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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rubber Band Man

It was a tight night at The Royale. We'd walked through one of the first chilly nights in St. Louis and the bar and fire-dotted patio were packed with drinkers. I stood in a line of people and could see my friends at the first table inside the door. My beard was graying, my hair was salt and peppery, and the wrinkles around my eyes were deeper than the last time I'd been to a bar in The Lou. When I saw the doorman ask the lady in front of me for ID, I figured it was because she could've passed for 21. I, however, could've passed for 41, even in the soft light.

"ID?" he said to me as I stepped into the warmth.

I probably rolled my eyes as I reached into my pocket and fumbled for my South Carolina drivers license. It's always easy to find, what with the magenta strip of color across the top and bar code on the back. And yet.

"Um," I said, feeling like a 19-year-old Otis using the expired ID of a guy named Steve Ball to get into Shattered or get a drink at The Blue Note. "I guess I don't have it."

As it happened, a friend of mine knew the owner and I was sitting at the table with a hefeweizen in a matter of minutes.

"I think I lost my drivers license," I said over the din.

My brother feigned shock. "No!" he said, mouth wide open and a mocking hand covering it. "How could that happen?"


I think that most men have accepted that a wallet is merely a man-purse that can screw up the lumbar region. It's a receptacle for everything that Joe Average encounters in a given day--receipts, small bills, membership cards to the local warehouse store, small animals, and, if you're still single, phone numbers you will never call. The age of the Crackberry and PDA, however, have rendered much of the wallet's utility useless. We can collect things digitally now, and that means the days of Costanza Wallet should be behind us.

I gave up the wallet years ago, remarkably on my brother's suggestion. He carried a money clip and I saw no reason not to do the same. At the time, I wore a suit five days a week and my giant leather wallet had a hard time staying in the pants pocket. Moreover, I slung my jacket around enough that keeping a big wallet in the breast pocket was a no-go. At the time, it was difficult to pare my life down from everything I kept in my wallet to what could fit in the single pocket of a money clip. It took me nearly a year to get used to it. Eventually, though, I was a convert.

That's when I entered the poker world.

The poker world does not operate like much of polite society. One clear difference is the amount of money you have to carry at any given time. In polite society, if you were asked, "How much do you have on you?" you might say, "Twenty." For your future reference, saying that in the poker world means something other than it does standing in line at Wal-Mart. It's a world where twenty dollar bills are cumbersome and fifty dollar bills are unlucky. People routinely borrow hundreds if not thousands of dollars at a time on only a handshake. That is a long way of saying, when you're walking around Vegas, you're likely carrying more money than fits in a standard money clip.

Enter, the rubber band.

Now, maybe I started doing it as an affectation. However, I was carrying a lot of money at any given time and it was true that the amount wouldn't fit in the standard money clip. What's more, it was more money than I was going to carry in my back pocket where any pickpocket could snatch it. Regardless, before long, even when I wasn't carrying much money, I had resorted to using nothing but a rubber band to carry my cash, drivers license, and credit cards.

I liked it for so many reasons. Unlike a money clip, bills never slipped out. The roll fit perfectly in my front pocket and was always secured by the rubber band. If the rubber band broke, I simply got a new one for a cost of around ten cents. When playing poker two or three nights a week, it was easy to just throw my poker roll around my regular cash and be done with it.

My wife, however, hated it. At first, it was because I would often forget to take my poker money off the roll and I would end up pulling too much cash out of my pocket when were out and about. That was justified. However, her disapproval developed into a full-blown disdain even after I reduced my walking around money to a couple hundred bucks at a time. She hated the rubber band, and, if I was catching her drift, everything it represented. She found a companion in my brother, who upon the loss of my drivers license launched into full mocking mode. "How could it happen?" he would say. "You have such a great system going here!"

It was, in a word, disheartening.


It may have been denial, but I delayed going to the DMV to get a new license. Every once in a while, I would stretch the rubber band out and peek inside the cards for the tell-tale magenta strip. Of course, it wasn't there. In fact, the last time I could remember seeing it, I was in the line for security at McCarran International. They let me on the plane, so, I guess I had it long enough to make it to the terminal. After that, however, it was MIA and no amount of rubber band stretching was going to change that.

And so, for the better part of two months, I walked around without a drivers license. When going somewhere where I thought there would be a chance some young punk would try to card me, I would carry my passport.

"That is so pretentious," the wife said to me one night as we prepared to head out to American Grocery. She refused to explain herself any further, but merely looked on me with bemusement when I put my passport in my pocket.

After dinner, we headed out to Liberty Taproom for a drink. Sure enough, two guys with a great future as security guards stood sentry at the door.

"ID?" they said.

I handed them my passport and said, "My wife thinks this is pretentious." They waved me in, and I swear, as the door closed behind me, I heard them laughing.


Late last week, I sucked it up and went to the DMV for a new license. Technology, such as it is, allows for me to get a duplicate license without having to pose for a new picture. The lady at the counter reached across with a picture of a younger me. It was a guy who still carried a money clip, who didn't have graying hair, and who didn't have as many wrinkles around his eyes.

"Didn't you used to be on TV?" the woman asked.

"Yeah," I said. "I did, but that was a long time ago."

But now, I am the Rubber Band Man, I thought, and walked toward the door. As I stepped into the sunlight, I slipped the drivers license into a fold of bills and protected it with a perfect, soul-soothing snap.

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Anonymous Ken Prevo said...

Concerning Otis vs Mrs. Otis and not even having to throw in her or our smirk... we rest our case.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Wil Wheaton said...

"Didn't you used to be on TV?" the woman asked.

"Yeah," I said. "I did, but that was a long time ago."

East Coast Wil, meet West Coast Otis.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Proto said...

Views of a bouncer at: http://standingonthebox.blogspot.com/
Great archives, had me rollin'.

6:29 PM  

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