Not many people would choose the life that Paul has chosen. Living in hotels, being a nomad, changing cities and lodging on a whim. Few people can do it, and even fewer would choose to.
The thing is, I’d like to live in hotels every day. In fact, I would if I could.*
I’m not 21.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan got together with some advisers, looking into how to combat the drunk driving pandemic in the nation. Of the dozens of recommendations made to the President, one was that the country should institute a national drinking age of 21. Enter the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, signed into law in 1984.
Of course, this is old news to nearly everyone in the country, and largely around the world. However, I’m not going to talk about the general unfairness of this law. I’m not going to talk about how you can do pretty much anything — join the military, drive a car, pilot a plane, sail a ship, own many guns, buy a house, start a company, get married, get a job, quit high school, rack up thousands of dollars in debt, and do pretty much everything except rent a car — before you turn 21.
All of those points are valid, and should be reason enough to get rid of this ridiculous set of laws. Instead though, I’m going to tell everyone how this set of laws is impacting me, and hurting my ability to make money, perform my duties, and well, frankly, live a full life.
An exaggeration? You tell me.
When I was in Chicago earlier this month, I was couch-surfing for much of the time. However, at one point I got sick and needed to camp in a hotel. HotelTonight to the rescue. Now, before I complain too loudly, HotelTonight is a lifesaver in this situation, especially the fact that it tells you how old you need to be to stay in a hotel.
Wait, there are limits? Yes, there are limits.
In fact, most hotels that I’ve seen are either 18+ or 21+. It is immediately obvious why this is the case. You don’t want people running away from home and staying in hotels when they’re 15, and you don’t want people who are 19 staying in hotels and drinking from the minibar.
That’s well and fine, but there doesn’t seem to be any specific set of laws on the books for hotels. In Illinois, it is very much a hotel-by-hotel decision. For example, I stayed in hotel rooms that had fully stocked mini-bars, with the concierge knowing full well that I am 19. Other hotels, they wouldn’t let me check-in at all. While other hotels also let me check, but made me wait outside the room while they took the alcohol away. Phew! Bullet dodged, society!
While that’s the case in Illinois, I fully expect to be denied entry into hotels for ridiculous reasons in other states as well. Washington is the next testing area, with my trip to Seattle next month being the perfect opportunity to test the limits of the system. My hunch is that every state will be slightly different, and that the more expensive the hotel is, the looser they will be with the “rules.” Just a hunch for now, but you can be sure that I’ll keep you all posted on this.
That’s hotels. What other problems do I run into? Rental cars.
To be clear, I’m a pretty good driver. That’s not just me saying that either. I live in Florida, which has arguably the most dangerous drivers in America. (I mean, these people are insane, old, and license-less). In spite of this, I haven’t gotten into an accident or gotten a speeding ticket ever. It’s because I like not crashing. Crazy, I know. Sure, it’s not 40 years of safe driving, but it is something.
Apparently, it is not enough. Want to rent a car? Too bad! You have to be 25 years old to rent a car. Again, it depends on which state you are in, but by and large, the rule is 25 years of age.
I get why companies are doing this, as younger drivers are clearly reckless and insane and want to lose hundreds of dollars by crashing a car while drinking and dealing drugs out the window. I get that! However, what I don’t get is how companies can just decide to discriminate on age and either deny service altogether or force a surcharge. It’d be one thing if they were criminals, 16 years old, or had a history of accidents. Just a blanket rule of under 25? That’s a bit ridiculous.
This may seem like a moot point, and one that won’t change, but I really hope it does. My life would not only be greatly simplified, but it would also simplify the lives of hotel clerks, rental car agencies and law enforcement officials. I’m not saying legalize alcohol for high schoolers, but I am saying get rid of these ridiculous and outdated laws.
Before anyone jumps down my throat and tells me that this will be the end of Western Civilization as we know it, let me point something out. There’s an entire world outside of America that does not enforce ridiculous laws. (Okay, they enforce ridiculous laws. But, they aren’t ridiculous laws based on age.)
Look at Europe. Get your license at 18 after months of training and you can immediately rent a car. Are you able to see over the bar? You can pretty much get alcohol everywhere. Want to stay in a hotel room? Show me the money, show me the passport, and I’ll show you the room key.
This isn’t complicated. This isn’t radical.
All I’m asking is that we stop acting like we live in the prohibition and that we start treating people who have the right to vote like they have the right to do everything else.
Because they (and I) do.
*For the record, I’m not saying I want to live like Paul in every way. In fact, just the hotels thing. Everything else he can keep.