Can I See Some ID?

Despite the fact that more and more people are finally seeing the light and are realizing that cars are stinky, obnoxious, and unnecessary within a city, we still live in a society obsessed with the personalized motor vehicle. Everyone above the age of 16 is expected to have a driver’s license, and even in situations that have absolutely nothing to do with driving, or as we encountered last night, in situations where people should absolutely be encouraged to NOT drive and leave the car at home, the almighty driver’s license still sets the standard.

We arrived at the Drinks Show and were asked for ID. Being almost 40, this was flattering, but yes, the rule. I pulled out my Nova Scotia age of majority card; Greg, his Ontario health card.

“I need to see a driver’s license,” barked the security woman.

“This is all I have,” said Greg, “I don’t have a license.” She looked at him like he had two heads. “I’m not supposed to take this.” “It’s the only photo ID I’ve got,” he replied.

Then she turned to me. “What’s this?”

“Age of majority card for Nova Scotia.” I rolled my eyes, because I’ve gone through this so many times before. I expect it in Buffalo, or San Francisco where they’re not familiar with, you know, provinces, but in Ontario, I expect someone checking ID to be at least vaguely familiar with forms of identification from other areas of the country.

“You don’t have a driver’s license either?”

“No. I choose not to drive. And I don’t believe that a driver’s license should be the only acceptable form of photo ID. This is a government-issued document, created for the sole purpose of notifying you that I’m old enough to drink – it should be more than acceptable.” I’m ready at this point to throw a hissy fit and yell for the organizers.

She’s not happy about the whole thing, but lets us in anyway. But I’m still cranky.

See, way back in the 80s, Nova Scotia driver’s licenses didn’t have photos. When you hit 19, the rite of passage for a Nova Scotian’s 19th birthday was to head to the LC (Liquor Commission) to get yourself an age of majority card. 3 pieces of ID that included a date of birth, signature and address were all you needed to score a nifty plastic card with your mug on it, and freedom to wreak havoc on the streets of downtown Halifax.

I moved to Ontario about a month before I turned 19. I’d show up at clubs in Toronto, hand over my Nova Scotia driver’s license when asked, and have doormen go “What the fuck is this?” because it lacked a photo. I looked into getting an Ontario age of majority card, but unlike Nova Scotia where you just showed up at the LC, in Ontario, you needed to fill out a form, submit photos by mail, and more confusing, have the document signed by a person of high standing who had known you for a minimum amount of time (usually a couple of years!). I had been here a month when I turned 19 – I didn’t know a doctor, dentist, judge or notary public – I had no one to sign my stupid document.

I actually ended up going back to Nova Scotia for a visit about six months after moving to Toronto, in part to go to the LC and get myself some damned photo ID. To this date, it’s the only photo ID I have. I never enjoyed driving, was incredibly bad at it, and living and working in Kensington Market, I didn’t need to drive anywhere, and would have been terrified to do so anyway. So I let my driver’s license expire, because as long as I had my age of majority card, there should be no problem getting into bars.

Yet at events like the Drinks Show last night, I still get hassled. Picking up packages at the post office, the clerks are confused by my lack of a driver’s license and don’t know what information to take from my age of majority photo ID.

And that really pisses me off. Why is the driver’s license the ID standard? Who says? And why can’t we train personnel whose job it is to take ID to learn that there is actually more than one kind? People from other countries or provinces aren’t going to have a stupid Ontario driver’s license. What happens to them when they try to attend an event like this? Driving should have nothing to do with drinking. At an event where the purpose is to drink alcoholic beverages, not having a driver’s license should mean that I’m one less person they have to worry about when I leave.

I’ve got government-issued photo ID that proves I’m of legal drinking age. That it’s not an Ontario driver’s license is not my problem – it’s the problem of the person checking ID to be familiar with the various acceptable documents out there.