TERRE HAUTE —
The most high-pressure job in America used to be the “I-Can-Guess-Your-Age” guy at the county fair.
Talk about a lose-lose proposition. Guess correctly (or worse, too high) and a middle-aged customer might curse you, storm home in disgust and flush all those anti-aging vitamins down the toilet. If you flatter fragile egos by guessing too low, the carnival boss could get tired of doling out stuffed giraffes and shift you to mop-and-bucket duty on the Tilt-a-Whirl.
Soon, some Indiana store clerks may feel the same pressure as those prognosticating carnies.
That’s because an unusual state law will take effect July 1, replacing another unusual (yet ultimately positive) state law.
For the past 11 months, Hoosiers of any age have been required to show an ID to buy carry-out alcoholic beverages at retail stores. That 2010 law created bizarre scenarios with senior citizens — who hadn’t been carded since LBJ was president — having to whip out a driver’s license to prove they were, at least, 21 years old and legally allowed to purchase a bottle of merlot.
Initially, there were complaints. So this spring, with those early objections fresh in mind, state legislators voted to revise last year’s law. Instead of mandating that stores card anybody trying to buy alcohol, retailers are now required to see the photo IDs of only people who “reasonably appear to be less than 40 years old.”
Picture a twentysomething clerk with two fortysomething customers in his checkout line. The first — a guy wearing a camo hat with a six-pack of Bud Light in his cart — reminds the clerk of his younger cousin, so he asks, “Can I see your ID?” The guy chuckles, flashes his driver’s license, and goes on his way. The second customer — a woman in a sporty sweat suit with a cart full of fruits, vegetables and one bottle of her favorite chardonnay — resembles the clerk’s aunt, so he skips the ID request. She’s offended.
For millions of human adults, looking younger than their calendar age is a big deal. Hence, the popularity of the phrase “40 is the new 30.” Indeed, by 2013, annual worldwide sales of anti-aging products — fueled by Baby Boomers — will reach $274.5 billion, according to BCC Research, an industry forecasting service. The intent of the lotions and potions is to make middle-age people “reasonably appear less than 40.”
Strange as it is, Indiana’s current everybody-gets-carded law doesn’t burst mid-lifers’ bubbles.
More importantly, the 2010 law also appears to have curbed sales of alcohol to under-age minors. In the first six months of 2010, before the law took effect on July 1, Indiana State Excise Police issued 30 violations in Vigo County for sales of alcohol to minors. In the last six months of the year, only three violations were found in the county, said Excise Lt. Chris Bard.
A similar dramatic reduction was noted in St. Joseph County, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Despite the complaints by some irked Hoosiers, John Livengood — president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers — testified in January before the General Assembly in support of keeping the current law. Lawmakers changed it anyway. Still, many of association’s members plan to continue carding all customers even after the new, looser law takes effect, Livengood told the South Bend newspaper.
In Terre Haute, Mike’s Market proprietor Steve Nasser said his store’s customers quickly adapted to the blanket-ID law. “[Having to show an ID is] not that big of a deal, and people have it ready for you,” Nasser said. Also, the market’s cash registers are now programmed for all customers to be carded for alcohol purchases. By contrast, the revised law puts the responsibility for judging whether a buyer “reasonably appears less than 40” on a clerk. A clerk could be cited for a class-B misdemeanor for “recklessly, knowingly or intentionally” selling alcohol to someone who reasonably appears under 40, without asking to see an ID.
To avoid such problems, Mike’s will continue to card all customers wanting to buy alcoholic beverages.
“If [lawmakers] would’ve just left it alone, everything would’ve been fine,” Nasser said.
At Bower’s 7th & 70 Liquor, owner Wayne Bower wasn’t in favor of the current card-everybody law, but said it has helped reduce sales to minors and people who’ve had driver’s licenses revoked. He intends to continue asking to see IDs from most customers, with the exception of those he knows to be older than 40. The new law involves some guess work.
“What’s 21 [look like]? What’s 40? Sixty? I don’t know,” Bower said. “We don’t get a tattoo on our foreheads. Different people have different aging factors. So you just do the best you can.”
Likewise, Baesler’s Market will do the best it can under the new law, said owner Bob Baesler, by asking to see IDs from the under-40 crowd. “If that creates a problem,” he said, “we’ll just go back to carding everybody.”
In the meantime, Baesler said, “I guess there’s a possibility that if somebody is 50 and we card them, they’ll be flattered.”
Of course, the carnival guy might not be so generous.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
The most high-pressure job in America used to be the “I-Can-Guess-Your-Age” guy at the county fair.
- News Columns
MAX JONES: Newspapers can be fun, too; check out Readers’ Choice
Smart and savvy newspaper readers (that’s all of you, of course) know full well that their daily consumption of news and information isn’t an exclusively high-brow pursuit.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Lugar’s Legacy
In October 2012, at a dinner with friends, I found myself sitting next to a woman who’d grown up in Russia.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: AG goes after his own kind
Supporters of same-sex marriage hailed Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring when he announced that he wouldn’t defend his state’s prohibition against gay marriage.
THE OFF SEASON: So what does kindness look like?
There is an argument going on near my window sill. As I sit down to clack away at what will be a story about kindness, a squirrel and four blue jays bicker over a pile of birdseed I have left as charity.
I am not sure who will win out, but my money is on the jays, if anything, for their persistence and general orneriness.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Offshore tax havens undermine state
Gov. Mike Pence has spent months pushing the idea of repealing the tax on business equipment that provides $1 billion a year to schools, libraries and local governments.
MARK BENNETT: Illinois officials content their state has its business advantages, too
Most people count the Wabash River as an economic asset for Terre Haute. Of course, economic development officials in the Land of Lincoln beg to differ.
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’
I’ve been thankful this winter for a full propane tank and ample cold cranking amps and school snow-delay days that have kept me off the roads until the sun is up on the most frigid of these mornings.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Overshadowed bills address veterans, guns, ‘Do Not Call’, TANF drug tests
If you’ve ever blown past a school bus with its bright red “Stop” arm extended, convinced you wouldn’t get caught breaking the law because no police were around, you might think twice about trying it again.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Law hits poverty-stricken schools hard
Chuck Brimbury is no-excuses kind of guy.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana should revisit its time-zone classification
Mister Spock would look at the situation in Indiana and, in that dispassionate “Star Trek” voice, utter a firm conclusion.
“That is illogical,” he’d say.
MIKE LUNSFORD: The night the snow fell
You would think that the cold winds and deep snows that we endured two weeks ago would be old news by now, but as I stood in the checkout line at a grocery store just a few days back, a gallon of milk in one hand and a quart of orange juice in the other, a customer just ahead of me appeared to be stocking up to make a run for the Donner Pass, and all she could talk about was the storm.
MAX JONES: Digging for wisdom in Larrison’s lament
Ferocious winter storms have been a rarity in west-central Indiana in recent decades, even though heavy snow or sub-zero stretches of days drop in occasionally to remind us how miserable they can make us.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Plenty of ‘emptiness’ to go around at start of 2014 session
Last Tuesday’s cold start to the 2014 legislative session was warmed by the standing ovation given to House Minority Leader Scott Pelath following his traditional opening day remarks.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Conservative fight against constitutional amendment
Megan Robertson grew up in a Democratic family in a heavily Democratic area known as “the region” for its proximity to Chicago.
MARK BENNETT: Album turns memories into musical Christmas message for Terre Haute’s Dave Frey, band
In a way, Dave Frey walked in the footsteps of Charles Schulz.
Both men worked hard to let Linus Van Pelt explain the “true meaning of Christmas.”
MARK BENNETT: ‘Longest Night Service’ a time to reflect, remember
Holiday images rarely depict hurt or struggle.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Meth labs so prevalent, test kits on market for homebuyers
Donetta Held knows how strange the world of methamphetamine is.
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘The mind is a dark forest’
If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Hoosiers’ priorities vs. legislators’ agenda
Every year at about this time, Statehouse reporters like me ask lawmakers what their priorities will be for the coming year.
MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Cheneys’ feud hits Indiana
Oh, it’s on.
If there was any doubt that the coming fight over the same-sex marriage ban amendment in Indiana was going to be elevated to the national level, it’s gone.
Chamber: Repeal ‘smoker’s bill of rights’
When Indiana lawmakers return for the 2014 session in early January, they’ll step into the highly charged issue of marriage equality as they debate the proposed amendment that would lock into the state constitution a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Inching on toward a cold winter?
I’m not ready for snow and ice and the daggers of a north wind, but I have finally accepted the fact that winter is nearly here.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
Citizens fight for school funds
Never underestimate the power of high school band parents.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Pence eyes reducing infant mortality as key legislative goal for administration
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence opened the state’s Infant Mortality Summit last week by sharing a personal story: He and his wife had struggled with infertility issues early in their marriage, so the eventual arrival of their three children was met with deep gratitude and appreciation.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Pumpkins: Good for the fork and the (carving) knife
My wife and I are fairly frugal; we are budgeters and planners. In the fall, we set aside what we’ll need to heat the house and pay the doctor and buy sensible shoes for school. I think we’re going to have to open an account for pumpkins, too.
MAX JONES: Fight for public access among Dave Cox’s legacies
A group of Indiana newspaper editors who advise the Hoosier State Press Association on issues related to access to public records and meetings had the opportunity to meet new Public Access Counselor Luke Britt last week.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
- More News Columns Headlines
- MAX JONES: Newspapers can be fun, too; check out Readers’ Choice