In recent years, many of the small country general stores in areas around our cottage have started selling beer and wine and liquor. This is a godsend; there is nothing worse than trying to justify a half hour trip – each way – for a bottle of wine, even when you camouflage it with needing a newspaper or butter tarts. That explanation can only fly so many times, and people can only eat so many butter tarts.
One of the conditions of non-restrictive establishments selling restricted goods is that they have to be, well, restrictive: fines are steep and that magic liquor licence is tightly guarded. That’s a fair trade. I’ve watched owners require people to fill out a registry tracking their identification for regulatory follow up, and I’m not inconvenienced waiting for this to happen. Then again, I am willing to drive an hour to get a bottle of wine.
My sister Roz and I dropped into one such shop in Orrville; there is a fabulous bakery just up the road (The Orville Bakery) and because woman cannot live by chocolate croissants alone, we stopped into the Orrville General Store to get some extra supplies. I plunked a bottle of vodka on the counter to check out (because iced tea on the dock just wouldn’t be the same without it) and the clerk smiled and started apologizing.
“I’m so sorry, but I have to check for I.D.,” she began. I laughed, but stopped her. I’ve been in Las Vegas where they carded the 75-year-old at the next table. Keeping that liquor licence is important. I hauled out my driver’s licence as Roz came up to the counter with a couple bottles of wine. The lady behind the counter looked at my licence, and did what I like to think was a small gasp of amazement.
“You do not look that old; I’m serious. Wow.” Now, at the cottage the Sommerfeld women could rarely be called stylish. Hairdos involve a lot of ponytails, and I never wear any makeup to interfere with my girlish aura.
“She’s gonna card you,” I told Roz, who was already reaching for her licence.
“You can card her,” I told the clerk, “but she’s five years older than I am.” This time the clerk really did gasp. I later used the word “giddy” to describe Roz. Roz denies it.
“No way. She’s older than you?”
Now, Roz has a certain je ne sais Dorian Grey quality about her. I long ago stopped pretending it bothered me because it makes her so happy. I am the bigger person, obviously. I knew this encounter at the Orrville General Store would be replayed for years to come; it was replayed twice on the ten minute drive back to the cottage.
Back home, I told the story to Gilly so she could be sure to go get herself some carding before the summer was over. I’m sure she wouldn’t be mistaken as being the oldest instead of the youngest – that honour apparently is all mine – but it’s a nice boost for shallow people. She started giggling immediately.
“Manny got carded the other day,” she said. Her husband is younger than all of us; he’s a few years off reaching his 50th, even. Where I’m usually a tangle of unbrushed hair and questionable fashion choices, Manny always looks like he happened on purpose.
“Ha! He must have loved it!” I said, because getting carded at home actually means something.
“Nope, it was at Shopper’s Drug Mart.”
It took about two seconds for it to register.