I had a fake ID for one day in college. And the night I got it, at the first bar I went to, the bouncer looked at it, looked at me, and said, "Sorry, bud." He handed it back, and I panicked. Would I be arrested now? What would my parents think? What's the best way to tell a judge, "I just wanted the thrill of buying a vodka cranberry!" I fled and dumped the ID in a trash can in the same way that someone, in the heat of things, would dispose of a body.
Up until the moment of receiving one, the only knowledge of fake IDs that I had came from movies, resources that have proven, time and time again, to be filthy liars. Movies tend to use fake IDs in the first act as a way to showcase a funny person's general ineptitude. But many people use them for years, and this means that they gather a bunch of experience in the area of "Tricking People In Order To Drink," the most widely taught college course in America.
#5. You Don't Have To Find A Tech Genius To Get One
I got mine when a friend named Scott, trying to decide whether the bill of his hat should go straight back or a bit to the side, asked me, "You want to get a fake ID today, Danny boy?" He asked me this with the same tone that you'd use to ask someone if they wanted to go to a cook-out, and his penchant for calling me "Danny boy" is the reason that we eventually stopped talking to each other. I nodded, and expected the next few hours of my life to be like a Q scene from a James Bond movie, except the British lab geniuses would be replaced by that one silent, headphone-clad roommate who won't acknowledge you when you walk in. And the air of sophistication would be substituted with the faint smell of sweat, weed, and incense.
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And M is just the mom who comes over and does the laundry.
Movies portray the procurement of the fake ID as something you visit your resident nerd for. You make a trip to the lanky guy that no one hangs out with until they need a way to illegally get booze. That guy who "knows computers," because, for years, the only people to be good with technology were those that were radically good with it. You were either banging on a keyboard with a club and grunting or hacking into the government mainframe. And, thanks to '90s movies, I'm still not sure what a mainframe is. Is it a machine? Is it a system? All I know is that hacking into one looks like the star gate sequence from 2001, only with wires, scattered numbers, and guys who try to impress girls with an uncouth X-Men reference and a boner joke.
They always have an amazing setup in a dorm room that seems solely devoted to the creation of a bartender-fooling empire. To this day, I have no idea who makes fake IDs, and neither did anyone whom I asked about it, except for one guy I met who found someone that sold them in a flea market just outside of Atlanta. As it turns out, a lot of people get them because some guy happened to have a supply of them. Instead of having them tailored specifically for each individual, you just picked the one that best resembled you. You choose the one that, in a dark, noisy bar, looks enough like you that it doesn't offend the bouncer's intelligence when you hand it to him.
I don't remember the name on the card that I chose, but I do remember thinking that the photo looked remarkably like Elijah Wood. Hell, maybe it was Elijah Wood. Maybe, in some alternate universe, I'm reminiscing about the time that a guy saw this weird mixture of flesh and cargo shorts ...
... and saw the ID and thought, "Hey! Look! It's the same goddamn people. Carry on with the fun, Don't-Call-Him-Danny-Boy." Instead, he looked at me ...
... and looked at the card and realized that it was all an elaborate ruse to get me inside of a place where I could listen to Kanye West remixes in a crowd of drunk people. The group I spoke with did not go through this comically appropriate ordeal. They managed to summon up the wherewithal (and the adequately designed IDs to match this bizarre sense of assuredness) and made it into the first bar and many bars after. And I secretly hate them for it.
#4. You End Up Having A Go-To Story For Every Situation
So, you have your fake ID. You've reached the point in the myth of your life where you go from awkward teen to rad teen (the stage that comes just before evolving into an awkward adult), and you're ready to show off your newfound prowess. But what do you do when people call bullshit on you? What do you do when someone looks you up and down and thinks that you're a lie dressed in an asshole costume? You start making things up.
Since my fake ID said that I was from across the state, I had planned to say that I was on a weekend trip to the town. Before this could take place, my fight-or-flight meter exploded, and I burst off into the night, hoping that no one would ever see me again. Lying has always been some kind of shameful improv game, but I'm far better at it when the prompt is "The scene is a drive-thru, and you are turning into a shark" than if the audience (some solemn guy in a black T-shirt) throws out, "The scene is that you're in front of Murphy's Pub, and you're about to get a misdemeanor."
The people I talked to also had plans and then some for what they were going to say if asked to validate their fake IDs with supporting information. They had entire backstories for their "characters." They didn't suddenly sport British accents, but they did have a response ready for any question that they might be asked.
"Before it comes up, I might as well tell you I have a pet llama named Jerry, was a
finalist for a spot on Jeopardy, and am heir to the Rubik's Cube fortune."
My main contact was a girl that we'll call Amanda for the purposes of this column, who stole the entire life of a friend. That sounds far more dramatic than it actually is, and what immediately comes to mind after you hear "stole the entire life of a friend" will make a great Sundance Film Festival entry one day. But Amanda did it so that she wouldn't have to tumble over her words in an attempt to invent something or be forced to sift through lies that backed up pieces of her real life. When asked about anything, she'd pick a corresponding point in a friend's life and describe that. It really happened, so she had a solid base for it. She didn't have to break any kind of logic in her quest for craft beer. It all flowed seamlessly.
If she ran into problems, she would occasionally bring up some kind of situation that involved her parents, as "parents" are the special authority figures that hold rank above all else. Bouncers and waiters were much more apt to let her in if she mentioned that her parents would be meeting her later. What kind of heartless monster would deny a girl a meeting with her family? It's the kind of moral reasoning that you bank on when you tell the guard of the dive bar that your family has a penchant for poor timing and meeting you in places that serve copious amounts of alcohol.
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"Or am I an orphan? I can never remember."
#3. At Some Point, You Can't Travel With The Same Friends Anymore
Aside from receiving a copy of the Ring Bearer's ID, nothing tips off a bouncer that something is amiss faster than finding age discrepancies among a group of friends. That doesn't mean finding out that the person standing in front of you is actually an immortal Sluggoth, arising to doom the world and get totally wasted while doing it, bro. This means finding out, as a bouncer, that the group standing in front of you is made up of four 21-year-olds and one 28-year-old that suspiciously looks like he's trying to unwind after finals. That is what happens when people finally age into legitimate, government-approved drinking. They toss their fakes and stick to the real thing. Sorry, youngest person in the group! I hope your goatee works out for you.
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At least you'll look like the most badass kid in Chuck E. Cheese's.
A group of people with fake IDs is meant to give off the impression "Nothing to see here, folks. Just a couple of friends, all between 21 and 26, going out for some drinks. Definitely not a group of people who think that entering a bar confidently means not looking the bouncer in the eye and passing the time with useless, vaguely adulty conversation." A stray 21-year-old, freed from the binds of trying to "keep it cool," ruins this setup.
The people I talked to attempted to fix this problem by coming to the bar in waves. The person still using their fake ID would show up first, a few minutes before the rest of the group showed up. That way, instead of sticking out in the crowd, the only problem that the person with the fake ID encounters is the illusion that they don't have any friends. It's what Alan Grant described in Jurassic Park when he talked about the patterns of raptors. On that note, my article "5 Ways That Jurassic Park Is Secretly About Chug! Chug! Chug!" should be out next week.