Posts Tagged ‘Passport’

Here is a think I hate about the UK: being carded at the supermarket for daring try and buy wine with my shopping. I hate it with the fiery vengeance of a thousand flaming suns. Not just because my only form of photo ID is my passport, which for obvious reasons I don’t carry with me at all times, and not just because I’m inevitably carded on the basis of what I’m wearing. Work clothes? Never carded. Velvet coat, gothy skirt, geeky t-shirt and/or hooded jacket? Hellooooo, humiliation!

Because that’s what I really hate about the whole experience, and the reason why I am currently furious: being carded is fucking humiliating. No, I do not care that it’s a “compliment” to be told I “look” under 25, because how I look shouldn’t matter, and in any case is such a ludicrously subjective measurement as to be rendered utterly useless – and that’s even before you get to the mind-boggling nannyism of stopping people based on a standard that requires them to look at least eight years older than the legal drinking age.

But look. I get that countries have stupid laws. I really do! And after the first few incidents, I started taking that into account. Either I take my passport shopping, or I choose my line at the checkout based on the age of the person serving (I have never been carded by anyone in their teens or twenties, and was once able to negotiate a purchase from a sympathetic employee in her thirties). If all else fails, I can now accept my circumstances with a graceful laugh and move on.

Or at least, I could. Until I went to Morrisons today, passport in hand, and was still refused service. Why, you ask? Because two weeks ago, Morrisons was apparently handed down a verdict from some trade commission or other – I rang their customer service line for details, and the woman on the other end didn’t seem to understand it either – specifying that, in order to keep their particular kind of licence, they could only accept a UK ID as proof of age. This is because, to paraphrase the bemused service rep, “it’s not possible for Morrisons staff to learn to accurately recognise the passports of the world.” I tried to ask her why this standard seemingly applied only to Morrisons, and not, for instance, to any other supermarket on the planet, but answers were not forthcoming. Thus, I made my complaint, hung up, and went to put away the bottle of wine I bought at Aldi  on the way home (the twentysomething employee didn’t card me), thinking vindictive thoughts about how at least, despite the inconvenience of having to visit two separate supermarkets, I’d managed to save £1.20.

There’s a special humiliation that accompanies being carded in the UK, in that it only ever seems to happen at supermarkets. You’re in there doing your weekly shop, you think of grabbing a bottle of wine – and all of a sudden, you’re overcome by a nagging, uneasy guilt, as though you’ve done something wrong. It’s like that momentary fear you get passing through the theft detectors on your way out of a shop: the everyday paranoia that worries they’re going to go off even though you haven’t stolen anything. Except in this case, it isn’t momentary. It poisons every trip to the shops I take, fearful of the inevitable humiliation. Perhaps if I were still a teenager, or if I was used to being carded, I wouldn’t care. But in the entire time I’ve lived in Australia and bought alcohol there – that is, from ages 17 through 24 – I have been asked for ID exactly once: outside a packed nightclub in the Rocks, on a Saturday night, when I was nineteen. That’s one carding in seven years.

Over here, it’s a different story. Including our visit in 2009, I’ve been in the UK for roughly ten months. In that time, I’ve been carded at least once in every single supermarket I’ve entered more than once. In the past week and a half alone, it’s happened twice. On one occasion when we were shopping together, my husband was carded because I was with him and he was the one paying, despite the fact that he is a fully grown man in his thirties. I cannot even begin to describe how angry this made me. Now, every time we shop together, I’m scared to be the one who pays, just in case the cashier decides to ask for ID. I am a married woman. I am twenty-five years old. I am not a student, though I reserve the right to dress like one without fear of having my age estimated downwards. STOP FUCKING CARDING ME.

And while you’re at it, stop carding my friends, too. A twenty-four-year-old friend was carded recently because she was buying a pair of scissors and was deemed to look under sixteen. (Scissors! WHAT THE FUCK!) Another friend, a PhD student in her late twenties, is repeatedly carded and refused service because her ID is international, even when she isn’t shopping at Morrisons. In fact, I’m starting to think that being female is a handicap all by itself, which is possibly unfair, but as one male friend pointed out, he at least can grow a beard to look older.

At the risk of upsetting the good half of the status quo, why am I never carded in pubs? Are pub servitors simply better at guessing my age? Are they more pragmatic than supermarket servers? Does the law apply differently on pub grounds? Or is it a combination of all three? What bothers me in this is the element of hypocritical absurdity: that right now, I could walk into any pub in the UK and buy a round of double tequila shots without anyone batting an eyelid while being simultaneously unable to purchase a single bottle of cider along with my groceries.

God only knows how I’ll cope if we ever visit America.

Returning early from work on Tuesday afternoon, I found a slip of cardboard in my letterbox informing me that I had a package to collect. ‘Ah!’ I thought. ‘My visa and passport have been returned! Lovely!’ – whereupon I grabbed my purse and rode straight up to the post office. Once I reached the counter, however, I found myself thwarted by a Postal Chick. The conversation went like this:

ME: Hello! I’ve got a package to pick up. Here’s the slip from my mailbox.

POSTAL CHICK: That’s fine. Do you have any ID?

ME: No, that’s what I’m here to pick up. It’s my visa application stuff.

POSTAL CHICK: I’m sorry, I can’t give you the parcel without seeing some ID.

ME: But all my ID is in the parcel. I can’t show you any ID until you give it to me.

POSTAL CHICK: You have no ID?

ME: No, I do have ID – it’s just all in the package. Look, I don’t have a valid driver’s license or a student card. My passport is my only form of photo ID, and that’s what I’m here to collect.

POSTAL CHICK: Do you have any other ID with your name on it?

ME: Yes and, again, no. All my cards still have my maiden name on them, but the package has my married name on it. Which I know, because I wrote the address. It’s a reply-paid parcel. I bought and sent it from here on Monday. That lady next to you served me.

POSTAL CHICK: Sorry, we serve millions of people a week. We don’t remember you.

ME, Internally: I’m sorry – you, personally, serve millions of customers per week in this tiny suburban post office, or Australia Post serves millions of customers? Because there’s a difference!

ME, out loud: Really? You don’t remember me?

NICE LADY WHO HELPED ME ON MONDAY: I’m sorry, no.

ME: Ah. Fair enough.

POSTAL CHICK: Do you have any utility bills in your name?

ME: No, they’re all in my husband’s name. I just pay them.

POSTAL CHICK: Do you have a lease agreement, then? A bank statement?

ME: I have no idea where our lease is, and I don’t have a current bank statement.

POSTAL CHICK, disbelievingly: You don’t have a bank statement?

ME, internally: OK. Does anyone on Earth keep their old bank statements lying around for just this eventuality? Do you keep your bank statements, Postal Chick? I think not!

ME, out loud: My bank statements come every two months. The next one isn’t due until July. The only one I have is, once again, in the package. I had to order it from the bank especially for my passport application. Which is what I’ve come to pick up. It  contains my visa, my current passport, my childhood passport, my marriage certificate, my birth certificate, a bank statement and a copy of my ticket to Heathrow.  All my ID. In the parcel.

POSTAL CHICK: I can’t give you the parcel until you show me some ID.

ME: This is a chicken and egg dilemma! I can’t show you my ID until you give me the parcel, but you won’t give me the parcel because I don’t have ID! Look, the first time I had to get one of these back, I just had to sign for it at the door. What’s wrong with doing that here?

POSTAL CHICK: Yes, but that was because it was the postie delivering it. That’s different.

ME, internally: But that’s entirely stupid! Either there is a rigid, unbendable standard in place on showing ID to collect a parcel, or there isn’t! I could just as easily have lied to the postie as to you – but it’s my parcel! Addressed in my handwriting!

ME, out loud: This is ridiculous. Isn’t there anything else I can do?

POSTAL CHICK: You can’t show me any ID?

ME: No!

POSTAL CHICK: I’m sorry, but I can’t hand over the parcel without ID.

NICE LADY WHO HELPED ME ON MONDAY, listening in: What about the tracking number I would’ve given you from the bottom of the package?

ME, processing vague memories of a plastic-looking satchel-strip shoved in the bottom of my bag: Yes! I have that! But it’s in my bag. At home.

NICE LADY WHO HELPED ME ON MONDAY: Are you able to go and get it?

ME: Yes.

NICE LADY WHO HELPED ME ON MONDAY: Then that’s fine. Just come straight to the counter when you get back, and we’ll help you.

ME, internally: Thank you, Nice Lady! Now why the hell couldn’t the damn Postal Chick have suggested that TEN FREAKING MINUTES AGO?

So I rode back home, found my bag, rode back to the post office, got my parcel and opened it at the counter. With a certain grim satisfaction, I pulled out my passport and waved it at the Postal Chick.

ME: See? ID!

End result: I have my documents back. But I hate Australia Post.