Saturday, February 27, 2010

One Certified Copy, Please!

I finally applied for my passport yesterday. If you read my entry from two weeks ago you might remember that I couldn’t apply with my daughter because I needed either my birth certificate or my marriage license, and that I had decided to get my birth certificate because it would be easier.


I downloaded the form from the appropriate state to request a certified copy of my birth certificate, filled it out, and sent it off with the required $15 check. That was two weeks ago. I haven’t heard a thing.

On a whim, I decided to also try to get a copy of my marriage license. I called the appropriate county clerk’s office to see if they could send me a form to request a certified copy of my marriage license since there wasn’t one to download online.

Clerk: What’s your husband’s name and your maiden name? And the date?

Me: (gives her the info)

Clerk: Oh yes, I see it here. How many copies do you need?

Me: Just one, I guess. How much are they?

Clerk: $1.10 each.

Me: Oh! Well, then send me two or three. Who knows when I might need them?

Clerk: How about if I send you four and bill you for two? We’ve already gotten today’s mail, but they’ll go out tomorrow.

Me: You don’t have to do that. I’ll pay for four.

Clerk: No, I’m only billing you for two.

Me: Do you need my credit card information?

Clerk: No, I’ll just bill you and you can send me a check.

Me: ….? Thank you!

I got them within the week (this was a distant state). Four copies.

I felt guilty sending them a check for only $2.20—I felt as if I owed $4.40. But as an accountant, I was afraid it would mess up their books and possibly get the clerk in trouble. And really, it’s probably a fair price for her time, four sheets of paper, and the stamp.

I was surprised that the clerk was so trusting that I’d pay. I know it isn’t very much money, not a huge loss if I didn’t pay, but that tiny bit of trust made me feel encouraged about the state of the human race.

I feel as if I need to “pay it forward.” I don’t mean that I now owe society $2.20, but that maybe I owe the people around me more friendliness, more helpfulness, and more smiles. I could hear the smile in her voice, and I’m betting those of you reading her words could sense her smile between the lines.

And if I have the opportunity to encourage someone in a small way with a small amount of money…

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