Personalized License Plates

December 13, 2009


People are always surprised when my bf and I tell them that we only have one car. They shake their heads and squint their eyes in disbelief that, in the age of suburbs and long commutes, a couple can survive with only one mode of mobile transportation. There are a few reasons why our situation works out the way it does. One, we live in an urban environment. Some will argue that Atlanta is not and urban environment, but to them I say “poo”. It’s urban enough to provide mass transit that gets me to and from work every day. The train stop is only a few blocks from both our house and my office, so that solves the problem of us both getting to work on time. Two, we have the exact same social schedule. I guess it’s something that happens after being together for seven years. We have all the same friends, get invited to all the same parties, and have all the same obligations that would require us to leave the house and drive somewhere. And third, we’re both pretty much home bodies. Our test of a successful weekend is how few times we have to leave our house, or even change out of our pajamas. So, 99.9% of our lives, having only one car works out beautifully, but there is that .01% of the time that it can be a bit of a challenge.

Earlier this week was one of them.

I had an unexpected meeting for work, and my co-worker, who normally acts as my chauffeur in such occasions, was unable to drive. Normally, when things like this arise, my bf is able to work from home, but because of a standing meeting he has with his boss, his boss’ boss and his boss’ boss’ boss, he was mandated to be in the office. His office is about thirty miles outside the city limits which, when he drives to work, is no problem; it’s all against the massive traffic jam of suburbanites trying to get downtown.  For about sixty miles from the center of Atlanta, there is a stream of cars, back to back, moving insanely slow on every major highway that I have to fight after I drop him off and before I can even start my work day. For reasons that escape me, most people do not mind waiting in their cars for hours each way to and from work, just so they can live in a cookie-cutter home with cheap finishes and poor design quality. But hideous architecture is not the point of this story.

So, after I dropped my bf off at work, I started on, what seemed like, my never ending trip back to civilization. I was sitting in traffic, moving about .5 miles per hour when, from out of nowhere, this Honda Civic, circa 1993 with a homemade spoiler, custom lime green and fuscia paint job and decorative rims comes speeding up past me from the shoulder and swerves right in front of me. Naturally, like any other normal person, I honked my horn to convey my disgust and abhorrence for this ignorant person’s blatant disregard for their, my, and everyone else’s safety.  Upon hearing this, the driver opened his sun roof and gave me the finger.  Not wanting to get into a macho pissing contest with this guy, I simply breathed in and tried to calm down. Although this person was obviously a vagrant and,  most likely, a dead beat dad, I did not want his dare devil antics to ruin my day before it had even really begun.

I turned my attention to the car stereo. I pulled out Jay Brannan’s cd (see previous posts for my feelings on Jay Brannan), placed it in the player and instantly calmed down to his soothing voice and beautiful lyrics. That was, until I looked up again. Staring at me from the back of the custom-rigged Honda Civic was a personalized license plate that simply read “PIMPIN”. The traffic came to a standstill and all I could do was wonder what would motivate someone to put something so stupid on their license plate. As I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, I came up with three possible answers.

1. I believe that most people find themselves much more interesting than they are perceived by others. It’s the reason why people are always saying “I’m the kind of person who…”. They don’t care what you think, they just care what they think of what they want you to think. Maybe the driver of the Civic wants everyone to really think that he’s a pimp, whatever that means, instead of the low-brow, blue collar punk that I’m sure he is.

2. I think people see personalized license plates as a type of status symbol. Even though they’re really easy to obtain, some people consider them exotic. Perhaps drivers want others to believe that have enough expendable cash to throw away on something a frivolous as a personalized license plate. I hate to disappoint people who think that, but that is not what we think. Generally, when I see vanity license please, I wonder to myself why someone would spend money on something like that instead of fixing the rust stains on their car. That, or why they think it’s okay to drive down the road with only a plastic tarp and gray duct tape as a rear window and a license plate that reads “SPOILED”. If you want people to think you have money, drive a nicer car.

3. Most people are just plain stupid. That’s why there are so many of these vanity plates that make no sense at all. If you’re going to advertise on the back of your car, at least make it something that is able to be understood at a glance. A personalized license plate that makes no sense is no different than a standard, state-issued license plate. I

When it comes down to it, the only thing that personalized license plates really accomplish are to make it easier to turn a driver in for traffic violations. And that’s exactly what I did. As soon as the traffic picked up a little bit, my friend in the Civic sped away again by way of the shoulder. I picked up my phone and called into 911. I told them that a crazed driver was speeding down the shoulder of the highway. When they asked me to describe the car, I did so, saving the “PIMPIN” license plate for last. “Typical.” the operator said and I hung up the phone, knowing that not only did I do the right thing for turning them in, but that I wasn’t the only one sick and tired of personalized license plates.

My advice to owners of personalized license plates:

In the immortal words of Susan Powder, “Stop the insanity.” What you’re doing is retarded. Whatever your motivation for advertising your stupidity, it’s not working. The only thing people think when they see your absurd little acronym, or phrase or nonsensical jumble of words and numbers is “Who is this jackass and how can I destroy them?”

My advice to everyone else:

The next time your driving experience is interrupted by a personalized license plate, do what I did, call the police and get them thrown in jail. If they’ve broken the law, great, but even if they’re obeying all the traffic rules, call them in anyway…they deserve to be incarcerated.

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13 Responses to “Personalized License Plates”

  1. Scott perkins Says:

    The grossest one I’ve seen was “PSYETR”. Like you’d want to advertise that.

  2. michele Says:

    Nice to hate suburbanites…bye.

  3. Melinda Says:

    For future information, you can obtain anyone’s information based on their license plate number. It is a matter of public record and as such, for a small fee to the DMV, you can find out their name and address. And then stalk their ass and put nails under their tires, or thumbtacks, let the air out of them, or if you’re feeling creatice, write something “funny” in their grass with weed killer. People don’t realize just how easy that is….

  4. MOM Says:

    I want a plate that says I love my son Michael

  5. JoAnne Says:

    Is ‘ilovemarsha’ssonmichaelalso’ still too long?
    I totally agree with you Michael on this one. Keep up the good work. Merry Christmas to you & Corbin!

  6. Jarred Says:

    My mom has had personalized license plates for quite a few years now….one said “LAD,” her initials. Then when she got re-married and got a new last name, she changed it to “Jefr5on” which, on a license plate, looked a little bit like “Jefferson.” I agree, they’re stupid.

    • mnkey75 Says:

      There’s a funny episode of “The Office” when a guy has a personalized license plate that reads “Wl Hung”. Everyone asks him is he’s a fan of William Hung. lol.


  7. […] and personalized license plates (for my full feelings on personalized license plates, click here) and an unkempt yard full of weeds and dog droppings. Upon some more investigation, I found that […]


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