The Lighter Side: Tripping … Over the Border

Written by Mark Kearney

I’ve literally travelled around the world, visiting countries on five continents. But sometimes the quick trips we take across the border to Michigan, usually for factory outlet shopping, yield lasting memories.

On our most recent trip, the US border guard asked to see my passport and then with a wink said, as he looked at my wife, “and is she your daughter?” Okay, yes, it was cheesy banter but it was hint of what was to come. And how often do you hear border guard banter in this post 9/11 world?

Our shopping was successful. Even with the lousy exchange, there were still deals to be had, which kept us busy until dinner. Before heading home we stopped at an Applebee’s restaurant, a chain we frequent that offers good food, cold beer and a gazillion TVs on the walls – all showing what appears to be every Michigan sports team at play. Anyway, it turns out we arrived in time for $3 brewtuses – large beers that are normally a couple of (US) dollars more.

Since I wasn’t driving the first shift home, I ordered one. Our 20-something waitress Sara then said to me “can I see some ID please?”

Okay, I was clinging to 59 with the big 6-0 birthday just down the road. Really? I’m being asked for ID? At my age? I stifled a laugh, but she didn’t say anything, didn’t do anything, and waited for me to make the next move. Okay, I’m kind of flattered, but I said “Really? Seriously?” and she said, not batting an eye, not smirking in any way, “Yes.” So I reached into my wallet, still trying not to laugh, and showed her my driver’s licence which she perused for several seconds.

“Oh, I couldn’t find the birth date right away,” she said finally when she saw it. But she offered no big change in expression, just an “okay.”

“Yeah, 1955,” I said.

And off went 20-something Sara to bring my beer. Well, my wife and I chatter-chattered, murmur-murmured while she was away. Was it a joke? Surely it was a joke. That seemed the most likely scenario, but she didn’t seem to be joking and was clearly waiting for me to pull out my ID. Maybe she has to ask everyone regardless of age. It didn’t make sense, but who knows, in America (maybe that border guard wasn’t kidding either, now that I think of it). I mean the drinking age is 21 in Michigan, so I was only 38 years above it there instead of the 40 I am here in Ontario.

We continued to speculate as she brought the drink and dinners. “Should we ask her if she was kidding?” asked my wife. I hemmed and hawed, which is what 59-year-olds who just got asked for ID often do, and decided that maybe she’s new to the job and it would embarrass her if we raised it.

So once we got the bill and start figuring out the tip, I thought once more about being asked for ID. Could it have been real? Was she just yanking my chain, amusing herself with one of the many customers she had to deal with that day? Or did she honestly think I looked close enough to 21 to ask? Well, I know what option I’m going with.

I left her a substantial tip. That’s how we, um, young guys roll.

About the author

Mark Kearney

Mark Kearney has been a journalist for more than 35 years and has been published in nearly 80 publications in North America. He teaches writing and journalism at Western University.