Originally published May 29, 1994
June is almost here, and once again I'm looking to perform a wedding ceremony. I can legally do this in Florida, because I happen to be - this is true - a notary public. I am darned proud of this accomplishment. They do not bestow the title of notary public upon just any random dork. You have to be a specific dork who sent in an application.
I have an official notary certificate from the state of Florida, signed by the governor, suitable for framing, written, as is mandatory for government documents, by lawyers from Mars, stating that I am authorized to (this is a real quote) "have, hold and exercise the said office and all the powers and responsibilities appertaining thereto, and to receive the privileges and emoluments thereof."
I love being a notary public. I love getting together with other notaries for wild and crazy parties where we consume large quantities of emoluments and notarize each other's body parts. When you're a notary, you need to let off steam, because you have a lot of weighty responsibilities that an ordinary civilian cannot begin to comprehend. The main one is trying to remember where you put your official rubber notary stamp. I use my stamp about once a year, to notarize somebody's signature on a document; this serves as legal proof that, in my official opinion, the person really is the person. Although just between you and me, the person could sign the document "Amelia Earhart" or "The Hunchback of Notre Dame Jr." and I would probably still notarize it, because I really like using my stamp.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
But the real reason I became a notary public is that I wanted to perform a wedding ceremony for two people named Claire and Merle. They met in 1992 at a charity bowling tournament that I hosted, and they fell in love almost instantly. Bowling will do that to people. It's an extremely romantic sport. There is something about the sight of a woman trying to pick up a spare that drives a man crazy.
So anyway, Claire and Merle decided, I think around the sixth frame, that they had to get married. And since I was partly responsible for the fact that they had met, I volunteered to become a notary public and marry them at a ceremony in the bowling alley. Unfortunately, it took six weeks for my notary application to go through, and Claire and Merle just couldn't wait that long.
So I'm still looking to officiate at my first wedding. I definitely have the background for it. My grandfather and my father were both Presbyterian ministers, and I watched my dad marry a lot of people. Many times I'd be with my dad before a wedding, in the back of the church, as he tried to prevent the groom from imploding due to sheer nervousness, leaving nothing but a sweaty heap of rented formal clothing on the floor. The bride always had several hundred people flurrying around her, offering support, but usually the groom had nobody with him except the best man, whose dominant emotion - this was obvious - was enormous relief at the fact that HE was not the groom.
So my father would do his best to soothe the groom, acting very calm, talking softly, the way you act around an easily alarmed horse. One time I remember we were waiting in a church office, and there was a basket of Tootsie Roll Pops on a desk, and my dad offered the basket to the groom. The groom took a Tootsie Roll Pop and, while staring rigidly off into space, removed the wrapper, bit off the entire candy end, stick and all, then chewed it up and swallowed it in maybe four seconds.
My dad watched this and then said, quietly, "You know, there are those who actually suck on lollipops."
"No thanks, " said the groom, still staring off into space. "I'm fine."
So I've had experience with pre-wedding tension. And I feel that I could conduct a good ceremony. I'd include special questions designed to determine whether the couple had a realistic concept of what married life was going to be like, such as:
"Are you, John, troubled by the thought that no matter how large your bathroom is, your half will consist of three square inches, and even that will soon be taken over entirely by The Invasion Of The Skin Care Products?"
"Do you, Mary, honestly think that you will ever again be able to watch a TV program without John here scanning all of the other 57 cable channels roughly every 30 seconds in case there's something better on, such as a replay of the 1978 Super Bowl?"
Yes, I would definitely run a thought-provoking wedding. I'd have the happy couple trading blows before they even got to the cake-cutting. Maybe I could even - I'll have to check the notary handbook to see if this is one of the powers appertaining thereto - grant them a divorce right on the spot. Then we'd have a GREAT party. I would do The Stamp Dance.
(c) Dave Barry
This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.