FAKING IT IN HARVARD SQUARE
Most students at Harvard don't see using a fake I.D. as a matter of breaking the law.
It's more like fighting a war. And as in any war, where morality is tailored to the cause, students here have a self-righteous pride about their ability to subvert the enemy.
Subversion, of course, requires different techniques for different substratum of the enemy's ranks. With liquor store clerks and bouncers, for example, most underage drinkers try the friendly approach. With police, students use pure deceit--either that or they run like hell.
In any case, though, one weapon is essential to the cause: a good fake I.D..
Students who would avoid even minor infractions will shamelessly commit felonies like infiltrating the Department of Motor Vehicles with older siblings' birth certificates and forging false documents that could rival the papers of a World War II spy.
Most students think they're winning. Alcohol is relatively easy to obtain around campus. And even the strictest bars in Harvard Square are peppered with underage drinkers on weekend nights.
Bouncers at area bars and the management of local liquor stores disagree. They say they reject all comers who are not of legal age.
On both sides, however, there's an element of truth and of wartime propaganda.
Some students told The Crimson of starting their quest as early as thirteen, and many are still on the look-out up until their twenty-first birthday. The sources of the prized possession are diverse.
"A relative stole it from a friend of his who looked like me," says one first-year from Los Angeles.
Those without thieves as relatives, however, take matters into their own hands, visiting inner city passport parlors of questionable repute.
The cards these places sell are usually obviously fake but manage to work in equally disreputable bars.
One first-year woman who would only identify herself as Trixie bought her "Traveler's I.D." from a basement shop in Chicago.
"The men were sort of shady," she says. "They didn't ask us to see any information. I didn't even know my social security number...We were 16, for God's sake."
Another undergrad bought hers in downtown Cleveland, at "A box-like area that sold IDs and T-shirts with dirty slogans."
Others more actively break the law, doctoring existing driver's licenses or college IDs.
Fake IDs are works of art conducted in stealth and lamination. And the resourceful who practice the art--whether they do it for fun or profit--are eager to share their stories.
One undergraduate gave ample detail when queried about his methods, explaining that students born in 1973 can easily make the last digit look like a computer-generated zero, which has a diagonal line across the circle.
"Soak a Massachusetts license in lighter fluid for 10 minutes and peel back the lamination," he says.
"Carefully draw a line across the three to make a zero with pencil, and then iron it back together between two shirts," says the student, who swears by his recipe for deceit.
Other techniques include placing a new picture and creating a giant cardboard replica of a Massachusetts driver's license, taking photographs of students standing where the face should be.
Of course, not all fakes are created equal. Students between the ages of 18 and 21 have been known to use IDs with ages as high as 31.
And Trixie should take comfort that there is at least one Harvard male undergrad who is worse off than she.
He uses a fake that has his picture on a Coker College I.D.. Only one problem. Coker is an all-women's college.
Still, obtaining a fake I.D. is mere preparation for the battle that lies ahead: securing entry to bars or loot from liquor stores. All agree that confidence is the secret.
"You walk in, you look the person behind the counter in the eye, and you always address him first," says Trixie.
"It even pays to ask him some questions: 'So, you got some Stoli?' You get down with them or admire parts of their store," she says.
Trixie is all for subverting this particular brand of enemy.
"I wouldn't exactly call it flirting, but you try to bond with the guy," she says.
Others recommend having connections. "We usually know the bouncers," says one sophomore who uses her roommate's sister's I.D.. "If not, we look bored and jaded."
"Once you get familiar you don't need it any more," concurs the first-year from L.A. "The trick is not to show it." Another tip: "Go out with older people who know club owners."
John Nowaczyk '92, a Government concentrator who works as a bouncer at the Bow and Arrow Pub, says he knows all these tricks.
"There are two scenarios," he says. "One, someone comes in with a license that is their sister's or their friend's. It's usually expired--an out-of-state or expired I.D. is almost never the person in the picture."
And for those who think their doctored I.D.s are the secret, Nowaczyk adds, "Sometimes people come in with a homemade I.D.. Those are just so easy to spot."
Nowaczyk is interrupted by a stream of customers on this busy Friday night. He glances at the I.D.s of those who appear over 30, but scrutinizes the I.D.s of younger patrons, sometimes asking for a second piece of identification, or "backup."
"You learn what a real Belgian passport looks like," he continues. "All those Au Pair girls with their international student I.D. cards are laughed at."
Nowaczyk says a confident attitude is not enough to get underage students in the door.
Most minors, when they realize that they are not going to get in, "turn and run," Nowaczyk says. "They want to get out of here with their I.D.."
Nowaczyk says that others, displaying that famous "confident attitude," argue with lines like "You gotta be kidding me. They always let me in here."
Another approach is downright belligerence.
"It wouldn't be a Friday or Saturday night unless someone threatened to kill us," says Robert Parker, manager of the Harvard Provision Company, known as "The Pro," a liquor store on Mt. Auburn St.
The bouncers at the Spaghetti Club, which draws a more ruthless crowd than the genial Bow, describe a Harvard football player who tried to fight his way into the bar.
"He said we should be scared of him," smirks Mike McHugh. "He walked through the door, but after a scuffle, we threw him out." The drunken athlete then threatened to bring on the entire Harvard football team.
"We've been spit on before," McHugh adds. "It's their right to be in the bar--they come at you full force. We don't react to that well at all."
Bouncers also describe a phenomenon that seems difficult to explain. Some underage students, they say, simply present their real driver's licenses or student I.D.s.
"Last week, a guy gives me I.D. that says he won't be 21 until August." Bill, the bouncer at Grendel's, said. When the minor was turned down, "the guy barks, 'I'll take my business elsewhere.' He had a lot of faith in the idea that he was of age."
Of course, since bouncers usually turn people away tactfully, students may forget that this is war, with real consequences for some of the losers.
The manager at the Pro says he takes seriously his legal obligation to confiscate I.D.s he thinks are fake. As proof, he'll show the curious a shoebox-sized tin can filled three quarters to the top with fake I.D.s.
"Head of the Charles weekend we pulled 15 or 20 in one night," says Rick Kocen, a clerk at the Pro.
The people who get their I.D.s taken are always upset. Kocen says he refers them to the police on the corner, which effectively deters them, but some go to extreme lengths to retrieve their sacred fakes.
"One time a mother came in here asking us to give her her daughter's fake I.D. back," Kocen says.