Sunday 17 February 2019

Peculiar attitude to drink is very sobering

'No-one seems to go for a walk without a refreshing beer in hand'
'No-one seems to go for a walk without a refreshing beer in hand'

John Masterson

The Americans have a peculiar attitude to alcohol. They treat it as a highly addictive substance that has to be carefully regulated.

During Christmas I was in North Carolina and I had the opportunity to indulge in some satisfying shopping. I am never happier than when wandering around a Target store collecting bargains that I cannot live without. And on this excursion I also picked up two bottles of sparkling rose wine. I am fond of the 'lady petrol' as Jeremy Clarkson calls it.

I arrived at the checkout with my car cleaning brush, two carabiners, a six-pack of my favourite Hanes underwear, Superman T-shirt, bicycle pump, six Sharpie pens and some silicon kitchen utensils that I could just have easily bought in Dunnes instead of transporting across the Atlantic. All went through without a murmur.

Then the lady at the desk asked for some ID. She explained that she could not sell the wine without identification proving I was over 21. I am not in the first flush of youth. By a long shot.

I had only cash and credit cards. "Have you no driver's licence," she asked politely. I explained that I did, but not on me as I was not driving. I am not sure if, because of my shopping items, or accent, she had decided I was a hobo of some description. One of my credit cards even had "Dr" pompously before my name, from long gone days when I sometimes used the title. She may have assumed that was stolen. Then I realised I always carry a photo of my passport on my phone and showed it to her. There it was with date of birth and a picture of the 'wino' currently in front of her. She phoned her manager and explained the situation.

He said that was not good enough. It had to be a physical passport.

The manager may have assumed that I was a pimply teenager rather than someone who wished they were. I headed home a bit bemused and delighted to be under 21 again.

It was not the first time I had seen this policy. Disney are very strict. Some years back I tried to buy two beers in a park and my colleague, in his 40s, had no ID and was refused. He got a Coke. A friend texted me and said he would be with us in five minutes and to get him a beer. I was refused as it was assumed that I was getting it for my Coke-drinking friend. I explained that a third person was on the way to be told that they would have to see him and his ID before serving.

In Ireland we have a very normal attitude to drink. We are rarely more than 100 yards from somewhere it can be legally purchased. "I will have three tins of cat food, two bales of briquettes, a litre of milk, a bottle of wine and I had €52 of diesel" is a perfectly normal sentence.

Judging by the empty cans I see thrown in ditches, no one ever goes for a walk without a refreshing beer to hand. A great night is one of which you may have little recollection. We are only just getting used to not offering 'one for the road'. Non-drinkers are assumed to be recovering alcoholics.

I am not saying they are saints in the US of A. DUI, or driving under the influence, happens there too and is dealt with severely even if you are the star of the local football team. Very peculiar.

Sunday Independent

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