Underage Drinking.By Ellacoquine
California could not have been a better destination for our Franco-American honeymoon. While we could have seen more of what the state has to offer by doing the drive up the coast, checking out wine country, stopping off in Santa Barbara, I'm glad that I was able to show Aurélien at least the beginner's tour to California by starting him off easy with LA and a 50 minute flight up to San Francisco.
One thing about California that I had forgotten all about since I moved back to the east coast in 2006 was the pride that the two cities have, almost to the degree of a playful rivalry. When merely mentioning that we had started the first leg of our honeymoon in Los Angeles to San Francisco locals who must have assumed it was my first trip out to California, we were almost always met with an immediate almost knee-jerk response that the two cities were absolutely nothing alike, with an almost exhale of relief. When telling friends, and acquaintances we had met along the away, that we were heading up to San Francisco, residents of LA responded with a blank and somewhat confused, "Wait, but why?"
Aside from the undeniable differences of geography, inhabitants, culture and style that divides the two major Californian cities, there was one detail, albeit slight, that made our stay in the City by the Bay slightly more enjoyable than the City of Angels.
I'm not sure what new laws have been enforced in LA, but I was constantly carded for alcohol, to the point of obscenity. The first few times, sure, I was flattered, but it wasn't until the incident at a bar in Pasadena where I had to present my passport to the same bartender with every round, plus random spot checks, that it was starting to get obnoxious. Between glasses of wine it would seem unlikely that I had acquired a false ID, and even more unlikely and much to the dismay of the city of eternal youth, that I would become 15 years younger. When I asked the bartender why the need to take such strict measures, while coquettishly adding that my Clarisonic must be doing its job of keeping me so refreshingly youthful, he swiftly cut me off mid-sentence to inform me that anyone who looks under 60 years old gets carded at the bar.
I guess all the girls go in for the cutesy joke that I really did think was original and sort of funny.
So on our way to our friend Sti's Hollywood Hills pool party, the final Sunday in LA, while Aurel was on a street art hunt in Hollywood, he dropped me off at the nearby kitchy, health-food supermarket chain that is similar to Whole Foods but with a much more reasonable price point (no names) somewhere on Santa Monica Boulevard (no exact neighborhoods). The plan was to pick up treats to nosh and sip on poolside and to meet up at the Coffee Bean in 30 minutes.
Enjoying my shopping experience, I danced down the aisles picking up items that I could never find so effortlessly in Paris. In my basket laid two pre-made salads, a packet of turkey dogs, flax seed tortilla chips, pico de gallo, a six-pack of gluten-free beets (hey, when in LA, right?) and a bottle of Prosecco charmingly called "Macaron". Pure shopper's delight.
At the check-out, I loaded up our pool treats on the counter, and ready for action, went to reach for my passport...yet, it wasn't in the bag I had on me. During the "bag switch" I failed to throw it in, only bringing my wallet which I adorably assumed would be sufficient. Having my temporary license, an expired New York State license, my Social Security card, my crows feet and laugh lines, and my very first California driver's license that I keep in my wallet when I want a good laugh over my spray tanned skin in the photo, should have been more than enough, right?
Wanting to stay honest, I informed our cheerful, 20-something cashier "Jackie" that the hard copy of the license was expired but had enough documentation to prove my identity and age, as well as my temporary ID that was signed and sealed by a government official at the DMV.
Well. Jackie had to confirm with her manager if she could accept this.
Watching her from the check-out as I was now holding up the line, she went up into a manager's booth to explain my "situation". The fella, most likely close to my age if not exact looked carefully over my documents where his body language communicated that what I had offered was unacceptable. He looked at me, the Sunday morning hooligan who was trying to pull a fast one on him by purchasing Prosecco and edamame salads, and shook his head in what I interpreted as sheer disappointment. Surely I am out of touch with what "the kids" are doing these days, but trying scam a health market on a Sunday morning with sparkling wine seems a bit off to me. Furthermore, and might I add the most obvious point, I haven't looked like a teenager since 1998 -- when I was actually one! It reminds of one of the lines in the film High Fidelity where John Cusack's character Rob catches the teen punks shoplifting Serge Gainsbourg records and asks, "You guys slamming to Joni Mitchell now?" Anyway, so the manager comes over and coolly hands me back my official government documents to announce that "the house will not be accepting them" and that they will be removing the booze from my selections. I know I have adult acne and chubby cheeks but come on, I clearly look over 21! Then, for the most annoying bit of the scene: the manager put his hand on Jackie's shoulder and with a nod and exasperated sigh says, "Thank you so much looking out. I'm glad you were able to catch this sort of thing." First off, she didn't "catch" anything. It was moi who foolishly presented the documents, complete with what I thought was a rational explanation. And two, she what, caught a (soon to be!!) 32-year-old woman trying to by wine for a pool party? What. A. Hero. Allow me to insert the slow clap. The saga ended with my groceries set aside in a basket, standing next to the manager's booth and calling Aurélien to come pick me up immediately, and to pay for the groceries. In San Francisco we weren't asked once to present our ID which now has me wondering: was the severe ID checking just an LA thing or did people in SF think we look over 60? Who knows, but I do know, I sure as hell don't look like that petite in this post's photo. Cheers to aging with pride. And thank you to the city of LA for making me feel illegally young.
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