Sometimes I hate living in the United States. And this afternoon was one of those times.
I was standing in a field lot beside a concert hall outside of Canandaigua, NY, waiting for an event to start with three friends when we were approached by two police officers. One of them demanded to see our photo IDs. The reason, I assume is that we'd just opened several alcoholic beverages––just as most of the other 2,000 people scattered around in the field had. Now, we were not in a car mind you, no one was driving, and we were in an inflow-only lot, so we couldn't have gone anywhere for the next five hours even if we had wanted to, and were all in our mid-twenties. But those who are doing nothing wrong have nothing to fear (right?), so we gave him our IDs per his request.
Apparently, in the State of New York, however, valid Pennsylvania driver's licenses are no longer a readily acceptable form of identification, as he started asking my friends (who all live in New York) questions about me. When none of them immediately answered, he said: "So you got this one online? Because I'm calling it in, so you better tell me now if you did." I responded that he was very welcome to call it in if he wanted to––and he did.
Apparently there was some kind of communication backlog/breakdown between our friendly Sheriff, the dispatcher, and whoever it is in Pennsylvania who looks these things up, because I ended up having to stand there for an extended period of time with two police officers repeatedly insulting my intelligence and honesty and educating me––and all of my friends––about how easy it is for "kids" to order fake Pennsylvania IDs online and how "all the kids are doing it."
By the time the dysfunctional Pennsylvania DMV connected with the overbearing Canandaigua police force in the nether-world of cyber-governmental surveillance and beamed back to our bicycle-cop-sherrif-friends the prodigal transmission that my driver's license number obviously corresponded to a real drivers license issued by the Sate of Pennsylvania, and that the name on that license obviously corresponded to my name, and that it was not a misprint when it said my DOB was in the 1980s, almost fifteen minutes had gone by. My beer was warm, and the concert had started inside. And then they just handed my card back to me and went off without saying anything.
Now, tremendous #FirstWorldProblems, right?
Practically speaking, yes. I was not physically injured, forced to pay any fine, and when justice prevailed, it wasn't questioned. So, great system right?
I would beg to differ. Just think of the stupidity of the basis for the whole thing.
I was, in principle at least, interrogated, asked to incriminate myself so as to not inconvenience a law enforcer who was already confident of my guilt, forced to produce identification, had my identification initially rejected because I came from a different political district, insulted, and detained (you may argue that I was not detained, to which I'd ask you to imagine what might have happened if I'd attempted to leave at any point during the interaction....). And what was the reason for all this?
Oh, right, I was standing in a field drinking a beer.
In what other crazy part of the world would that even be an issue? I've done similar things in conservative Muslim countries, in a post-Soviet bloc country, in just about every kind of country you can imagine, and no one even looks askance at you.
Now, certainly, I would be unfair to overlook the privileges that we do have in America. In America, I could own an assault rifle––if I wanted to. In America, I could "gain" $50,000,000 a year from investments and be taxed at 50% the rate of my sister who works at Lowes. We have a lot of rights, and there are a lot of things in America that I could do if I wanted/were able to.
But when it comes to things I actually would like to do, like stand in a field and sip a beer with my friends in peace, it sucks.
And sometimes I get tired of it.