Update: "Papers please." Has anyone else noticed or experienced this?Submitted by Michael Nystrom on Sat, 10/13/2012 - 10:47
On Thursday, a friend of mine came down to visit from Vermont. At the end of the trip, he said he wanted to stop at Whole Foods to pick up some cheap wine. In Vermont, he says, there is no such thing as cheap wine. Whole Foods on River Street in Cambridge is now competing with the Trader Joe's next door, both offering a house brand of California wine for $2.99 a bottle. It is decent wine, and he ends up putting a couple of cases in his basket. Then he gets to the checkout.
Now mind you, my friend is 66 years old, and no offense to anyone, but he looks it (and he knows it). His description of himself is that he's "balding with grey hair and jowls," which is an accurate description. But still the kid at the checkout stand carded him for the alcohol purchase. And not only that, because my friend had a Vermont license, the checker needed to call a supervisor for approval!
My friend thinks this is crazy. Of course I do too, but I thought it was just isolated to Whole Foods, which is uptight like that.
But so last night I was at a bar down the hill from my place in Union Square and the bouncer dude out front cards me. He says that even though he could tell I was over 21, he had to card me by law, or he could get in trouble. Its a profiling thing. So I tell him the story about what happened to my friend at Whole Foods, and this bouncer dude, who is also an older guy too - I'd put him at over sixty also - says the same thing happened to him buying smokes at Market Basket, the cheapest grocery store in Somerville.
But in his case, he didn't have his ID on him. At that particular store, there is a little office behind plexiglass where they sell cigarettes and lottery tickets. Only the bouncer dude didn't have his ID with him. And he's fumbling around in his pockets looking for it, and the line is growing behind him with people waiting, and he said he just snapped. He tells the kid to come up close and says, "Look at me kid. Do you think I'm not 21? If you don't hand over those cigarettes right now I'm going to reach in their and grab you and pull you through this little hole."
Now, the bouncer dude was laughing when he said this. But he also said he felt like a jerk for losing it like that. But he was livid at the ridiculousness of the situation, and flustered with all the people piling up behind him. And the way he's telling the story has me cracking up. But I look at him, and he is a big, imposing guy. You wouldn't want this guy mad at you.
So I ask him, what did the kid do?
"He gave me the cigarettes," he says and we both start laughing.
(The bouncer also said that every time he goes into the store and sees that kid now he apologizes profusely to him).
But afterwards, I got to thinking about this.
What's going on? I'm used to getting carded where ever I go to buy alcohol, but I always took that as a compliment - an affirmation of my vibrant, youthful features. But who am I kidding?
Is this just how it goes in the waning days of the empire? What does it mean? Will they soon be checking ID for other things too, and this is just the long, slow acclimation process? (Oh right Sudafed now requires ID to buy. Spray paint, too, in some places where "graffiti" is a problem. Anything else?) Has something similar happened to you?
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Update: I just came back from a little trip to the wine store down in the Square - not the one that is closer, where I usually go - the one owned by the Indian entrepreneurs. This time I walked across the square - popped into a few bars just to check the scene for a few minutes, then move on. A leisurely Saturday night walk.
I picked up a little four pack of Allagash White, brewed up in Portland Maine. I've been enjoying the Belgian White beers of late. But a four pack will set you back $10, so I've been modest in my enjoyment.
The cashier was an elderly woman, well into her 70's I'd say. She was caucasian, but foreign - I wasn't sure where from. The accent was not a familiar one to me.* I asked her if she was going to card me, and she said, "I have to." I asked, "is it the law?" She kind of scoffed like it was a nonsensical question. "Is it a law? They come after you for money. I had a kid come in, buy some alcohol and then the police come in saying I didn't card him. It happened to me," she said. "Many times."
"They want money," was her objective observation.
Shake down. Pure and simple.
1) Create a completely un-followable law, if for no other reason that it makes you feel like an idiot for enforcing it. "Hey granny, you're older than me, but can I see your ID?"
2) Fine people and collect when they inevitably break the law.
* It turns out she's Portugese. There were many Portugese in this area at one time, and I imagine that she started the place with her husband a long time ago. But this neighborhood is in transition. A lot of the new, second wave immigrants are replacing the old Brazilians & Portugese. Now we have Indians and Chinese, and a lot of "Latinos." I don't know exactly what that means, but there are lots of people here from other central + south American countries that are not Mexico.
It really is like two separate workforces. Walk into any restaurant and you'll find the kitchen staff is composed nearly entirely of, as one friend calls them, "Amigos."
But I digress.