Monday, March 4, 2013

Standing in the Beer Line

It was a Krogers on a Friday evening.  All the checkout lanes were packed except for one near the middle with a perky young girl at the register—perhaps 16-years old—and an equally strapping young lad happily bagging on the end of the conveyor.  I looked at my armful of goodies—some apples, a newspaper, a card, and a six-pack of Black and Tan Ale.  I knew what was coming next and sighed…oh well, it was the shortest line, I guess I can wait..

To my great surprise, however, the young girl didn’t call for assistance from an “older” co-worker and the young lad placed the bottled brew in a plastic bag and handed it over to me.  Hmm…Something different here?  In the past when I purchased beer at the grocery and the checkout person was underage, she/he had to call over someone older to slide it past the laser UPC code reader.  I recall being impossibly frustrated that this employee wasn’t permitted to drag the beer six inches to the left.   Indeed, they weren't allowed to even "touch" it.  It was as if the beer contained a radioactive isotopes or something…or maybe they didn’t trust an employee who was so thirsty that, as I fumbled head turned through my wallet for my loyalty card, he/she would swipe a few gulps from one of the bottles.  I remember even offering to slide it past the scanner for them; “Oh, no sir!  That would be against the rules,” they’d say. No, things had changed and maybe a healthy heaping of common sense finally won out.   In a restaurant, Ohio law says 16-year old waitresses can carry unopened alcohol on a tray to a table and 17-year old's can carry open liquors.  No radiation there.  So what was up in the grocery?  Anyway, the dumb rule is apparently gone and good riddance.

I rather lucked out in my own personal beer consuming past.  Although Ohio raised the age limit for beer to 18 when I was a junior in high school, they did continue to make an exception for 3.2 percent beer.  I didn’t drink a lot but on the rare occasion when I did, it usually manifested itself through the one-time very popular Hudy DeLight brand.  When the Feds decided to use extortion by linking their determination to unify the age at 21 in exchange for 10% of a state's highway funds, the states caved and the drinking age was raised to 21 in 1987…happily, over a year after I came of age, so again I lucked out.   Personally, I still don’t have a problem with age 18 for beer (even though I’m a dad)…My college friends and I shared in a few $2.50 pitchers at Groesbeck Tavern (ironically, its now a police station, but I digress....)  It really was no big deal to us back then.  Anyway, I’m sure there’s no political thirst for supporting a lower age for beer, so 21 it shall remain.  As for Krogers?  Maybe the next step will be to improve the “self check” lines, which come to a screeching (“an assistant has been notified to assist you”) halt whenever you try to sneak alcohol past the commonsenseless computer.