August 3, 2007
In the office of Melvin Hurwitz you will find fourl guys in ill fitting grey suits hunched over metal desks, all in a row. The lights are florescent and harsh, the walls are dingy, haphazardly decorated with pictures of wives and old pictures of Mr. Hurwitz who sits at the last desk. While the other men chat on the phone or sort through papers, Hurwitz sits with his hands on his desk with a look of real calm. He's ready to do business.
Melvin Hurwitz is a notary public. He is also a lawyer. On his desk you will find a roll of peppermints. He'll offer you one if you stare at them long enough.
I was having a car title notarized. Mr. Hurwitz asked for ID and I slid him my passport. "This could be you, but maybe it's not," he said after a cursory examination, "what do I know?"
"It's me." I said.
"So you say," he said. "you know, I see everything here. Marriages. Divorces. Buying and selling. Right here at this desk. Half the time people lie. You can't trust anybody."
Then we sat in silence as he fiddled with a desk drawer to find the notary stamp. I signed. He stamped. I paid my 3 dollars.
"I had a very good friend. Dear friend. He got locked up. My age. Good guy. You want to know why?" Mr. Hurwitz took a ballpoint pen out of his breast pocket, tore a scrap of paper from a legal pad, wrote something on it, folded the paper 3 times, and slid it to me. "Read it," he said.
I picked up the paper, and unfolded it. 'HUBRIS' was written in all caps and circled.
"Do you know what that word means?" he asked.
"Yes of course." I answered. He gave me a look that said, 'I don't believe you,' so I elaborated "excessive pride, um, insolence."
He studied me, "I looked up that word. Do you know it originally meant in Greek? It meant laughing at the gods? You know what happens if you laugh at the gods. Tragedy. My friend, good guy, but he laughed at the gods."
We sat in silence looking at each other for a moment.
"You know you're the first person who knew that word."
I slid the scrap of paper back to him. He folded it neatly, pushed it into his breast pocket, and wished me good day.