By Claire Wolfe
The following story is true. It took place in the Year of Our Police State
2005. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
In Hardyville as you may know, we aren’t real fond of governments that order
us to “comply” with anything. That goes especially for national ID and other
Round these parts, “government ID” means Mayor Pickle saying, “Howdy, Bob.”
Any official who got so uppity as to issue a license just so people could go
about their peaceable business would probably end up on the receiving end of
some extremely unpeaceable business. Very likely involving tar and a few
naked chickens. If that official demanded any Hardyvillian’s biometrics,
he’d quickly find himself sans a few bits of his own biology.
We are who we are and we do what we do, and that’s that.
But for some reason, Bob-the-Nerd took it into his head that he needed
Official Government Documentation of his identity.
“After all,” he said one day at the Hog Trough Grill and Feed, “If I don’t
have government ID, I’m probably going to hijack an airplane. Or commit
welfare fraud. Isn’t that why they’re demanding national ID? You wouldn’t
want me turning into a terrorist or a welfare queen, would you?”
So Bob went off to get himself made Official.
Since there’s not a single government office in Hardyville where he could do
it, Bob took himself off to … well, let’s say a certain western state
known for sin and decadence. (Which is right next to another western state
known for saintly virtue. But the sin state gets more tourists.) And he
presented himself at the drivers license bureau. Not in the drivers license
line, but in the Official Government ID line.
There is reason for this. Although the federales have been busy for a decade
now, making it harder and harder to get a drivers license without all sorts
of silly “complying,” in this sinful state all you have to have to get an
Official Government ID card is a birth certificate.
And Bob had his birth certificate. Carefully prepared in advance.
He started with his certificate exactly as was. Then he scanned it into his
computer and very carefully, pixel by pixel, took out all the typed data
(leaving the signatures and pre-printed form). He cleaned his document up so
he left no broken lines or bits of original typing. Then he downloaded old
typewriter fonts off the Internet and filled in brand new data, including
new parents, new birthdate, and new name for himself.
Bob got his new parents out of online databases. He started with the Social
Security Death Index, but quickly went on to geneaology sites, where it was
easier to discover two dead people who were actually married to each other
shortly before Bob came into the world.
Bob had to do a little more searching than you or I might have to do, as Bob
is slightly ethnic. But after a few hours, he had his new folks. And even
had their social security numbers, courtesy of that SS Death Index.
(I should add here that any computer-phobic person could do pretty much what
Bob did without resorting to electronics. The old-fashioned way would
involve white-out fluid and white-out tape on the birth certificate, clean
photocopies, use of a vintage typewriter purchased for five bucks at a
garage sale, and some in-person research at a Mormon Family History Center
to find a parently pair. And note: You do not want to use modern type fonts
on an “old” document, as Dan Rather discovered to his embarrassment.)
Bob printed his new old birth certificate out on his ink-jet printer,
complete with Official Purple state stamp, which he didn’t even have to
alter. (Bob was lucky; his BC didn’t have the raised seal that a lot of
documents do. But if it had … well, a silver dollar placed under the paper
and rubbed lightly around the edges with a finger or an eraser creates an
embossed seal that can be easily felt. And you know how those old seals get
when you’ve been carrying a document around for years. Hard to read, those
After all that, Bob folded his new old BC up, shoved it in his back pocket,
sat on it for a few days, then stuck it in an oven for a while at 250
degrees to age the paper (watching carefully to make sure it didn’t get too
Then he was ready. So Bob presented himself in line, having duly filled out
the application form with the address of an apartment building he’d scoped
out that morning.
He didn’t put any social security number on the application. That was the
only thing the bored DMV clerk seemed to notice. “No number?” she asked,
pointing at the blank spaces.
“No number,” Bob said.
“Do you have any other ID?” she said, glancing at the clock as if her coffee
break was 30 seconds overdue.
“Darnit,” Bob objected, “I called in advance and I checked the your website.
They said I didn’t have to have … Oh, heck.” He fished around in his
pocket and came up with the only other ID he just happened to be carrying: A
certificate of completion for a real first aid course he’d taken under his
new name and a student ID for the Online Academy of Cosmetology, Puppetry,
and Mine Management he’d carefully designed and laminated.
But no number?” the clerk scolded, glancing uncritically at his alternative
ID. “That’s highly irregular.”
“That’s an abomination unto God,” Bob uncharacteristically thundered,
unleasing his pit bull of a religious discrimination argument. “The Book of
Revelation warns that in the latter days the Beast shall cause all men to
take a number without which they can neither buy nor …”
“I’ll check with my supervisor,” the clerk said, swiftly disappearing behind
She came back a moment later, stamped an acceptance on the application, and
pointed Bob toward the photo line.
Bob thought he had it made. But not quite. As he stood before the camera, a
second clerk peered as his numberless application and started in:
“Tim Okida,” lied Bob Murakami.
“What’s your birth date?”
“February 15, 1973,” He recited.
“Uh …” Here, he was a little stuck. Was it 3323 North Oak Street or 3233?
He’d filled out his application using notes. Memory faltered.
The clerk looked at him skeptically as he scrambled the numbers. “Darn,” he
said. “I just moved there and I can’t remember off the top of my head. But,”
he smiled helpfully, “I’m sure the apartment number is 268.”
The clerk looked reassured. Still, she peered at him one last time.
“Mother’s maiden name?” she queried.
“Oh, that’s easy.” Bob perked up. “Kimberly Midori Kimura. They called her
‘Bruiser,’ actually. But …”
“That’ll be fine.”
And a few minutes later, Bob-the-Nerd … or is it now Tim-the-Nerd? …
walked out with his laminated, registered, genuine, databased Official
Government Identification. And with the key to starting a whole collection
of Tim Okida documentation.
“And now,” he explains to all the folks at the big round table at the Hog
Trough, “You can breathe a sigh of relief. I have government ID. So all your
airplanes and your tax dollars are suddenly, miraculously safe from the
likes of me. Amazing how that works, isn’t it? I wouldn’t believe it, except
that my government says it’s so, so it must be so. Darn, I’m such a good
“But the rest of you non-ID’d scofflaws … well, you we obviously can’t
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