Every time I go to the gas station to buy either tobacco or alcohol the cashier asks to see my valid driver’s license. This would be a fantastic compliment if I was an overly-tan woman in a denim jacket, on my fourth divorce and a Virginia Slim was dangling from my lipstick-caked mouth.
As it happens, however, I am a 32-year-old man-boy who lacks the ability to grow a beard or mustache — oh, I shave, but it’s only for practice.
I understand that most clerks ask for identification as a ridiculous requirement of their job. But for me it just doesn’t stop there. Every once in awhile I get a real Chatty Cathy cashier and they always respond in one of two ways.
Most of the time the clerk will compliment my boyish good looks and I respond with the same manufactured response that I always say, “I’ll take it for as long as I can get it.” I say this because it’s nice and quickly deflects attention away from my youthful appearance. I’m not trying to be funny here. Do you think I like being compared to Justin Bieber?
The other way some clerks respond is exactly the way Patti responded the other day at the Marathon when I stopped to buy a tall boy on the way home from work. The beer was mandatory, you see, because I intended on (intended being the operative word) mowing the grass that evening. Like many men, I always feel it absolutely crucial to be slightly intoxicated while operating limb-altering devices.
Yes, clerks just like Patti sometimes threaten to call the police because they dispute the authenticity of my license based solely on my looks. There is a word for that. It’s called discrimination. Actually, it’s called ageism. Oh sure, everybody knows all about racism and sexism, but little old ageism and I are always on the sidelines.
And I’ve dealt with ageism my entire. My parents took advantage of it when I was a kid because well into my pubescent years I convincingly looked the part of “children 10 and under eat free.”
As an adult the discrimination became almost unbearable. Once a movie usher attempted to kick me out of a scary R-rated movie because he thought I wasn’t 17 or older. That was nine years ago. Another time some religious folks came to my door and specifically asked me, “May we please speak to your parents.” That was last week.
Shouldn’t I be able to go into a gas station, mind my own business and buy a 16-ounce beverage without someone threatening to call the police on me based on how I look? Thank God that George Zimmerman wasn’t behind me in line at the time.
Suddenly, Patti turned into Sherlock Holmes and for a split-second thought she grew a brain.
“You don’t look anything like your picture,” Patti coughed and what appeared to be a cigarette butt tumbled out of her mouth.
“Let me bounce this theory off you,” I smirked. “What if — and I’m just talking out loud here — that sometime in the last three and a half years I got my haircut and changed my clothes on at least one occasion, possibly more, Patti?”
“Well,” she said, befuddled, “you aren’t wearing your glasses.”
“Are you being sarcastic, dense or both?” I replied. “I’m not wearing my glasses, but I’m also no longer slicking my hair back like Eddie Munster.”
“What are the police going to say if they come here and look at this?” Patti asked.
“That you’re crazy and to stop wasting their time,” I said.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” Patti continued.
“You don’t,” I said suspiciously. “Although I can’t imagine anybody would want to pretend to be me. But you have to ask yourself this question: if I was underage and attempting to buy beer, wouldn’t I be buying a larger quantity than 16 fluid ounces?”
“That’s a good point,” Patti said, eventually coming to a compromise.
I left that day chuckling, humoring myself with two notions.
One, I had no intention of mowing the lawn.
And two, for some reason people want to call the cops on me even when I am acting my own age.
To contact Will E Sanders email him at email@example.com.