Chicago resident Duwayne Allen found this out the hard way. Allen was caught by police after handing a teller at the Park National Bank a barely-legible stick-up note reading in part, I gut a bomd.
After losing valuable minutes explaining to frustrated tellers exactly what his hold-up note said, Allen only had time to scoop up a little over $2,000. But as he fled the scene on foot he had to jettison some of that cash to slow down the banks security guard, who was hot on his trail.
The guard, an off-duty Chicago police officer, called in the heist before giving chase, then stopped to pick up the discarded money. Responding officers caught Allen hiding on a nearby porch, where he threw down the rest of his haul, and briefly held them at bay with the only weapon at his disposal, a double negative, with which he repeatedly told officers, I dont got no gun.
An earlier bank-robbing member of the Allen gang was also done in by poor handwriting. Virgil Starkwell claims that his stick-up note reads, I am pointing a gun at you, while the teller insists that it says, I am ponting a
gub at you. (Woody Allen, Take the Money and Run, 1969)
But despite Allens unfortunate brush with the law, stick-up notes remain a very minor genre in the literary canon, and pretty much everything else we write, from blogs to shopping lists, from memos to novels, from college application essays to text messages to ransom notes, has made the jump to cyberspace.
Kidnappers no longer have to cut up magazines for their notes. Now they can download a font to create award-winning ransom notes that will keep the clients coming back for more.
Digitized handwriting fonts of all kinds abound, including fonts based on the handwriting of famous people
An outfit named killerfonts.com sells digitized fonts based on the handwriting of famous people, like Ben Franklin, above, who forgot to run his spell checker and probably didnt say that about democracy anyway, and infamous people, like Jack the Ripper, though Jack the Ripper didnt leave notes for his victims or sign his name with a capital T the way killerfonts.com shows it in the sample below:
If youre enough of an egotist and have some disposable income, you can even have your own handwriting digitized for those special occasions that require the personal touch:
If you cant give up your keyboard but still want your readers to think you cared enough to put a piece of yourself on paper, signaturesoftware.com will turn your handwriting into a scalable font with several versions of each letter, as shown above, since irregularities give the writing a more realistic appearance.
Now no one, whether youre already writing like Shakespeare or just a James Joyce wannabe, has to go through the effort of rummaging through their pockets for a pen and laboriously scratching out a few words in longhand on a napkin or the back of an envelope.
But now that authors and executives, philosophers and scientists, students and their grandparents, and even kidnappers, have gone digital, why are bank robbers the only holdouts in the computer revolution?
When asked why he robbed banks, Willie the Actor Sutton, the dean of American bank robbers, reportedly said, Because thats where the money is. Anyone who displays that kind of sensitivity, insight and intelligence about his own craft is going to put his money on a well-crafted, handwritten note.
Willie Sutton may have been no Abraham Lincoln, but he too knew how to write on an envelope if he had to
Duwayne Allen was true to the code of the bank robber. He did everything the master, Willie Sutton, would have done, casing the joint, planning his escape route, tossing money about to throw the cops off his trail.
He even went to the trouble of writing out his note to the teller. Its true that Allen lied in his note: he didnt really have a bomb he didnt even have a gun. But Allens not going to jail for lying, hes going to jail for bad penmanship.
Everything would have gone according to plan except that Duwayne Allen made one fatal mistake: he didnt pay attention in handwriting class. A legible stick-up note would have saved him vital seconds, seconds wasted while tellers tried to understand his illegible scrawl, seconds that will now cost Mr. Allen up to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The secret to successful bank robbing: copying out the letters in a big round hand