Friday, December 16, 2011

Some ID

This was, all told, a crummy day in non-tragic but still-frustrating respects. But one particular highlight was that at Wegman's - remember how pro-Wegman's I was? - I got carded for a bottle of wine. For context, this was one bottle of wine, amidst groceries adding up to just over $100, and no individual pricey items, but a bunch of really mundane stuff, not quite the makings for a rager. A week's worth of meals, give or take, plus dish detergent. Also for context: the wedding and engagement rings. The weary, 28-year-old face that says, "My husband's at a conference, so this week groceries are all me."

Ah, but getting carded is so flattering! It's like the opposite of being called "madame"! Except not really. It's store policy, they take it very seriously, and you could be in the Guinness Book of World Records as oldest person alive and you'd need to show ID.

But I'd come prepared. Because my new learners' permit has no photo ID, but is just this piece of paper with a barcode or something, I brought along my shiny new passport. I mention that it's new because that means a) a current photo, and b) the name matches up with the one on my credit card.

"Can I see some ID?"

I take out the passport and open it to the photo page.

"I can't accept this."

And so we went back and forth for a while. In a bid to make the two hours the shuttle drops you off at the strip mall go by more quickly, I'd already gone in and out of, oh, everything on that side of Route 1? Not Chuck E. Cheese, so no, not everything. I went to Target without needing or wanting anything in the entire store, but overheard an older woman telling a young child that she should stop talking about football because she's a girl and football isn't for girls. I saw a pair of Converse at Famous Footwear that had been $45 but were reduced to $49, and yes, you read that right. 

I'd tried my best to make Wegman's itself take the hour and a half or so I had left once I got there. I stared at the olive oil section, thinking of the Terry Gross interview I just listed to while walking Bisou with the latest author of some book about how olive oil labeling is all BS, except that you need to get the good stuff. Is Wegman's brand the good stuff? The Greek one? There are problems, it seems, with Italian, yet another case of dubious "made in Italy." How low am I on sugar? Enough to merit adding a five-pound bag to an already-packed cart? Domino's or Wegman's brand? I wonder what shampoos are sold at Wegman's? And so on. By the time I was at the register, I had under ten minutes to make the shuttle. 

It was only as I was pleading that this was a US government-issued ID that I realized that, due to incompatible missing pieces of cultural capital, the cashier had never seen a passport before, just as I did not possess the only form of identification any adult who has it together enough to make it to Wegman's might possibly own. I'd never had this happen before, in part because in NY carding is strictly for those who look underage, and even then kind of lax, but also because those doing the carding, if they didn't have passports themselves (often enough, on account of having come from another country), had at least encountered them when carding an international and largely non-driving population. I explained that I don't know how to drive, thus no license, thus the thing I was showing. (And shouldn't the not driving make me the ideal purchaser of wine?) I didn't explain what it was, because what if she did know perfectly well what it was, but was giving me a hard time? 

Eventually, the cashier summoned a higher-up, who, without looking at the part of the passport that has my date of birth on it, saw what kind of document it was, saw that I'm a bit of an ancient vintage myself, and told her that it was fine. What he meant, though, was that the document was fine, but she still needed to check my birthdate on it. I had no idea what she was doing with it, inspecting it so closely that an El Al security guard might want to learn from her, but eventually she said something along the lines of, "Oh, there it is," and moved on to the eggs, milk, bananas, and so forth.

I feel as though this story ought to end with my drinking that wine, but ever since becoming ancient, I find that I get hungover but not tipsy from even small amounts of alcohol. This bottle is basically for, next time we have people over, now we'll also be able to offer them red.


Britta said...

Two summers ago, when I was 27, I tried to buy wine for my mother at Safeway, with my bf of the time. Although my ID was fine, his had been through the wash and was kind of faded. The cashier refused to sell wine to us, even though I swore that he was older. I tried to go back and buy wine by myself, and right as the cashier was ringing me up, the original one shouted across the store "DON'T SELL HER ALCOHOL." It was both annoying and embarrassing, but I guess once you get refused once, you can't come back in and buy alcohol. I've never had that happen at that store before, so I think that woman was just an asshole who was abusing her power.

Jacob T. Levy said...


Two years ago I got carded in DC to get admitted to a bar. And because "carded" in Quebec isn't really a thing, they just embed your birthdate as part of the string of digits in the license number: 831970010145 for someone born on 1/1/70. I showed the bouncer the string of digits but he having none of it. Tyler Cowen was waiting to get in with me, and told the bouncer that he'd known me for 20 years, and I hadn't been an infant when we met-- and Tyler doesn't really radiate "trying to sneak underage boys into crowded bars." Shlepped back to my hotel for my passport, which was accepted.

I was neither flattered nor amused. I can understand why the Quebec license is unhelpful, but not why I was getting we-really-mean-it carded in the first place.

Phoebe said...


I had things like this happen in Chicago. When I was under 21, the overs I'd be with wouldn't be allowed to purchase alcohol with me present, and there was the humiliating incident at a tapas restaurant when the one "over" at the table ordered a glass of sangria, and the waiter spent the whole night watching over us to make sure that the "unders" (who were, what, 19? 20?) didn't sneak a sip. Then, once I was 21, I went with another of-ager to some brewery that then didn't accept my friend's expired, but fully authentic, ID.

In places where there are 18-year-olds on the road, vigilance makes more sense, I suppose, than in parts of NY where kids would never drive. But when the customer is quite obviously of-age, I suspect it's either that employees are fired for not making a fuss and are being watched, or (as sounds like we both experienced) it's a power trip. This is especially likely considering that the cashiers allowed to ring up alcohol purchases have to be over 21 themselves, and someone for whom this is a permanent job might be more resentful than someone who's a student just doing this part-time.


But Montreal does card! I know this because when I was visiting family there, at 14, my 18-ish and super-hip cousin wanted to order me a beer. I'd never had beer and wasn't asking for any, but I vaguely remember being carded in French-Canadian for a beer I hadn't ordered, and not being served it. Of course, this doesn't mean they card people who don't look 10.

DC has struck me as much more like Chicago than NY in terms of vigilance - I've been out with people who were clearly of-age and I don't think have ever seen someone not get carded, or not gotten carded myself. It would seem that at a certain point, one would be old enough and it would stop, but maybe that point is retirement age.