October 19, 2003

Positive ID

You guys are awesome! Victor commented about being called ‘sir’ the very first time, at the Bull and Finch in Boston (the television show ‘Cheers’ was based on this bar, but it really didn’t look anything like it). Truly inspirational, and it reminds me of another story. Like the druid tale, it meanders a bit, so once again I ask your indulgence...

In 1978, the legal drinking age in North Dakota was 18. The legal drinking age in Minnesota was 21. This wasn’t a problem as long as I stayed on my side of the state line. It became a problem because the best bars were on the Minnesota side of the line. In Grand Forks, North Dakota you had the Mr. Spud disco and that was about it. In East Grand Forks, Minnesota there were several nicer non-disco places to drink and meet girls. ‘Nicer’ is a relative term here, because it's not the cultural center of the universe. The NoDaks weren’t too fond of us basers either.

I was an Air Force Security Policeman, and as the old military saying goes, “young, dumb, and full of cum”. Definite emphasis on ‘dumb’, although the others certainly applied. Knowing that I’d get carded across the river, I needed some form of identification that would pass muster. I don’t remember exactly when I got the idea, but less than a minute’s work with an x-acto knife, and the date of birth on my California drivers license changed from 1959 to 1956. Score!

I used my altered license as ID for almost four years without problem, even having to hand it over to a Canadian policeman once when pulled over for speeding in Manitoba. One night my best friend and I went to buy beer, and out of habit I used my drivers license when carded. Things quickly went to hell when the world’s most observant 7-11 clerk detected my handiwork and called the cops. The true bitch of it was that I was 22 by this time and didn’t even think about the license anymore.

Finally the policeman arrived, checked out the license, and invited me to get into his car. He asked me if I worked at the base (as if the haircut didn’t give it away). “Yeah,” I replied.

“What do you do at the base?”

Head hanging low, “I’m a cop.”

“Do you know Sgt. Thomas?”

I was a little puzzled by this question, but I admitted that yes, I knew Sgt. Thomas.

“So what do you think he’d say about this?”

Huh? Why would Sgt. Thomas care at all... and it dawned on me that his Sgt. Thomas isn’t the same Sgt. Thomas I knew. Something like one in three people at the base were cops of one type or another, and Thomas isn’t an uncommon name. My answer was obvious.

“He would be very disappointed, officer.”

So I got a stern talking to, and he confiscated my drivers license. That wasn’t a major problem, because I was of legal age and my military ID sufficed. In other words, I didn’t bother to get another license for about 6 months. Then I got orders to report to Mississippi for computer school. Driving across country (in the short direction) without a license wouldn’t do, so I went down and applied for a new North Dakota license. They got a kick out of California boy missing every ‘winter’ question on the test, but I did well enough to pass. Piece of paper in hand, the new license would be coming in the mail in a week or so.

Except it didn’t. I was ok for the trip because of my DMV paper, and I figured that the license was in the mail somewhere catching up to my change of address. One day I got a notice telling me that I could stop by the DMV to get my picture taken, but the appointment was for about a week previous. I wrote back and explained that I was in Mississippi and couldn’t come in for a picture. They sent back a nice letter apologizing for the short notice last time and scheduled me for another picture appointment, this time about a month ahead. It was comical. Once again I wrote back and informed them that I wasn’t going to return to North Dakota. Since I’d already paid for my license, I asked them to refund my money and I’d go ahead and get a Mississippi license.

Two weeks later I got my North Dakota license, and man it was a beauty! Heavily laminated (tamper-proof), there was big bold lettering on the front where the picture would normally be that said ‘VALID WITHOUT PHOTO OR SIGNATURE”. The back had a big banner stating “90 Day Temporary License”, which wasn’t entirely accurate. North Dakota law says that military personnel can use a temporary license until they return to the state to get their permanent version.

I used my 90-day temporary license (without photo or signature) for nine years as valid ID. Most people would do a double-take, but accept it, and very occasionally I would be asked for a second ID, which is when I would produce my military ID card. It took a while to get my new Maryland license when I got out of the military because I no longer had a military ID, and the only things I could show was my North Dakota license and my European drivers license, neither of which had photo or signature. Both valid and perfectly good while managing to be utterly worthless as positive ID.

Back to the Bull and Finch. We were in Boston for a week of training, and we wanted to do some sightseeing, including the ‘Cheers’ bar. When we tried to get in, the bouncer wouldn’t let me enter because I didn’t have a picture on my license, and he wouldn’t accept our Military ID’s as valid. He wanted to see drivers licenses and that was all he’d take (time to make the donuts). We finally raised so much hell at the entrance that nobody could get in or out and they threatened to call the cops. I wanted that too, until the manager came out and pulled the bouncer’s head out of his ass.

The bar was a huge letdown. Sgt. Thomas would have been very disappointed.

Posted by Ted at October 19, 2003 08:46 AM | TrackBack

A bouncer at Bullwinkle's in Minneapolis tried to pull that sh*t on me while I was home on leave after getting back from Desert Storm.

Me (loud enough to be heard by the manager at the bar): WHAT? You mean I just spent 6 months floating off the coast of Iraq so that you can tell me you don't accept military ID?

Bouncer: Welcome to Bullwinkle's.

Yes, Bull & Finch is a letdown, but they have OUTSTANDING chowder & Guiness on tap.

Posted by: Rob at October 21, 2003 12:41 PM
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