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My entire life: It's all in the cards

Howard Lev’s wallet with his various cards, for

Howard Lev’s wallet with his various cards, for his Expressway essay on July 11. Credit: Howard Lev

The first card came with my cowboy-theme wallet. I filled it out and securely placed it in the wallet. I showed it to people to prove that I wasn’t just any 5-year-old — I had an identification card.

When I received my government-issued Social Security card, I felt too old for the cowboy wallet and purchased a trifold fake-leather wallet. On an elementary school field trip, I received my library card from the Brooklyn Public Library. My library card grew up with me, granting access to the teen section and, later, the adult section. When I moved to Nassau County in 1995, I received a card from the East Meadow Public Library and my card to vote at McVey Elementary School. I was an official Long Islander!

As a teen, I started using my various cards to get benefits associated with age: driving a car, voting, discounts, seeing an R-rated movie, getting into a nightclub or ordering a rum and Coke.

I never leave home without my first credit card. When a different credit card I owned was compromised for more than $5,000, I had to fill out a police report. My business card has not yet won me a free lunch, and at the blackjack table, the dealer in Atlantic City always gave winning cards to the person on either side of me.

I inherited my father’s American Automobile Association — AAA — membership. Although I was born in 1956, my card says I’ve been a member since 1948, when Harry S. Truman was president. I like showing it just to see people’s confused looks.

My goal was to work on Broadway. So my Actor’s Equity Association union card, which I received in 1981, is the card I am most proud of. It proves I accomplished my goal. I still have my first card, which was instrumental in my being hired in 1982 as assistant stage manager on the pre-Broadway national tour of "The King and I," starring Yul Brynner.

Cards that weren’t in my wallet also had a place in my life. During my four years at Brooklyn College, I worked in a greeting cards store. The busiest closing time was on Valentine’s Day. Last-minute shoppers, mostly men, would buy a card, then borrow my pen to fill it out.

As a young boy, I used my allowance mostly for Topps baseball cards. Five cards were wrapped with a stick of virtually unchewable bubblegum, which my mom would not let me put in my mouth. I played all the sidewalk baseball card games. I was adept at flipping, which required tossing a card into the air, and if mine landed on my opponent’s cards, I won.

Oh, let’s not forget my bike. Using clothespins, I strategically attached playing cards to the spokes of my white-and-gold-colored bicycle and, pedaling as fast as I could, I pretended I was driving a motorcycle.

And then there were the cards that told my future. In college, a friend predicted with her tarot cards that I will live a long, healthy life. In case she was wrong, I recently got my COVID-19 vaccination card.

Reader Howard Lev lives in East Meadow.