The young store clerk rang up spaghetti squash and the Tootsie Rolls. Then came the moment of truth.
“Sorry ma’am, I’ll have to see some ID.”
A bottle of Pinot Noir lay on the counter between us. It was going to be one of those days.
“You’re kidding, right? I’m old enough to be your mother. I was over 21 the day you were born.”
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“Doesn’t matter. We card everyone under the age of 80.”
So just like that, what could have been the compliment of a lifetime turned into an embarrassing moment.
“You could be underage and just wear really good makeup,” he said.
“So I’m actually 18 and wear ‘really good makeup’ to make myself look middle-aged? That doesn’t sound like ‘really good makeup’ to me.”
At this point, I just should have handed over my driver’s license and been done with it. The thing is, I couldn’t find it. TJ Maxx receipts spilled onto the counter as I dug through my purse to no avail.
The checkout line was backing up and my face was turning red.
It wasn’t lost on me that my life had come full circle.
Back in the day, I used to dread being carded. Yes, I was under-aged, and no, I’m not proud of it. But I was in college and I was thirsty and, well, what can say? Then came my 21st birthday. Faster than the cashier could ask for my ID, it was lying on the counter.
By my mid-30s, I was downright thrilled when the occasional store clerk underestimated my age. Then came the “mercy cardings” — when the cashier asks for your driver’s license with a smile on his face, knowing fully well you’re in on the joke.
Alas, no one was smiling today.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but if you can’t produce some ID, I can’t sell you this wine,” the clerk said, shaking his head.
I should have marched out of the store, right there and then, but it was the principle of the thing. Plus, we were having pasta for dinner — and it doesn’t wash down the same way with peach tea.
As I emptied my wallet on the counter, I briefly considered asking the man behind me to purchase my wine. I’m sure he would have, if only to get the line moving. But then, a miracle happened.
“Voila!” I shouted extracting my license from my purse. “I knew it was here! I just knew it!”
I’d like to say the folks around me broke into applause. I’m pretty sure I heard a chuckle or two.
“Congratulations,” the cashier said, ringing me out.
That evening, I drank a toast to resilience.
Middle age never tasted so good.