Saturday, November 21, 2009

Can I see your i.d., please?

Most people respond with annoyance when you ask to see their i.d., unless they are over the age of 50. At that age, they get excited and think you are complementing them, though it’s obvious that they are old enough to drink and you just didn’t want to make them feel bad by only asking for their daughter’s – oops, girlfriend’s – i.d. The closer someone is to age 21, the more likely they are to be miffed that you want them to produce i.d.

The young ones roll their eyes and say, “Oh my god, don’t I look 21? Gheesh. I just turned 22.” What they will understand a decade-and-a-half from now is that at age 39, I can’t tell the difference anymore between an eighteen-year-old and a twenty-eight-year-old. They all look like teenagers, too young to be drinking. And when they reach age 39, they’ll be bumming that no one asks for their i.d. anymore.

The grad students fumble through their wallets and produce beat-up European or Iranian or Albanian or Egyptian drivers’ licenses. I apologize, but tell them in New York, I can legally only accept a passport if someone is not from the U.S. or Canada.

“But look at this,” a young man who looks like a teenager says to me. He hands me a driver’s license from a far-away country where they don’t have letters, but instead write with symbol things. Might as well be Greek to me. Maybe it is Greek. The date proclaims that he is 24 years old.

The man also hands me a document with the title, “International Identification Card.” Scotch tape attaches his picture in the top right-hand corner. “X bar accepts it,” he says. X bar also serves underage drinkers on a regular basis.

“If it helps,” the man tells me, “all of my American friends have i.d.’s.” He points to a table filled with young faces in the rear of the bar. “It helps them,” I say, but I tell him as much as I’d like to give him a drink, I still can’t serve him.

He pulls out a college i.d. Then a business card that states his role in the chemistry department at the college. "I'm sorry," I say.

It’s not that I didn’t believe him. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was over 21. But I wasn’t 100% positive, and one slip-up at the wrong time could cost us our liquor license. In a college town, you can’t be too careful about serving underage drinkers. Liquor authority goons lurk in the shadows and set up sting operations when you least expect it.

The lesson? Get old: Recede your hairline, get some wrinkles, add grey hair to your demeanor. Or, if aging quickly is not an option, bring your passport.

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