Since the ‘Think 21’ law came into the UK a few years back I have been asked numerous times to show ID when buying alcohol. The last time I was asked was just two days ago when I tried to purchase a bottle of wine with my shopping. I’m 35 ffs! Normally in these circumstances I give an embarrassed (ok, smug) little laugh and reply, “Oh that’s really flattering but I’m actually 35”.
“I still need to see your ID please”, is the usual response I get.So I shuffle around in my purse to find my provisional drivers license (the only form of ID that I have) while trying not to look too smug. When I hand it over they give my photo and birth date a quick once over before saying, “Ok that’s great, thanks”, and the wine or vodka or whatever it is that I fancied that week goes through the till smoothly and all is great in my world. I feel young and glamorous and not at all like a thirty five year old grandmother and I skip out of the shop with my alcohol grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve still got it”, I think to myself.
Two days ago however, all was not right in my world. I got to the till with my bottle of wine and I was asked the question I usually love. “Have you got any ID please?”
“Who me?”, I’d asked, feigning shock.”But I’m 35!”.
“Well, you look good on it”, she’d replied while patiently waiting to see my ID.
As I rummaged around in my purse happily, it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have it with me. I’d sent it off the day before because it needed updating. I felt the smile slip from my face.
“No, I don’t have it”, I’d told her.
“I’m sorry but I can’t serve you on this occasion”, said she.
“But I’m 35! I exclaimed. “I have a grandchild. I’ve got grey hair”, I shouted while pointing to my grey roots and tipping my head down for her to get a good look (much to the amusement of the man standing behind me).
“I’m sorry I can’t serve you the alcohol” she’d replied unmoving.
Turns out it’s not so great being asked for ID at the age of 35 when you don’t have any ID on you and you can’t actually buy the alcohol that you so desperately wanted.
“This is ridiculous”, I seethed. I swear I had steam coming out of my ears.I stuffed the rest of my shopping into carrier bags angrily. I no longer felt smug or happy or young. I didn’t feel like, “I still had it”. I felt enraged. I wanted my wine. I’d earned it. I’d worked hard all week trying to be a good wife and mother and I bloody well NEEDED that wine. I could have walked back up the other end of town and bought another bottle from another shop but I’d just come from there and my arms were full with heavy shopping. I couldn’t face walking all the way back up there now. All I wanted to do was catch a bus and go home.
I sat on the bus seething and wondered why nothing ever goes right for me. I phoned my daughter and told her how unhappy I was about my awful predicament.
A short while later I realised that I may have taken the incident a tad too personally and that maybe I was being a little unreasonable, “But so was that woman who refused to serve me”, a defiant little voice in my head said. I do understand that the woman serving me could have lost her job had I turned out to be under age. I also understand that she could have been arrested and fined or even served a custodial sentence, but come on! OK so I may look young (ish) for my age but I don’t look THAT young. I certainly don’t look under 21 although I wish I did.
I sent my 19 year old daughter out later that evening to get me a bottle of wine and when she got back she proudly announced that she had no problem buying it and that she hadn’t even been asked for ID. I haughtily replied, “I can’t help it if I look younger than you” and as I took the bottle from her hand and poured myself a well deserved glass, a memory flashed into my head of a couple of Christmases ago. I’d been asked for ID while buying chocolate liqueurs, I kid you not. I mean what did the person serving me think I was going to do? Stand round the corner, consume the entire box in one go and get pissed on them?
So are retailers and retail assistants taking this whole ‘Think 21’ thing too far or are they just doing their jobs? Are they just protecting themselves from the law?
I know one thing for certain. I won’t ever be leaving the house again without my ID. Or maybe next time I’ll just bring my daughter along with me and she can buy it for me instead.
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