Let’s see if we can work together. Inescapable totalitarian creep has me down. It’s everywhere: cops patrolling with license plate cameras; the Post Office photographing every piece of mail; the NSA reading all my email, collecting my address books and listening to my phone.
When I go to a bar to celebrate a birthday, and drown my country’s agony in baseball and beer with friends, I feel the jackboot on my neck as I enter the door of your establishment. Please make the carding stop.
Most adults generally carry an ID, but sometimes you forget, as did my buddy Jav this past Friday night for Smart Brother’s birthday. Jav walked into McLaddin’s on Lasalle Road without getting carded.
But McLaddin’s, blessed with a tremendous selection of beer, sadly suffers the plague of cover bands playing songs we’ve heard 10,000 times, songs whose power was drained by relentless repetition, half-notes for a penny a play until our ears bleed.
We dozen reveleres wandered like a lazy flock of geese from Lasalle Road down the sidewalks to Barcelona. Free, happy, positive! Smart Brother’s birthday deserved the hippest of moveable feasts, not recycled Tom Petty in an overcrowded faux Irish pub. ¡No importa que te gusta Green Day!
Snaking into Barcelona’s line, Jav, at the tail end behind me, forgot his ID. The bouncer refused him entry. To any person possessed of common sense, Jav looks well over 21 and, thus, legal to purchase alcohol.
But if we have learned anything this week, it is that common sense is in short supply in these United States. Understanding no argument would allow Jav entry, Smart Brother sucked it up. He volunteered to leg out the 20-minute round-trip drive back to Jav’s house.
Who couldn’t admire Smart Brother’s selflessness? Leaving his party to assure a friend he is not a dumbass for leaving his license home. The bar stupidly enforces wrongheaded policy. Connecticut does not require ID to enter a bar.
If a person without ID wants to go into a bar, but looks under 21, the law allows for them to sign an affidavit. But Barcelona, a liquor permittee, does not follow this law (which I know about thanks to @brendanmahoney).
Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 30-86a, “Statement from purchaser as to age” reads: “[A]ny permittee shall require any person whose age is in question to fill out and sign a statement in the following form on one occasion when each such person makes a purchase:
“I, …., hereby represent to …., a permittee of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, that I am over the age of 21 years, having been born on …., 19.., at ….. This statement is made to induce said permittee to sell or otherwise furnish alcoholic beverages to the undersigned.”
Boom. The liability now falls on the purchaser, not the permittee. If the purchaser misrepresents, it’s $250 fine. The bar washes its hands.
Now can we stop this madness of carding everyone, and demanding ID’s everywhere and every time you buy a pint? This idiocy about carding stretches beyond West Hartford Center.
In Yankee Stadium, I’ve watched beer slingers card white-haired Wall Street bankers and Bronx locals wearing every day of their 53 years on their face.
In grocery stores, I always engage the checkout person, whether in Stop and Shop, Trader Joe’s or Whole Paycheck (aka Whole Foods). When they card me, I protest. “Guess my age,” I ask the poor clerk before handing over my ID. “How old do I look?”
No one has ever said under 21. My Italian baby face cannot hide my every defeat. So why card me? Our society needs to invest clerks and bartenders with some prudence and maturity.
Barcelona heightens the madness, though, because you can grab a table on a Wednesday night, order wine with your tapas, and not get carded. Yet on a Friday night, they card you walking in, and again at the bar.
This ID binging is totalitarian creep, a combination of many toxic American instincts. Carrie A. Nation and her teetotalers laid the foundation of laws against drinking to insure salvation for the masses.
Add in that uniquely red, white and blue stripe of inhuman infantilization around psychoactive substances: you can’t have beer until you are 21, but you can kill for your country when you are 18.
Then mix in some protective legal posturing about dram shop liability. Bars profit from tipsy people, yet bars seek liability shields for tort litigation from the stupid things drunks do, like leave a woman in a field to freeze to death, smash beer bottles over someone’s head, or drive an SUV across the double yellow lines on Prospect Street.
Toss in a dash of post-9/11-philia for authoritarian militarism, that we need to know everything about you in order to protect you from yourself, and all the people we kill on your behalf. Lock step enforcement of a dim rule doesn’t make it any brighter.
Mix in a subtle flavor of fascism, the taste of the national security apparatus co-opting businesses to indoctrinate subservience. Americans now expect to prove our identity getting on a plane or buying a round.
Prohibition-era entrepreneurs thumbed their nose at the Puritanical demands made by federal theocracy. Now, businesses bow to brainless bureaucracy.
Top it all off with the lack of discretion cultivated by the drug war’s dung – a half-century of mandatory minimum punishments, enforcing strict, often pointless or extremely punitive mandates without choice.
Imagine a bar in Europe turning you away for no ID? Never. Not even in Islamic countries that frown on alcohol will barkeeps card. Soldiers card. Bus companies card. Hotels card. But not restaurants that do serve spirits.
Stateside, the absurdity enflames my blood-alcohol content. Carding every person does not protect ourselves from ourselves, lawsuits, booze or terrorist bombs.
In the entrance to Barcelona, my thoughts stood humbled by Smart Brother leaving his own birthday party. Contrast his intelligent generosity with the insipid, devilish ignorance of a bouncer following orders given by fools, I couldn’t help myself. I argued with the bouncer.
I went up the chain to the manager, who listened, admitted the stupid, but shrugged. This is Hannah Arendt’s banality writ large: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”
Not wanting to bummer the party any more, I shut up and resolved to write this letter. In conclusion, please stop carding everyone. It’s bad for business. It’s bad for customers. And it’s bad for the country.
P.S. While I know my friends made the best of the drive, Barcelona owes us all for the unnecessary carbon emissions its dumb policy caused.