Today’s Drinking Story:
Here we see an underage Patrick Wensink get his love life saved by a bouncer with a passion for Photoshop.
The shortest marriage in history lasted little more than thirty minutes. According to Europe News, a Turkish man and a Greek woman couldn’t last longer than an episode of Alf before they got in touch with their lawyers. In their defense, those two nations hate each other like Chipotle hates Qdoba. My radar tells me liquor and double-dares had more than a little to do with those nuptials.
By comparison, I have been married for almost six years. But if not for booze, the two of us wouldn’t have lasted beyond Alf’s first commercial break.
More directly, my wife, Leah, and I owe it all to bad fake IDs.
We were not yet 21 on our first date and things couldn’t have gone worse for me. I suggested taking her to the classiest establishment I could think of, Olive Garden, only to forget my wallet. Leah graciously paid for our entire meal.
“Let’s go to Flanagan’s,” I said on the car ride home. Hoping to make up for her fettuccine charity act, I wanted to repay her: “Drinks are on me!”
We went back to my room, grabbed my wallet and were off to the bar. Flanagan’s was an Irish pub in name only. Its décor was less polished cherry wood and more late-century bomb shelter. Lighting was courtesy of Milwaukee’s Best, not stained glass lampshades.
Christmas break began that day, so the place was dead. Normally, the small room was packed four people deep at the bar. On a usual Thursday evening folks waved money in the air, trying to get a bartender’s attention, like there was a cockfight behind the taps. But that day, maybe three people lined up at the door and empty tables spread throughout the inside.
“ID?” the door man in a tight black shirt and way too much aftershave said. His nametag read: “Brad.”
Leah handed hers over. It said her name was “Dawn” and she was 26. It was an actual driver’s license passed down from sorority sister to sorority sister like a family heirloom.
My ID was not so convincing. It had no honest lineage like Dawn. I was supposedly “Terry M. Dover,” age 21.
As my byline gives away, I am not Terry M. Dover. Terry was born in a fashion that seems ancient today. I might as well have been chiseling my name into granite. You see, I’m talking about the late 90s. Adults hadn’t yet figured out computers like we kids. Plus, ID’s didn’t have those pesky scannable backsides. How Terry M. Dover slid into my wallet came from some Day of the Jackal-type ingenuity, now-archaic computer software and probably several cases of domestic light beer on the brain.
“ID?” Brad asked.
I opened my wallet and flashed my handsome face. Yes, Terry was actually a picture of me.
Confident that this sold the doorman, I took a carefree step toward the neon-lit guts of Flanagan’s, ready to repair this date’s damage. The punch of stale beer was heavy in the air. My mind was thinking of ways to make up for that suppertime snafu. Not only that, but who wouldn’t want to get drunk with a pretty girl? Time to turn on the old Terry M. Dover charm!
“Take it out of your wallet, please,” the bouncer instructed, rising from his stool. Brad was tall with arms like truck tires.
Terry M. Dover was never to be removed from the wallet. That was a no-no. Letting Terry see daylight was suicide.
“This is a fake ID,” Brad the Bouncer said, flipping it over a few times in his thick fingers.
What should I do? I thought. Panic smashed into me. First the Olive Garden mess, now this! Terry M. Dover was hara-kari for my love life. I was never much of a hotshot with the XX chromosome set in high school. College hadn’t been much better. Now I was disemboweling a golden opportunity with Leah, twice, thanks to ineptitude. She, I assumed, would probably stay at the bar, meet some stranger, marry him, have his kids, file their taxes jointly! Clearly, this lovely lady was never going to speak to me again. My love life was ruined.
Defeated, I settled for the truth. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, it is.”
Mister Thick Arms held it up to the light, angled it and found no hologram.
Then I realized I could get in trouble. Go to court. Be fined. Jailed. Fake IDs were illegal. This guy could’ve been an off duty cop. And there, smelling the cigarette smoke from a table of frat guys, my guts dropped into an uncharted Eighth Circle of Hell. One reserved for idiot lawbreakers and wallet-forgetters trying to impress a girl.
“How’d you make it?” Brad said, curious.
“Well, you know what Photoshop is?” Remember this was the 90s. Most people didn’t know how Napster worked, for God’s sake.
“We scanned a real person’s ID, then Photoshopped a picture of me into it. Then we airbrushed all the information out and filled it in with that.” I said, pointing to imaginary Terry Dover’s make-believe address on Beane Boulevard.
“Okay, but this is a real ID,” he said, flicking the license. “Actual plastic.”
The bouncer was roasting me over coals. Making me suffer before chopping off my head. By this point Leah had turned around to find her date delayed. She was approaching the entrance with a disappointed look on her face.
“We took my actual ID and erased the front with nail polish remover.”
“Yeah. Then we just printed off the Photoshop ID on good paper and laminated it onto the real ID. Then we used pencil erasers to scuff up the plastic and make it look worn.”
“And this thing works?”
“Belmont Liquors lets me buy beer there.” Ooops, I thought, shit. Well, there goes that connection, too. Nice work not telling a lie, George Washington.
“Huh,” Brad said, holding my romantic life in his hands. “It’s pretty good.”
“Go have fun.” He looked over my shoulder. “Next.”
I wasn’t drunk when I stepped across Flanagan’s sticky tile floor, but I felt it. Every nerve electric zapped into the next. I repaid Leah in drinks.
We did have fun, Brad.
We started dating. We got married. We had a son. We file our taxes jointly. And it is all thanks to Brad the Bouncer. And probably also thanks to the fact that we are neither Turkish or Greek.
As of this writing, Leah and I have been together the equivalent of 105,000 Alf episodes. Cheers, Brad!