Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

The B8Zipr, invented by paralegal Sharon Self-Griswold, is a handier alternative to the 19th-century Bates automatic numbering machine still used by most law firms for legal documents.

Cathie Anderson: A stranger thanks soldier with gift of an iPhone

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 - 8:05 am

Jennifer Rogers takes care of two preschool-age boys and manages the family budget while her husband, Sgt. Greg Rogers, serves in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

Rogers has been living with her parents in Newcastle while her husband was deployed on his third tour. That way, she can stretch dollars and get help with the kids.

Her husband returned to his base in Fort Lewis, Wash., just a week and a half ago, and Rogers is preparing for a very merry Christmas. Last Tuesday found her at a busy Verizon store in Roseville. Her husband was hoping that an iPhone would be waiting for him under the tree.

As Rogers waited for service, she chatted with another customer about her husband, who was awarded a Purple Heart during his second tour. She told the stranger she might buy the lower-end iPhone 5 or even the iPhone 4S because she knew her husband would be fine with one of those. The other customer made his purchase, and on his way out, he came to wish Rogers a happy holiday and asked her to thank her husband for his service.

"He was gone, and one of the customer service representatives came up to me and asked me if that gentleman told me anything," she said, "and I said, 'No.' … She said that he had written out a check for $500 for me to get the phone and the accessories for my husband. He said that was his way of thanking us for my husband's service."

The clerk said the man wanted to remain anonymous. Rogers was so amazed that she called her husband that day to share the news. "He was speechless," she said. "He didn't believe me at first."

A zippy invention

Paralegals, legal secretaries and law clerks will groan in sympathy when they learn that Sharon Self-Griswold has numbered hundreds of thousands of legal documents over 30-plus years as a paralegal.

This task has long meant dragging out a Bates automatic numbering machine. It's a 19th-century gadget still used in virtually every 21st-century law firm. Press down the ball sitting on top, and a stamp descends to number the page.

A rotating wheel spins to the next number, or at least it should. Sometimes the numbers get stuck, and you have to wrestle with them. You also have to keep ink on the pad, or no number will appear. Be sure to let the indelible ink soak into the pad, or it will spray and ruin your clothes.

"That's the standard in the industry," Self-Griswold explained, "and I thought, 'Holy cow, I'm not doing it again.' "

Although some law firms have gone to scanning documents and doing electronic numbering, Self-Griswold said, the numbers often are illegible because they print over text already on the documents.

Self-Griswold tried setting up a template that would print numbers onto sheets of labels. The problem was, lots of people shared the printer, and by the time she pressed "print," someone else's document would print on her labels. Even when she did get the labels printed, there was the tedious job of peeling and sticking, peeling and sticking.

"It takes an enormous amount of time," she said, "so I'm sitting one day, redacting the documents with a correction tape dispenser. … I thought to myself, 'Wouldn't it be cool if I had a roll of pre-printed sequentially numbered labels? I could just flip the top off, pop them into a dispenser and just roll them out, just like you do with correction tape. That was the birth of my invention, the B8Zipr."

The B8Zipr applicator, which sells for $89.99 at b8zipr.com, looks a bit like a tape dispenser. Self-Griswold puts in a roll of numbered labels, and as she slides the B8Zipr, numbers on labels adhere to the paper. A genuine Bates machine ranges from $70 to $280.

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