Thursday, August 11, 2011

Story of School IDs

I have always had a problem hanging onto my school IDs. I did three years of community college, at two separate colleges, and then I did three years at university, and now I'm in my fourth year in grad school. I've had a school ID in some permutation for many, many years.

And I've learned that my personal "burn rate" is about one a year. I have just come to accept that I will, at some point, misplace my ID every year. So instead of getting upset about it now, I just budget in the $15 replacement fee as part of my school expenses. :)

I don't know why I've always had problems with this - I know students who go their entire four years in undergrad and never misplace their ID. My theory is that it's because I use my ID as an access card to get into various labs and machine shops, as well as my office and my dorm. I don't want to carry my whole purse around while I go about my day, so I put the card in my pocket. Much easier to lose something from your pocket than from inside your wallet inside your purse.

The funny thing is, I had a total of three IDs in undergrad (I was there three years, so just about right). I then moved to Boston to go to grad school. In my years here, I have slowly uncovered all three IDs. What was lost has now been found! One missing ID was tucked inside a pocket inside my tool bag I used to take back and forth to the undergrad machine shop. The other missing ID was in the hoodie pocket of a sweatshirt I used to wear to football games. No football games here, so that one took a while to uncover. But now I have my full set back!

Last week my current ID stopped working.

It's been over a year, so actually I was doing pretty well by not losing it - so I figured, well, that might just be my $15 fee for the year. So I went in to the card office.

"Hi," I said, "I'm here because my ID card has stopped working. My guess is that I have de-magnetized it, since I work with magnets in my lab." The friendly guy behind the counter said, "Sure, let me check that for you." He proceeded to swipe my card through the little testing slot, and he checked his screen - "Strange, it seems to be working here. What was the problem exactly?"

I explained that swiping my card wouldn't let me into the gym, and that swiping the card didn't register at the student center for lunch. But the RFID chip still worked, so I suspected it was demagnetized. "It's definitely not demagnetized," my helpful guy told me, "because if so I wouldn't be able to read it at all."

He peered closely at my ID, checking the little strip on the back. Understanding dawned on his face - "Ohhhh," he said, "There appears to be some, um, damage on the corners..." I looked where he was pointing, and yes indeed - at both edges of the magnetic strip, there were little divits in the card.

I realized quickly what had happened - I have a bad habit of chewing on things, like pens and pencils (not my nails, thank goodness). So sometimes if I'm holding my card, I bite on the corners. And if I have run out of hands, and need my ID (holding stacks of parts and going to the machine shop, or having gloved hands and accessing the clean room, for instance), then I'll just hold onto it in my mouth for convenience.

"Yep," said the guy, "there's enough... ah.. well, imperfections on the strip, that it no longer reads correctly." He quite obviously knew I was chewing on my ID, but he was trying to be nice to me and not point it out.

"Okay," I said, "Well can I get a new one?"

"Unfortunately, since the damage is not under normal wear and tear, I'll have to charge you for a new one. This one isn't even that old, you know."

Yeah, I know! But it's older than a year, don't I get credit for that? Ha!

"But just to make sure," he said, "let me ask my supervisor."

So the supervisor comes over - a little tiny Chinese woman. She inspects my ID, as the guy explains the situation. He ends up with, "So can we give her a new one without charging her?"

She looks up at me, waves the ID in front of me, and said, "No replace! You can SEE the TEETH MARKS!"

Laugh! No such subtlety ("er, appears to be some sort of damage...") from the small Asian lady - she was calling it like she saw it!

What they didn't know is that I also know the trick. I politely took my ID back, and then the next day I peeled up the corner of the laminate with my fingernail. So now the magnetic strip is peeling off the card. I took it back to the card office in a couple days, with a different helpful face behind the counter.

"My card is peeling," I said sweetly, "so the magnetic strip isn't working. Can I get a new one?"

"Of course!" was the reply, "So sorry about that." And because the problem was now the laminate, nobody even commented on the teeth marks (oh, sorry, imperfections...) And a few minutes later, I was in possession of a shiny new ID.

So what this really means, is I still haven't lost my ID or otherwise used up my $15 ID expense allotment for this year. Fingers crossed I can hang onto it!

1 comment:

  1. I had the same problem in that I forgot my card or left it in the controlled lab etc. The way around it is I get a clip holder and have this on my belt and/or jeans. My card holder is made of hard clear plastic so chewing would also be discouraged. The card is on a extendable sting so I never need to unclip it.