The Stolen Fake ID
That card held the promise of sophisticated nightlife. But suddenly, it was gone
All the popular kids made the trek out to Long Island where somebody knew someone else who knew where to obtain authentic-looking documentation. For us, we thought ourselves lucky in getting an address from Carla’s brother. His wallet held a card of obvious quality workmanship; it was enough to convince any bouncer to overlook his crass immaturity. Unfortunately, as we were working out transportation arrangements, we heard that the head shop he’d gone to had been raided by the police. To say that we were devastated was an understatement. We had no other choice but to travel in the other direction. We'd go to Times Square, where it was rumored, but not confirmed, that fake identification could also be acquired.
In the 1980s, Times Square was a seedy bastion of crime. Sex shops and theaters showing porn lined the avenues while rigged games of chance took place on the sidewalks. Junkies sprawled out unconscious on the street were as prolific as underage drinking was in the USA of my youth.
Teenagers imbibing in alcohol was nothing unusual. For decades earlier it had been legal to drink at 18. But as our generation entered high school the puritans got involved. Soon, that law said you had to be 19. Then, not long after, you had to be 21. The highs and lows of squashed expectations sullied our formative years.
Most of us under the new legal limits found the arbitrary line to be more of an inconvenience. All we had to do was pay Crazy Mary, Dirty Frank, or any one of the other established alcoholics in the neighborhood, to buy us an evening's worth of beer. It came at an obligatory overinflated price, but well worth it. We would also, of course, treat them to a free bottle of their favorite spirit.
Liquor flowed freely at house parties in the homes where parents were out of town and also in the local parks where we would convene like derelicts on weekends. We didn’t need a fake ID to drink. Our quest for a realistic-looking card was for the nightlife we had been promised when we turned 18 but had been delayed by a few more birthdays. That card held the power to unlock a sophisticated world of adult experiences we had been waiting for.
All the interesting stories emerged from establishments that employed a big, burly bouncer at their entrance. Monday mornings at my all-girls Catholic high school meant spending homeroom listening to the popular girls regale their matter-of-fact tales of clubbing and rubbing elbows with older (i.e. better) males. They met and dated actual men who had their own cars and even apartments. These mature men held real jobs where they could hook up their underage girlfriends with better-paid, part-time employment. The popular teens made important connections if we were to read between the embellished lines of their superior social lives. Those of us drinking in the park on weekends had to muddle through the minimum wage drudge of fast food or supermarket cashiering.
It didn't cross our minds how the peers of our envy were not encountering similarly aged males with similarly forged fake IDs. It never occurred to us that our more connected peers would be disingenuous.
A fake ID promised to take us away from small-town obscurity to the glamor of the big city. We wanted to expand our social circle to include people who didn’t grow up in the same tiny enclave with us. We lived in a vibrant metropolis, even though the heart of that metropolis was through a bridge or tunnel.
So we crossed those bridges and tunnels via two buses and two trains and came out on 42nd Street. It was the heart of Times Square and then dubbed "the sleaziest block in America" by Rolling Stone magazine.
It lived up to Rolling Stone's assessment almost immediately, as we were hit up for sexual services upon exiting the dingy underground subway station. Every female along 'the Duece' apparently, was fair game for solicitation consideration.
We found a storefront advertising college IDs not long after turning down an insultingly low ball offer for a Menage Trois. The store had a few stereotypically dressed pimp types standing near the door who also took interest in us. Unlike the drunk guy offering us spare change, these men at least knew we weren't there to compete with their earnings.
"So," said a friendly guy clad in outdated bell-bottoms and a satin-type shirt unbuttoned to reveal a glittering collection of gold jewelry. "You ladies are interested in quality documentation?"
We nodded enthusiastically, relieved to have someone assisting us in the endeavor. Sure, he was shady, but we felt ourselves to be kindred in the nuances of illegal commerce.
The friendly man gave us a price of $20, to be paid upfront. He told us to go into the store one by one, so as not to create a sense of impropriety on the part of the shopkeeper with whom he worked. He collected $100 from the five of us and gave us one of his many winks before leaving.
Deidre, the first of our group to bravely walk into the store, came out swiftly to inform us we had been ripped off. Apparently, the man was not contracted by the store owners to organize customers, as he'd described himself. Our college IDs were even more expensive.
We pooled our extra cash, we had barely enough, to cover the price of five college-type IDs. On the wall, several examples of cards resembling those from institutions of higher learning beckoned our consideration. It was my genius idea to go with an obscure-sounding university in the corn belt that I was sure club bouncers would not be familiar with. I received high praise for my forward-thinking thought process. My friends all went along with the idea and we became fake Iowan dorm-mates.
Unfortunately, no one had been forward-thinking enough to buy our return fare when we'd purchased our transit tokens for the trip to Times Square. Our resources fell woefully short in getting us home. None of us had an ATM card. We were forced to delve further into the criminal underbelly to get home.
Hopping the turnstile in the NYC transit system looks easy enough in videos but for a small group of awkward teenagers, it was an entangled, clumsy mess. Unfortunately, we were too terrified to see the comic nature of our efforts. We imagined ourselves being hauled off to the precinct where they'd find our new, phony ID cards. Surely, we'd be sent to prison with other hardened thugs thanks to the long list of felonies we were racking up.
Somehow we made it home without requiring our outraged parents to bail us out. Our criminal career was off to a good start.
For the next few days, I was a proud card-carrying member of the drinking elite. No longer was I a derelict bribing alcoholics to buy whatever awful liquor they found suitable to purchase for us at the liquor store. If we hung out in the park it was because we wanted to, not because we were forced to beg alcoholics to choose liquors we wanted and not the cheap vodka they'd always emerge with. I could go to clubs now and rub elbows with the popular kids and their worldly cohorts. I had been bumped up into a new unrecognized class that held important status nonetheless.
We showed off our IDs to our similarly carded friends. We were street smart advisors giving tips to the novices who had yet to find a suitable outlet for their phony ID card. Would they go to Times Square? No, they weren't that brave.
Our classmates were in awe of our adventure. They didn't exactly gather round to hear our detailed dive into hooliganism but they knew. We could see the new respect we had earned in the eyes of our peers.
Although our exploits had moved us up a notch in respectability, we should have known our Manhattan gotten goods would be a source of envy. One afternoon I searched my wallet for my shiny new ID to find it gone from the prize slot in my pleather wallet. I knew I had it during homeroom when I'd needed cash for a collection of some sort. There are always donation collections in parochial schools. My ID had to have been pilfered shortly after since I noticed it missing one class after.
Who would steal my fake ID? It had a picture of my face on it. The thug who stole it would not only have to impersonate an Iowa collegiate, they'd have to pretend to be me impersonating an Iowan collegiate.
I hadn't even used it once and it was gone. My circle of friends had a means of entry and I didn't. Now, I not only needed a new ID but I also needed to exact vengeance on the person who had taken it. They had stolen more than my fake ID. The story behind the fake ID, with its many criminal layers of triumph, had been diminished by its loss. They had stolen my ticket to the elite world of teenage nightlife and all the exciting experiences that potentially went with it. I was devastated once again.
It would be a tough sell to get my friends to repeat that trip to Times Square. As much as we bragged about our street smarts, none of us would willingly go through that experience again.
The following weekend my friends took a trip out to a club in Brooklyn. It wasn't Manhattan but it was close. I wasn't pretty or confident enough to get past the bouncers with a smile, as I know some of my other acquaintances could manage sometimes. The four of them were going to try out the Midwestern college identification I had convinced them to get and I wasn't going to hold them back.
That weekend it was just me and a few of our male friends getting drunk on the cheap store brand vodka Crazy Mary had bought with our precious dollars. It occurred to me that the males in our social circle didn't seem to be as obsessed with hitting clubs and getting into adult establishments. Lucas could have gone. His legal-aged look-alike brother had benevolently pretended to lose his driver's license so that he could give his younger brother a copy that would get him into advanced drinking places.
But Lucas wasn’t into the club scene, he said. It was too noisy, too smokey, and too impersonal. They hadn’t banned smoking indoors yet and every establishment had its own cloud of exhaled tobacco puffs hovering over its bar area. He also said the whole scene was disingenuious, all those teens pretending to be someone they weren’t to meet people who were also pulling off fakery of one kind or another. And there were the ones taking advantage of the fakery- the men looking for promiscious and underaged females and the bar owners profiting off of it. No, Lucas was having none of that and I respected his point of view.
But I still couldn’t help feeling sorry for myself. That strange, opulent world had almost been mine before it was ripped away by the theft of my ingeniously planned Iowan ID card. It’s one thing to choose not to be a part of that pseudo-glamorous life, it's another to have it stolen from you, quite literally.
I spent my buzzed evening being one of the guys, I position I found I liked. I enjoyed listening to the male point of view on all topics at hand, gravitating to the girls they were interested in. I also enjoyed being the representative of my gender to point out the obvious flaws in their thinking. Deep down I wondered what my fellow pseudo dorm mates were doing and more importantly, what the person who stole my ID was doing.
Some other short, chubby blonde was out there living my life. She was meeting interesting people and making important connections. She was presenting MY fake ID at that door and pretending to be home for the weekend, visiting from the midwest, telling stories about a fake backward school that was miles from a sophisticated big city. I imagined her telling fake stories about fake college events at her fake school. They were fake stories that I should have been telling some dimwit of a loser looking to buy cocktails for a probably-underage patron.
I had my suspicions as to who it could be. Margaret, the girl who sat behind me in homeroom seemed the most likely suspect. She and I could pass for each other in the right lighting and she’d heard our Manhattan tale. Vengeance would be mine, Margaret, you will see…
When I saw my friends the next day I heard they’d had no trouble getting into the club they’d gone to. They’d made friends with the bouncers and they had a strategy to sneak me in next week. Making friends with the bouncers was a great scheme all on its own. I had to hand it to them.
The following weekend, however, I convinced one of them to make a pitstop into Manhattan (no way I’d go there alone). Before heading to our Brooklyn club we could make a slight detour so I could get my new fake ID. In a strange quirk of the NYC transit system, it was actually easier to go to Manhattan first, rather than directly to Brooklyn whose landmass was attached to Queens.
Our foray was a whole new adventure with an exponential number of more pimps, hookers, dealers, and passed-out substance abusers. A quick in and out and we headed to Brooklyn.
I finally had another fake ID to show ostentatiously to the bouncer and the bartender. The Iowa farm girl in me was so proud.
Our detour meant getting there later than everyone else. By the time we got there, liquor had been flowing quite liberally for hours. There was much intoxication going on and as one of the only sober people there, it seemed quite embarrassing. I wondered how everyone employed there was so easily looking away. The place was packed to capacity with underage teenagers who clearly didn’t gauge their limits.
Not long after arriving, I went to the restroom. In one of the stalls was a young woman who was vomiting profusely. The door was open and I could see her blond hair tangled and half dangled into the bowl which had chunks of an unknown brown food swimming in it.
I saw her friend, the one she’d been drinking with, was also in the bathroom. She was doing make-up in the mirror and making disgusted faces at her friend. Instead of holding her hair out of the toilet, like she should have been doing, she was ignoring her for the most part. I made an off-hand comment about her friend but she stated that this was an opportunity for her to steal away the man who had been buying them drinks. He was going to take her home, she told me. Not both of them, she explained. Only her. A sly wink accompanied that remark.
At that moment I thought of Lucas. He had a facial expression that conveyed his disgust with the whole underaged club scene and looking into the brunette's mirror I saw that I had the same one. Lucas and I were on the same wavelength and I was disgusted with all the fakery.
It was one thing rebelling against a law that had delayed some of our anticipated freedom. It was another to take advantage of the cottage industry that surrounded it. To participate in our fate adulthood we obtained faked documentation. We told fake stories about fake backgrounds to our fake lives. But fake friendships crossed the line and this place was overflowing with them along with the alcohol.
I wondered about the popular girls in homeroom and if they behaved in this awful manner when it came to overindulgence and picking up men. Were they all cold? I could imagine several of them were.
I walked back down to the main room with a new perspective. I was attuned to all the fakery going on, not just the unsaid kind, but the fake relationships, the fake laughter, and the fake interest being given towards fake college students telling their fake stories.
The park was truly superior to this. I was envious of Lucas and Joe and the rest of our park crowd. Sure, we acted like derelicts but we were loyal, we cared about each other and our conversations were true. Margaret was going to get a pass.