A few days ago I went through an old and much-respected Swedish ritual – showing my leg. This is not as exciting as it sounds – it means simply showing your ID (leg=legitimation).
Every person in Sweden has a National ID card and you have to show this pretty much when you do anything at all – rent a movie, book a ticket, buy snus…and particularly when you buy alcohol. Now I was not buying strong alcohol – it was just the 3.5% horse piss in the local shop, the strongest you can get without going to “Systemet”, the Swedish alcohol monopoly chain and museum.
Now I am almost exactly twice the age required to buy alcohol. I neither look nor feel 17 anymore, but still the pimpled teenager – much like that ubiquitous shop clerk in the Simpsons – looks at me and says: “Can I see your leg please?”
I stare at him, aghast, not sure that I have heard right. “What?” I say, astounded.
“Your leg,” he says, and adds, “I have to ask, you know.”
I give him a pitying look and pull out the ID card, mumbling “But I’m 35, dammit…”
He nods sheepishly and beeps through my pathetic 6-six – enough booze to perhaps make a small child dizzy – and lets me go into the damp December night.
Now isn’t it just a tad dangerous hiring idiots who cannot tell the difference between 35 and 17? I am quite fresh looking and could pass for 29 in bad light, but there is not a chance in hell that anybody would EVER take me for a teenager – none whatsoever. Indeed, one of the few advantages of getting older is that you don’t have to put with idiots asking you to prove that you are old enough for this or that activity anymore.
I guess I should be flattered that some kid thought I might be 17. But in fact I’m worried – if the younger generation have not yet learned how to tell a teenager from a 30-something (wrinkles, grey hairs, a constant look of tired resignation) then I am quite concerned about having them fly my aeroplanes, making my cappuccino, running my nuclear power plants or deciding the future of my planet.
Still, they all seem to have nice teeth, so at least that’s something.