The doorman had somehow seen through my 17-year-old face’s desperate attempts to take on an air of nonchalant maturity.
“Of course,” I replied, adding a convincing measure of indignation at the suggestion I was anything but a seasoned drinker, “I’m 19 mate.”
And with that I headed on my way to the bar... and got about four inches into that journey when the hefty arm of the bouncer barred my way. “And when were you born? Give me your birthdate.”
“No problem,” I shrugged, “It’s the 16th , of the 11th, 1965 ...”
The doorman raised an eyebrow.
“I mean, 64, erm, three. Damn!”
Rumbled. I was turned away. My innate honesty and poor grasp of basic mathematics had let me down again, and I was forced to make the walk of shame back down the pub stairs to the amusement of the queueing revellers.
The old “give me your birthdate” line was the 1980s doorman equivalent of the “Good luck” trick of the Gestapo in The Great Escape.
In the movie, an escaping World War Two POW (played by Gordon Jackson) is almost away to freedom having bluffed his way past the Germans by pretending to be a travelling French citizen. With his guard down he responds to a cheery “good luck” from the Gestapo agent with the giveaway “thank you.” Rumbled.
Admittedly the stakes were little higher for the POWs in WW2.
I missed out on a can of Red Stripe to the strains of Hall & Oates’ Maneater in a South Shields wine bar and, instead, suffered the mild ribbing of my mates who had made it to the beer pumps.
The POWs missed out on their freedom and, in the case of Gordon Jackson’s character, suffered a not-so-mild machine gunning to death in a field.
Dems is da breaks.
I mention all this because while technology has advanced, the art of blagging your way to an underage pint has also moved with the times.
Our Bradley, aged 17, has to go to inordinate lengths to get into nightclubs where, he reliably informs me, he only drinks Ribena and is in bed by midnight. What a good boy!
But the days of a casual birthdate inquiry are long gone.
Borrowed identity cards and fake online profiles are the norm. I now spend many an evening driving our eldest to retail parks where he acquires his fake ID and then gets me to test him on details.
“Go on, ask me anything,” he grills. And plucks the info out of the air with aplomb.
He even has a fake Facebook profile which has his face but a stranger’s name. “The doormen check everything,” he tells me. “They leave nothing to chance.”
That’s a lot of security for a boy drinking juice! Or does that innate honesty skip a generation?