10 February 2011

adventures in ALE.

cheers!, originally uploaded by Luna Soledad.
A lot of people don't know this about me... I was once a "narc" - though the slang term is somewhat misleading. More accurately, I was an undercover volunteer with a Raleigh division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, interestingly enough during my aspiring underage drinking days of high school. Of course, I justified this hypocrisy with the fact that even as an young immature party-goer I had strict self-imposed rules about drinking and driving (riding with my lunatic alcoholic high school boyfriend Stephen was more than enough to scare anyone straight) and the fact that my life's ambition at the time was to join the DEA. Go figure.

Even then I was smart enough to know that such a gig would look great on a resume... and it came with an adrenalin rush all its own.

It all started one evening waiting tables at the little seafood and barbecue restaurant on 50 Highway (way before I-40), the Country Squire, where I used to work. I had a six-top of unusually mixed fellows who didn't look at all like they belonged together with some clean cut in suits and a a couple rough-neck-looking types in leather motorcycle gear. Naturally I was suspicious until a jacket fell open and I spied a badge. Aha. The curiosity was killing me so I just flat out asked who they worked for. The next thing I know they collectively interviewed me and I gave them my number. I was 16.

As an undercover minor, my job was to drive some piece of shit impounded drug car to various convenience stores and bars and attempt to purchase alcohol with my valid NC drivers license looking like the teenager I was complete with pony-tail and orthodontic retainer. I would drive up alone, go in the store, pick out a six pack of beer, and go to the counter to purchase it. Soon to be followed by an undercover ALE agent picking up sodas, snacks, and gum or whatever else was on our collective wish list. If the cashier asked for ID, I showed them and often they still made the sale. I was amazed how easy it was. I mean, I knew all the hot spots in Johnston County to purchase anything but that was out in the sticks; JoCo still had bootleggers for Pete's sake. But wow. --If there was a bust, we'd meet up and do paperwork, statements, etc.

I also acted in several service training videos over the couple of years that I worked for them, though I never saw them. Betcha didn't know I was such a movie star either. ;-)

The most interesting sting I was part of involved Fairlanes bowling alley in Raleigh which no longer exists. A bartender there served 12 pitchers of beer to three teenage boys one night... one of them never made it home. WTF? TWELVE pitchers?!! That's FOUR a piece. What makes anyone think that even a legal adult should be allowed to tank up like that and turned loose on the roads? Oh, I was all in for that one.

So the night of the Fairlanes bust, I went in alone allegedly waiting for my fictitious boyfriend and friends who would never arrive while the entire ALE division bowled at the other end of the alley. --A waitress came up and asked what I'd like to drink; I ordered some domestic beer or another as my taste had yet to mature so I didn't know any better. I see her at the bar chatting with a handsome young fellow obviously full of himself and checking me out (hey, I was purdy cute back then)... She quickly returns to tell me with a wink that I would have to order from the bar but not to worry he was cool. So I walk up to Mr. Cool Bartender and place my order. He asked for my ID and I handed it over. He takes a look and smiles at me, "I'm sorry sweetheart, you've got to be 21 to buy beer." Before I could even reply, he flips my drivers license over and slides it back to me across the counter. "Let's try this again," he says, "how old are you?" "Sixteen," I respond with my best retainer smile. He kind of shakes his head like he cannot believe how stupid I am and then decided to give me one more chance, "One more time. How old are you?" "Twenty-one." He smiles and pours my beer. I walk off and pretend to sip my beer as the agents conclude their game.

It was the same bartender who had served the teenage boys.

My first time ever in a court room was as a witness in the Fairlanes case and yeah, I was nervous as hell when I took the stand. Needless to say, the handsome bartender wasn't smiling at me then. The defense attorney was your stereotypical hard-ass and did his best to bully me into confessing that I had intentionally deceived the unknowing bartender so each question that he asked repetitiously five different ways was answered something like this: "After showing Mr. Cool my valid North Carolina drivers license stating that I am sixteen years of age and after verbally telling him once that I was sixteen years of age, then yes, I said that I was 21 as he indicated that's what he wanted to hear..."

He was convicted and Fairlanes was fined. I remember the judge saying something he thought wise, like the moral of a story in the even he ever was quoted for something great, such as, 'If we can raise our children with strong morals and values until adulthood and shield them from harmful influences, they will be better equipped to make mature decision and use good judgment as adults...'

I thought that was sound wisdom until I moved to Germany and realized that if you could reach the bar you could order a beer and that strangely there wasn't a huge problem with teenage alcohol abuse. I mean, even in a country which brews the best beer in the world, in a society where ale is traditionally a staple with meals and kids grow up with access, where's the fun in sneaking around and getting shit-faced when you can sit down and have a beer with your parents at dinner? Besides, the public transportation is so superior that no one need ever drive a car and cannot afford to really until well into their 20's when they've had time to save the $2000 or so it costs to get a drivers license. Sure, DUI's happen there too (and believe me, the Polezei don't play), but more often than not, they're on bicycles. --So sure, raise your kids to be good people, I get that, but I also believe greatly in the temptation of forbidden fruit.

Anyhoo... working undercover was an extraordinary (and dare I say fun?) experience and has been an interesting topic of conversation in job interviews ever since though ultimately my career path inevitably veered after my first born. --I'm always quick to point out too, that during this time period, I was also a full-time high school student, drove an elementary school bus, and waited tables 20-30 hours a week as proof of my ability to multitask with great efficiency... though again, this was once upon a time well before marriage and children another world ago. Most importantly, I gained a unique perspective into the working lives of the men and women in law enforcement and a healthy respect for the truly good guys. I did go on to major in Criminal Justice and had a heck of a lot of fun participating in Officer Survival Training playing the role of a criminal, not to mention DUI training... but that is but another blog...

And as it so happened, my connections got me out of a few traffic tickets over the years as well, but of course these days, I have The Husband, Esq for that. ;-)


"You can't be a Real Country unless you have a BEER and an airline -- it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a BEER."

...Frank Zappa

1 comment:

  1. Crystal it is right nice to have undercover on one's resume. Good for you ;-) On and I love the Zappa quote. Good times.

    And If we can raise our children with strong morals and values until adulthood and shield them from harmful influences, they will be better equipped to make mature decision and use good judgment as adults

    Sounds good in theory but look at us. We made it.