I’ve stumbled upon a great new strategy for getting free breakfast on the road. I can’t believe I haven’t thought of this one until now. I wake up this morning with the rising sun streaming through the back window, mine the only car amongst a dozen trucks parked behind a gas station for the night. Yawning, I pull myself into the front seat and drive across the street to the large, fancy hotels. I choose one and park outside, straighten my clothes, and burst in like I own the place. “Morning!” I call to the front desk lady as I stride past. “Good morning!” she calls after me, as I waltz around the corner toward the rooms like I know where I’m going. I hide in a corner for two minutes, and then I re-emerge from within the hotel and walk up to the desk. “Hey—what time is check out?” She barely glances at me. “11:00.” Ok, she doesn’t think I’m an imposter. “And,” I say, “how long is breakfast?” “Until 10.” “Great!” I sit down and eat a bowl of frosted flakes.
* * *
I got a ticket for “parking within three feet of a driveway” while I was drinking a cup of coffee in Albuquerque. This unfortunate slip of paper burrowed into the center console of my car and now reemerges weeks later as I finally sort through the morass of documents that has been accumulating since Pacific Time. Since I’m way beyond the payment deadline, I decide I might as well call the Albuquerque Police Department to contest the ticket. I’m shuffled from person to person for a while, but eventually I actually manage to get the officer who originally wrote the ticket on the phone. “Sir,” I say, “I am aware that my violation reads ‘parking within three feet of a driveway.’ I was parked about two feet away, clearly not blocking anything, and the driveway was like twenty feet wide. As a traveler, constantly passing through different jurisdictional regions, I was unaware of this particular idiosyncratic local regulation, and I was wondering if there might be any way you would be willing to grant me some sort of mercy for this unintentional offense.”
He says no.
“Ah. Well, I have passed the 15 day payment limit. Does this mean that there is a warrant out for my arrest?” “No, it just means that you need to pay it immediately. If you get another ticket in Albuquerque, you might get booted or towed.” “Ah, I see. And, what if I were to leave the country?” “Excuse me?” “What if I simply returned to my native country of…uh…Bolivia?” “Um, well—” “I’m just messing with you, man.” “Oh. Ha. That’s funny. Well, they wouldn’t be able to do anything about that anyway. You’re only gonna have a problem if you get another ticket in Albuquerque” “Oh, so I wouldn’t become an international refuge?” “You—?” “I’m joking.” “Oh.”
When I hang up the phone, I pull out a lighter and promptly set the ticket on fire. I am almost disturbed by how much satisfaction this gives me.
* * *
Question: where is picture identification most closely scrutinized? At the airport? By the police? In a bar? Inside the University of Miami library? In fact, none of the above is the answer I am looking for. The answer, based on my personal experience of carrying a pathetically out-of-date picture accompanied by the subsequent sprouting of dreadlocks and grizzly facial hair, is this: Arby’s.
I walk in to order a meal of chicken fingers, to satisfy a sudden and inescapable craving that hits me. Incidentally, I recently read an article that claimed that, due to the additives pumped into the products, fast food is actually as addictive as heroin. The cashier takes my debit card, upon which Bank of America so thoughtfully imprinted my mug shot five years ago when I first opened an account. The cashier stares at the picture on the card and then looks hard at me. “Oh my,” she mutters. I make my ‘Yes, I know. You should see me go through airport security’ joke, but she does not laugh. “Um…” she says after a few moments. “Can I see your ID?” For a meal at Arby’s?!? I shrug and hand her my license. “Sure. It probably won’t help though.” She squints as she stares at the five-year-old picture. “Uh oh. Um…I’m gonna have to get my manager to approve this.” “You—really?” “I’m sorry—it’s for your protection.” She runs to the back, and I see her talking animatedly with the manager. I smile and wave when he looks over at me. Finally he walks out to the counter and stares me down. “Is this you?” “Look at my eyes, people say they are still the same.” “Do you have another form of identification?” REALLY? I hand over my student ID, which probably only makes the situation worse. More time goes by. “Ok,” he says finally, nodding. “Yep, it’s him. The mouth structures are the same.” I nod. “Yep.” “Sorry,” the original lady repeats. “It was for your protection.” “Thanks.” I sit down and proceed to eat my chicken fingers.