When the flight that brought me to NYC from Rome landed at Kennedy Airport, the Big Apple welcomed me with a warm, bright sunny day and a light breeze. It was Aug. 2 last year and, for me, the first time on U.S. soil. Still, I had mixed feelings.
On the one hand everything was new: the cars, the roads, the bridges. I have an image in my mind of the History Channel billboard standing at a distance as the taxi neared the Bronx. But on the other, a sense of déja vu was pervasive: the atmosphere I smelled was like the NYC of the movies I had experienced.
A few hours later, I was riding the 1 train from Washington Heights to Times Square, and as I entered the subway that sense of familiarity grew stronger. After staring at riders for a while, the subway ads caught my attention. In particular, one that read “I Am NYC” on the image of a young man holding a kid.
The promise of “one ID for all New Yorkers” was tempting: “Oh yeah! I wanna be a part of it.” I thought about Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
IDNYC not welcome here
A few days after, I called the number on the ad to make an appointment and, while adjusting to the pace of NYC, I popped up to the public library near Bryant Park to claim my brand-new New Yorker identity: the IDNYC.
When I received a letter two weeks later containing the card I was surprised: Despite my visa expiring in a year, the card said I was a New Yorker until 2021. My face was over-imposed on the map of the five boroughs for five years!
Two months later, as I tried to get into a well-known Hell’s Kitchen bar, the bouncer asked for proof of age. An occasion to unsheathe my card!
I was baffled when he shook his head and said: “We don’t accept this, this is not valid. You need a state ID.”
“This is from the city of New York,” I said. “Yeah, we don’t accept this.”
My Italian driving license opened the gate. I downgraded the episode, labeling it a misunderstanding.
Kafka at the zoo
But after a while, it happened again. This time I couldn’t even get in to a Williamsburg bar, despite my friends’ assurances about my age. And I wasn’t carrying my Italian driving license anymore.
“Why do I need this,” I thought of the license, “if I have the IDNYC.”
My wife laughed at me that night. She didn’t want to get the card after I showed her mine. “You wasted your time,” she said.
I was convinced there must’ve been a mistake, even though I remembered the bank had refused a check without an identification other than my IDNYC.
Finally, the coup de grace came in May. I went for a jog in Prospect Park, and I was returning home when I thought to stop by the zoo. As an IDNYC holder, I was entitled to free entry: finally some privilege!
I approached the gate and showed the card. I was told that I first needed to go to the Bronx Zoo (physically) to register before I could gain free entry.
Rome is well-known for its byzantine bureaucracy. I have lived in New York for about a year, and I don’t carry my IDNYC card anymore. I now feel at home.
Roberto Capocelli is an intern with amNew York. This is the first in an occasional series of guest columns.