complaining about low ball signing companies.  My advice is to just say yes or no. As long as its quick and they pay you, you have nothing to lose, but your dignity.  Sometimes a quick $40 is not so bad.  If it takes you an hour or slightly more for the whole affair, that is not bad pay.  Just don’t take a low ball job and have to do fax backs, and wait for two hours while the borrower reads each phrase of each page and asks a million questions.
 
Tough times are here
We are living in tough times, and people in foreign countries live on a quarter of the income you have.  They have simpler habits and smaller cars or mopeds.  They eat less meat and more beans and rice or “Rad Na” if they live in Thailand.  Its better to take what you can get and save up for a rainy day.  I used to work for very little. When I was booked, my prices would go up.  When things were slow, I would accept jobs for very little, no matter what.  My bills didn’t care how many dollars per hour I made.    My mistake was not to ask for high amounts of money.  Some people and companies will pay you double what you think they will. Just ask.  If they say no, then take less if you have to.  Its better than starving.
 
Your lives are not that bad
Assuming you don’t have a health emergency and are not having your life threatened by your local gang, and assuming that a tsunami didn’t visit your neighborhood, your life is not that bad (I’m guessing).  As a world traveler, I see how middle class people live in India.  Broken roads, clunky cars, the other drivers’ purpose in life is to run you off the road and kill you, food that gives you dysentary, traffic from hell, salaries 20% of what Americans make, expensive rent, cab drivers that always try to rip you off.  Just crossing the street in Pune, India is an ordeal that most of you will never have to face.  Additionally, they have terrorist attacks on a regular basis and its not safe for women to go out after dark.  Few of you have any of these situations to contend with.  So, count your blessings.  Even in America, I know many who work for minimum wage who ride a bicycle to work through dangerous areas.  If you own a car, you are doing better than my bicycle riding friends who can barely pay their rent.
 
Forum posts on the subject:

The text below is written by notaries, and does not represent the viewpoints of 123notary.com

If you accept $50 signings
If one accepts $50 signings, then it’s obvious one has not taken into account everything that is involved in the signing, from consumables to time to depreciation of equipment ……
http://www.123notary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2993
 
 
Vital Signings
……If you want to support Vital signings be aware YOU will not make any money. After a dozen signings I calculated I made $18.00 per signing. They get the bucks, you don’t.
The best micro-managers in the business. What a pain. They can’t pay me enough to work for them again.
If make an error, they take away YOUR fee and make you pay their fee as well…..  (scroll down for this one)
http://www.123notary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=26
 
Firma Signing Solutions
…..So, you can imagine how hard my chin hit the floor when he quoted $35.00 for the whole thing! The low ballers fail to remember what all it takes to become adept at this job, you have to know what you’re doing. You’re not “just a notary” but a certified signing agent, which takes training and education to fully understand this process. I will just decline the job if the price doesn’t meet my fees, it’s just not worth it…..
http://www.123notary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=3170
 
Fax Backs
…. (scroll to the bottom) Has anyone else had jobs recently where they want the whole package faxed back? I have had two from Nations Direct. Of course, as usual, they are low balling the price and then state that the whole package needs to be faxed back. Both times I have told them I will not do a job for their low price, especially with all of the fax backs. Yesterday, for example, they asked me to go 30 miles away with edocs and fax back the whole package for $70. I don’t think so.
http://www.123notary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=3902
 
Question 2 Price Formula
……Rule of thumb: The lower the offer, the bigger th PITA it will be. It never fails….when you agree to a lower fee, docs will be late, the closing will go awry somehow, you will have a ton of fax-backs and need permission to ship…AND…you’ll wait at least 60 days to get paid the low ball fee. HONEST !!  ………
http://www.123notary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1872

Tweets:
(1) Notaries are always complaining about low-ball signing co’s. Don’t complain, just say no!
(2) We are living in tough times. Maybe those low-ball signing companies keep you from starvation!
(3) Read real stories about four low-ball signing companies.

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Getting what is due! A clever plan!
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Bounced checks, Collection Agencies, FBI reports!
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April 24, 2011

Business Licenses

Does your business have a business license?

Having a “real” business like a store or restaurant requires you to have a business license and perhaps some other permits.   Being a notary public is easier.  You don’t need a liquor license unless you want to offer unique wines from Mendoza that you stash in your trunk to your notary clients. It might help them get through a stressful signing, you never know.  But, most notaries do not have a business license, and legally, you should probably have one.

Company names?
Its good to have a notary company name / notary business name.  It gives the impression of professionalism.  Our notaries often put a company name on their listing, but many keep changing the name every several months.  I begin to think that they are not licensed, and they just improvise on the name as they please.  This can get you into a heap of trouble. We already had a threat of a law suit because one notary used someone else’s name (gulp).  Notaries with a company name get about 17% more clicks than those that don’t.  Removing your personal name to replace it with a company name can lose you some brand recognition in the short run though.

Business licenses
Its doesn’t require a degree in nuclear physics to ge ta business license. Just waltz down to your county clerk’s office with a check and register your business name.  You have to check to see if the name is already in use.  If not, then register your choice of name. Its good to think for a few weeks what you want to name your business, so you can start off with an auspicious name.  Registering your business on a lucky day will help your business for life too, so have a good astrologer pick a lucky day for you with some good constellations. Make sure Mars is in the right house.. or else!  You have to list your business name in one or more newspapers in your area, but the county clerk will take care of that for you.  You fill out a few quick forms and write them a check, and then you are done.

Name ideas
Its sometimes a good idea to have a unique name.  Many companies in our industry have a name so similar to someone else’s name, that when the “other” company does something wrong, the new company is effected by the bad reputation of the other company.  Unique names are good, and names with geographical terms are sometimes a good idea too.  Its best to pick a good name, and then keep it for life.  Many companies like to keep changing their company name, and this causes a lot of confusion for the customers.  There is a train station in Bombay that changed its name three times in the last several years.  I don’t know whether to call it “Fort”, “VT”, or “Victoria Station”, yikes.  I’ll have to call it, “The railway station formerly known as Victoria Station”.  That will not help me when I try to look it up on the internet.

Do names have energies?
The mystics think that names have powerful energies, and that if you pick a good name, that will help your business. Personal names have karma too, and if you want to change your karma, the first thing to do is to change your name.  Number combinations have energies too.  Names also make quite an impression, so if your name seems unique and also gives the client confidence in you, you are on the right track. Considerate Notary Services, Astute Notary, Meticulous Signing Services, Simi Valley Signatures…  These names may be a bit funny, but they are good names in my opinion because of the impression they give.

When you are ready!
Think hard about what type of notary company name / notary business name to get. Ask your friends and your cat or dog what they think too.  Meditate on it.  Then, when you are ready, register your business name!

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7 ways to use Facebook to market your notary services
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=5396

How to write a notes section if you have no experience
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4173

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April 17, 2011

Seal Forgery – it happened to me!

Seal Forgery – it happened to me
I notarized a set of loan documents for a company back in 2003. It was a regular signing and nothing went wrong. You know how companies sometimes request that you send them another “Jurat” if the stamp isn’t clear on the initial one? California notary law requires that certificates be attached to the original document for security reasons. This means stapled. But, the loan companies protest whenever you ask them to send you back the document and ask why you are being so difficult. For many signing companies, the idea of obeying laws means you are being difficult. The company that forged my stamp did not ask for a loose Jurat, they were in a hurry and pulled a fast one.

I heard about it from a third party
A third party contacted me asking if I had notarized a loan package for a particular borrower. I couldn’t find the information in my journal for the specified dates, or even for the specified month. We figured that it must be a company that I had worked for before that had an impression of my seal on one of their loan documents, since I didn’t notarize that particular borrower’s loan that was in question. We had to be detectives to figure out what had happened.

Copying my seal
This company copied an impression of my seal that was on someone else’s loan, and copied it onto an Acknowledgment certificate for an entirely different loan that I had never had anything to do with. It was hard to tell since photocopiers are so good. I asked the third party to send me the notarized document and its Acknowledgment certificate. The forging job was so pathetic, it was funny when I saw it. The seal looked legitimate to my eyes, since I couldn’t tell it was copied. However, there were tell tell signs that I had not notarized this document.

(1) I always used an embosser on every page of every document. Embossers leave a raised impression in the paper. This document had no raised seal on it.
(2) The signature was a very girly signature which didn’t match mine even slightly. The lines of the signature were very curly and the i’s were dotted with cute little circles that only a girl would make like that.
(3) The acknowledgment certificate wording didn’t have the he/she/them and (s) verbiage crossed out where appropriate indicating that the person who fudged this job couldn’t have been a notary, or at least was a really pathetic notary.

I told them:
After I saw this pathetic attempt at something which is not even good enough to qualitfy as forgery, I told the third party that I had definately not notarized this and that it was fraud. Additionally, there was no journal entry to back up this job, and I took journal entries for all transactions in all cases.

My advice
If you always use an embosser on all pages of all documents, you deter the switching of pages after the fact on documents you notarized. You make it almost impossible for someone to get away with forging your notarizations. Additionally, you impress your clients with how thorough you are which can gain you more business. An embosser is less than $40, so get one today! Some states will require a government issued authentication of permission to get an embosser, so apply now!

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Notarizing a kidnapper

Do you like your job?

Fraud and Forgery related to the notary profession

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April 15, 2011

Leave a few spaces open in your journal?

Leave a few spaces open in your journal
 
Have you ever heard this phrase before?  These are the words a lender will tell you when they want you to backdate.  If you leave a blank page in your journal a day before the signing, then it will look like you really did notarize their loan documents on the date that you claimed you did.  This is completely illegal, but this is what many lenders will ask from you when they are in a pinch.
 
The lock
Lenders can offer their borrowers a particular rate, but there are expiration dates.  If a loan has a lock that expires on the 28th at midnight, and the loan documents were not ready to be compiled, sent, printed, etc., on the 27th or 28th, then the lender is in a bind. They will have to redraw all of the loan documents all over again and have a slightly higher rate, and an irate borrower. To save themselves this nightmare, they will often ask the notary to fudge a date when in this situation.
 
It’s your notary commission
If you get involved in this type of fraud, you could get fined by your state notary division, lose your notary commission, or perhaps even be looking at jail time.  Since there is no intent to harm anyone, jail time doesn’t seem probable, but laws differ from state to state, and the laws are always changing.
 
Lose the client?
I was asked to do this a few times.  I said no, and lost the client. Maybe I’m better off. Lenders love notaries who will lie, cheat, and steal on their behalf.  They will love you if you can look at a loan which is an obvious rip off and say nothing while the borrower is signing it. Of course, its not your job or entitlement to make commentary about someone else’s loan. You will be making someone lose thousands by butting in, and its not your right.  Lenders also love someone who will forge an initial or put yesterday’s date on a Jurat certificate upon request. You would not believe how many Title company staff members have forged omitted initials on Deeds of Trust, and other documents that require initialing.  Few of them would dare forge a signature as that would involve jail time, but some feel that its open season on initials.
 
Just say no
Don’t get involved in this nonsense. Its your life, your karma, and your commission.  If you get armtwisted once, you could easily get in the habit, not to mention feel ashamed for the rest of your life.   Additionally, it is recommended that you avoid screwy companies like the plague. These are exactly the same companies who will have no qualms about cheating a notary out of their pay for little or no reasons at all.

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Everything you need to know about journals

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Signing agent best practices

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April 14, 2011

The Story of 123notary.com

Filed under: Social Media — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 2:21 am

The story of 123notary.com 
It was late on a Friday night in 1999.  I was at a Title office waiting for documents to be ready for a late night signing. It was up in the valley, perhaps in Encino, CA.  In the mean time, the title officer was trying to find a notary in Pagoso Springs, CO.  We were using signingagent.com since that was the only signing agent directory we knew of at the time.  The problem was that there was only one notary in that county who didn’t answer their phone, and there was no way to find notaries in neighboring counties unless you knew the names of those counties.  At that time, you could only look up by county on signingagent.com. 
 
The birth of a vision
This was the birth of my idea to build my own database.  I was going to figure out what all the problems were with the other sites, and create my own with some new and practical features.  The feature that stuck out in my head was neighboring counties.  Its hard to know what counties border a particular county unless you have memorized the geography, or unless you have a good atlas.  These days with mapquest and google maps, that problem is much more easily surmounted, but even those sites are not always easy to use.  The concept of links to neighboring counties is easy for the browser.
 
Neighboring counties
Every county on 123notary has links to neighboring counties. That way, if you can’t find someone to do your job in Lemon county, then you will find a few links to nearby counties such as Lime and Cherry counties.  Sometimes we’ll have up to five links, while other times we will only have one. Remote areas might only have one link, because there is only one county where you would be likely to find anyone based on its higher population.
 
These days we do even more
For the last few years, I have personally gone beyond just listing links to neighboring counties to help people find notary services.  I will list notaries from surrounding counties who service the county being searched for.  I’ll just put them below the locals in the search results, so you find people in a rough order of proximity.  Of course, someone in a neighboring county might be two miles from the notary job, while someone on the other end of the same county might be twenty miles away from the notary job.  But, in the notary business, availability is more important than exact proximity, so this rough system functions well enough.
 
123notary was only for me when it started
The first year 123notary was around, it was designed to promote my personal notary business  for a few counties in southern California for me to advertise my personal notary services.  Yellow Pages were getting too expensive, and I wanted a more cost effective way to advertise.  After a while, I thought it would be better to have others share the cost with me, so I started offering listings to other notaries in Southern California. Then, we covered all of California.  By 2001 we decided to cover the whole United States and started populating the central and eastern states with notaries.  It was grueling hard work to build 123notary, especially since I was doing notaries fifty-five hours a week, and spending another fifteen building 123notary. I had no knowledge of the web business back then and had hardly any money.   All I had was an amazing drive and some great ideas. 
 
Its easier now
Now, when I create new web modules for my sites, or do new promotional programs, I have a decade of experience. I know what to do, and when, and what the most efficient ways of doing everything are.  Nothing beats experience.  But, I’m much more tired these days, and can not do the daily thirteen hour shifts that I used to do back in the day!

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April 13, 2011

A few testimonials on 123notary

Filed under: Advertising — Tags: , — admin @ 4:20 am

123notary has been working overtime to get the best marketing for its notaries.  Here are a few of the tesimonials that we have gotten.
 

Testimonial #1: $7000 extra per month!
We’ve been in business for six years in the Kansas City area.  As of July 2010 I added a listing on 123notary.com.  I tracked the source of all my business, and 123notary was responsible for us getting an additional $7000 a month in revenue!
 
Michael Tomlinson
 

Testimonial #2:  90% of jobs from 123!
When I ask a Title Company how they got my name 9 out 10 times they reply, 123Notary.  I get almost all of my mobile notary work from this site.  When I asked Carmen how I could get even more work she explained how to better market myself on the site.  She also suggested that I purchase a higher P# for my area.  When I did what she suggested, the calls really started to come in.  The higher P# has really paid off! Thank you, Carmen. So, will I renew my listing with 123 Notary?  You bet I will.  Because of this site I am still working and making a living while others are not! 

Claudia in Tennessee

Testimonial #3: 123 has been my #1 advertisement!
No matter how many listings I’ve ever had, I’ve always made 123 my #1 listing.  When business slows and you have to make a choice, the decision is easy: 123Notary!  I’ve been with listed with 123 for many years and have made thousands and thousands of dollars with my top spots, worth every penny. 123Notary is  a wise choice in your Notary Public and Loan Signing Agent marketing budget. 

Kelly M. Robertson

Testimonial #4:  123notary tops my google analytics for clicks and jobs!
I was lost, I could not find my way. I stumbled from notary site to notary site. Then, suddenly, the fog lifted and a bold new day began. I FOUND www.123notary.com! My life changed for the better. The phone started to ring – the work grew and grew. From being an unknown frog suddenly I was a Prince! Then it got B*E*T*T*E*R !! I discovered that I was not alone – I found “The Forum”. My peers (err make that “my betters”) could help and advise me when the going got rough. Many were the questions that I could ask nowhere else. I was no longer frustrated and alone with my questions and issues. The sun started shining – a new day has dawned for me. Soon, with “a little help from my friends”, I was charging fair rates, making lots of money – and actually enjoying myself because I now had some idea of what I was doing! My personal life improved, I was no longer depressed and lonely, even Jeremy noticed the change in me. 123Notary has turned my life around – given me purpose and direction, and a wallet that often needs repairs at the seams! My finest moment with 123Notary.com was when this cute little gal called me for some advise (hmmmm perhaps that story would be better not told). But I can say that my Google Analytics clearly shows 123Notary.Com as the LEADING source of my referrals. And if you do a google search on “Kenneth A. Edelstein” you will find I have published a bunch of articles and am a member of LOTS of organizations, including the local BBB and Chamber of Commerce. But, nothing (with the possible exception of that gal who wanted some advise) has given me more calls and things to do. If you are not a member of 123Notary.Com – and you are a Notary – you are making the biggest possible mistake. JOIN – CHAT in the Forum – give and gain from your peers. I’m glad I did. Thank you. 

 Ken  A. Edelstein

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April 12, 2011

Pricing for notary work: different strokes for different folks

Pricing for notary work – different strokes for different folks
 
Notaries argue endlessly about what to charge and what others should charge.
Some notaries wish that there could be a set fee in the industry for certain jobs.  That is not legal or possible.  Other notaries complain when low-ball signing companies offer them work for $40 or $50 which is better than nothing.  Many notaries complain that they did lots of work and didn’t get paid, which is a very serious issue.  So, what should you charge and why?
 
What fancy signers do
I know of many signers who will not leave the house for less than a particular set fee.  One notary public I know will not leave the house for less than $150, while others will not leave for less than $125.  They figure that they have to put up with getting dressed nicely, traffic, borrowers who want to take forever reading, lenders, and then trying to get paid.  It’s just not worth it for less.  But, these notaries have something that some of the rest of us don’t always have:  something to keep them busy during the rest of their time when they are not doing notaries.  If you rely exclusively on mobile notary and signing agent work to keep you busy, you have to take almost every job that comes your way. If you sell insurance, real estate, or have some other type of job, then you can pick and choose what type of notary work you do.  If the company has a bad reputation, or doesn’t pay enough, or if the job is even one mile outside of your coverage area, you have the luxury of saying no.
 
Additionally, many high-priced signers will not leave the house to notarize single documents for less than $50 travel fee no matter how close the job is.  Finding notaries who are available, close, and answer their phone is hard, so you can often get high travel fees if people can find you.
 
FYI: Notaries who are in the high price range generally have experience and finesse to back up their high prices. They are normally very reliable, well trained, well dressed, and have good business skills.  Those of us who don’t have all of our skill sets polished will have trouble commanding such high prices for signings.
 
What desperate signers do
Anyone who is not a convicted felon can be a mobile notary .  This profession is open  and easy to get into which means that there will be a lot of competition and a lot of newbies who will do anything to get work.  Some people become mobile notaries who are successful in what they do, but prefer the free lifestyle. Others get into this because they have mouths to feed, and this is the only way they can think of to sustain themselves.  Desperate signers are often new in the business, lacking experience, and are poorly trained.  They will often not be certified by 123notary, or NNA.  They will not know what they can get away with charging, and the quality of their work?  Who knows?  Desperate signers will work for $40 per signing, do fax backs, drive long distances paying a lot for gas, and then often not even get paid.  We wish these desperate types would consult us.  We would tell them to research all companies before working for them.  No matter how hungry you are, working for somoene who won’t pay you doesn’t make sense. You would be better off at home twiddling your thumbs.
 
What makes sense
We have another notary blog entry that goes over the components in price computations.  Its very complicated and goes over many factors. The biggest factor is how desperate you are.  If you don’t have enough work, then you need to become a regular for more companies.  It makes sense to accept lower paying work until your schedule is filled slightly more than you can comfortably handle.  Once you reach that threshold, then raise your minimum a notch or tighten your radius a notch.  Supply and demand is the ultimate deciding factor in what you charge.  No set fee schedule or recommendation from a friend can help you here.
 
Should I mention what I charge in my profile?
As a general rule, we say no.  Notaries change their pricing all the time, and with all the variables, you would have to write a novel to document exactly what you charge. Its easier if someone just calls and asks.  The low-ball companies call (bother) everyone, so you won’t be left out by them. The high-payers start with the top of the list and gravitate towards elite certified folks.  Changing your notes section to include fees doesn’t get you at the top of the list or elite certified, and won’t increase your business by much if at all.  Companies who know what you charge will still bother you to offer you jobs at half of what you charge. 
 
Marketing Marketing Marketing
The main thing to remember is to market yourself well. If you have a bigger net, you catch more fish, and then you keep the ones you like.  Even if you are busy, having more offers doesn’t hurt.  If you can take more jobs from companies you like, and decline jobs from companies who are less than your favorites, that is a beneficial way to go.

Tweets:
(1) Notaries argue endlessly about what to charge & what others should charge. Here’s what the pros do!
(2) How much is it worth to get dressed nicely, deal w/traffic, wait for borrowers who want to take forever, lenders & then try to get paid?
(3) The notary profession is easy to get into which means there’ll be lots of low priced competition!
 
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Pricing formulas for mobile notary work. 
http://blog.123notary.com/?tag=pricing\

Price Formulas and Time Spent
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=588

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April 8, 2011

Notarizing a kidnapper

Filed under: Drama & Tragedy — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 6:50 am

Notarizing a potential kidnapper

I had no evidence either way, I was just doing my job.  It was a dark night in Rosemead, CA, when I had just finished notarizing a grant deed for some old customers of mine when the phone rang. It was a company that I enjoyed working for that I hadn’t heard from for a while. They had a notarization for me in the neighboring city of Monterey Park. That is usually a safe place to be at night. What they didn’t tell me was that the client was a suspected kidnapper. I guess the company company who dispatched this job to me doesn’t include “Are you a kidnapper” on the list of questions they ask clients. I tried to call the location before I went there, but the phone number was incorrect. It was close, so I wasn’t too concerned. It was only ten minutes away, and practically on my way home. When I got to the venue, it was a run down motel with only six units. I was to go to unit #5. I knocked on the door, and a very nervous and agitated man in his 30’s answered the door. He seemed very bony, like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. His eyes were wild and deep set, and he was very frenetic. As I looked around the smoke filled room I noticed that there were seven people in the two room suite which included a kitchenette. Two elderly ladies were in a bed. I asked him who he needed to have notarized. He said he needed a power of attorney from his mom. His mother only had a thirty year old Mexican passport. Nobody else in the room had ID to be a credible witness except for the man I was working with who was the beneficiary. I told him that I couldn’t legally notarize his mother under those circumstances. Then, he pleaded with me and offered me lots of cash which he had laying on the table next to his overflowing ashtray, half empty beer bottles, and packs of cigarettes. Then he told me about the family feud he was in and how he was accused of kidnapping his mother. At that point, I started getting nervous. I told him that he should consult a lawyer. He said he was running out of cash and couldn’t afford to see a lawyer. They seemed like they were on the run. I told him I couldn’t legally help him. He continued to plead looking very desperate and distraught. Finally I had to apologize and leave.

This was one of the spookiest notary calls I have ever gone out on.  I just wonder what their real situation was, and if they were really running for the law.  There is no way to know. You can’t question someone in that condition or they might lose their cool. I guess they were probably illegal judging from the lack of proper identification. Thank god nothing happened.

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April 3, 2011

Notarizing an arsonist who blew his fingers off

It was just another afternoon, when I got a call for a notary job from an attorney in downtown Los Angeles. I was to meet the attorney at “Twin Towers” which is our most famous local jail to do the job. When I arrived, he was there on time in the waiting room. The room was filled with Los Angeles’ finest looking women, who apparently won’t date you unless you are a criminal. We had to fill out a small form and give it to the lobby guard. We then went through security and I took out all of the contents of my pockets: cell phone, wallet, coins, jacket, bag, belt, shoes, etc. The guards and parking attendants all knew me because I was a regular. They always went through my bag and asked about all of my various stamps, staplers, staples ( which are considered to be deadly weapons in a prison ), etc. They took my stapler apart to inspect its interior. Luckily I wasn’t strip searched. The guards often missed the refill staples in my which could be dangerous if they got in the wrong hands. Staples can be used to pick locks, and can even be a deadly weapon. Even a small piece of paper can be made into an instrument of death by jailbirds — so I hear.

The hallway of doom
Then, after security, it was time to traverse the hallway of doom. Each step down that lifeless  foreboding hallway had an echo and the distant sounds of metal doors clanking shut pervaded this ominous stretch of endless corridor. It twisted and turned at forty-five degree angles for hundreds of feet. The walls were made of cement bricks and there is always a stark and desolate feeling. For those of you who have never done a jail job before, there is always an ominous long hallway. Every jail has one, or at least should have one just to set the mood. If you go often enough, you will no longer notice the feeling of dread, apprehension, or the echo that each footstep makes on your seemingly endless journey to the elevator. Think of what it feels like to go down that hallway all alone on your first visit!

The elevator
Then, after what seemed like an eternity, we finally got to the elevator. We used the intercom to get permission to visit the fifth floor. We waited for what seemed to the lawyer to be like an attorney-ty. I mean, an eternity. We finally got to the fifth floor. We had to ask the guard to get Gary so we could notarize his signature.

Meeting the inmate
I noticed that Gary had been in an accident. His face was cut up and he was missing parts of his fingers. He had a hobby of making explosives and he had accidentally blown up his apartment and lost one eye, and several fingertips in the process. Terrifying!  But, he was a very gentle soul, kind at heart. He had only nice things to say about the guards. Not surprisingly, I had a bit of trouble getting the required thumbprint. I took a fingerprint of an index finger instead of a thumbprint and made a notation in my journal of which finger on what hand I used.  Then we notarized one or two documents.  We left after that.  They attorney had Gary’s identification.

I went to see the same inmate two months later with the same attorney. The inmate was looking much better. The cuts and scratches were mostly healed. Unfortunately, his fingers hadn’t grown back.

Meeting the jurors by coincidence.
The real irony took place eight months later when I went to notarize two Asian-American residents of West Hollywood. I thought I was just going for a regular notary job. They said they needed documents notarized regarding a court case. They said the case was about a guy who blew up his apartment. I said, “His name wouldn’t happen to be Gary?”.

Their jaws dropped.

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