Remember Oedipus at Thebes? How's this for a pantocratic riddle:
What has only one face but inspires first deceit, then resentment and then joy?
Answer: A photo id.
I got carded today. I walked into a bar to get a drink and someone actually stopped me and wanted to see some ID to make sure I was twenty-one.
There was a time, not long ago, when this would have upset me. I would have puffed up my chest and muttered indignant curses about people who didn't know a grown up when they saw one. I would have told myself (and, after a few drinks, anyone else in a four table radius) that it's not personal, that they do it with everyone, that the system is designed to be mindless.
Now I'm just grateful. I can't believe that anyone would seriously consider the possibility that I might be less than 21 (a couple of years ago I tried getting people to guess my age just based on the way I look - I stopped doing it when the median age turned out to be 30.). I mean okay, so it probably is just mechanical, but at least they still feel that they have to ask. They actually think there's a risk that I might be underage. This is thrilling news. And the fact that my designated sphinx was barely legal herself and was kind of restful to the eyes didn't hurt either. Now I can spend the next six months crowing about this and telling everyone I know (what do you think this post is about) that I've been known to pass for 21.
(I should say that some jealous audiences have suggested that the only reason she wanted to see my ID was because she was curious to know what licenses looked like back in the days they still had horse carriages, but this is mere persiflage and not worth discussing)
This is particularly gratifying since the general trend seems to be the other way - even when I actually wave my ID under someone's nose to prove I'm over age, they'll usually wave me on without looking at it, often with an amused look on their face that says 'look how quaint and paranoid these old men are - as if we could have any doubts about him being ancient'.
This is about as insulting as not getting pulled out of line for a special search at airports - I know it's supposed to be a random selection, but I always think I don't get picked because I don't look fit enough to be a terrorist or because I look too weak-willed to hurt a fly. I could be a deadly assassin trained in the essential arts of hand-to-hand combat. I could have great quantities of lethal explosives on my person and still be walking by nonchalantly. I could wear a gaberdine suit and have a camera for a bow tie. Hell, I even said boo to a goose once (after I recovered from the scare it gave me, of course). But no, they'll stop 80 year old grandmothers with walkers and wave me on with a smile because they look more credible as terrorists than I do.
Now if only I could get them to stop me from walking into an X-rated film because I look too innocent and impressionable. That would be the day!
 See Auden, 'Under Sirius'