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License Plates

license.jpg (4539 bytes)

Before you scroll on, try to figure this out.

I'll tell you that it's my own vanity plate that I ordered in 1995 and that my car is registered in JOhnson County, Kansas, through May 1999.  Does any of that help?

No, probably not.  I'll bet at least several dozen people, most of them complete strangers, have asked me what it means, and my first response is always, "Do you want me to tell you straight out or do you want a hint?"  If they say, "Tell me straight out," I do and that's the end of the conversation.

If they say, "Give me a hint," I ask, "How many Y's are there?"

The usual answer is "Two."  If that doesn't trip the trigger of realization I go on to ask, "Two what?" and that usually does the trick.  If it doesn't, I repeat the two questions: "How many Y's?"  "Two what?"

Anyway, the reflexive message on this plate is my reaction to the million or so vanity plate owners who spend ten extra bucks a year to prove to hundreds of millions of other drivers just how unimaginative they are.

For example, a guy whose plate says, BOBS MG, and, in fact, the guy's name is Bob and what he's driving really is an MG.  I mean, how pathetically unimaginative is that?  Correspondent (no relation) says it better:

BOBS MG is good.  My faves are the ones that say just BUICK or MIATA.

BUICK in particular; what's to brag about there?  Got a Hurst shifter in that Skylark, buddy?

This pea-brain Bob might have that plate for five years, and for those whole five years whenever he's on the road he's saying to people, "Hey, look at how uncreative I am.  This is the best I could do.  My name is Bob, and this is an MG."  Sheesh.

I ask you, why would people pay good money, extra money, to announce that they are cretins?  I mean, wouldn't you want to keep that to yourself?  Yet these people presumably want you to know they're dull-witted.


Here's a counter-example of the idea that a plate that merely states its car's name is unimaginitive.  This plate stating its car is a Firebird needs to be clicked to see why.


Idea!  I think this vanity plate thing is how the rest of us can identify the people in our society who are proudest of being uncreative -- who presumably foster a lack of imagination in their friends and loved ones -- so we can round 'em up and ship 'em off to Wyoming or somewhere.

Just a thought.

Update: Since I first published this page I have received a fair bit of criticism for what might appear to be my heartless attitude toward people with irretrievably boring personalized plates.

All I can repeat is this: Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.  That way, you're a mile away, and you have his shoes.


Update of March 2000: Annette and I just got back from a lovely week in Seattle, across Lake Washington from Redmond, home of Microsoft.  We met a friend, Nick, who works for Microsoft, and he and his wife squired us around the Seattle area.  At an intersection one afternoon we came upon a 1960's-era Volkswagen Beetle, which prompted Nick to tell us of another Beetle he sees every so often with a vanity plate that reads, "FEATURE."
Update of January 2007: In fact, Annette, who is second in command of the IT department at a really big law firm, bought this car just so she could use this plate.
Get it?  If you don't and want to, .

Or see this "screen shot" I made by photographing my TV screen.

Here's another Nick story.  As we were touring the astonishingly large Microsoft campus I asked Nick whether he had ever met Bill Gates.  "Well, sort of," he said.  "He and I were in a large meeting.  He was sitting at the table, and because there weren't enough chairs I was standing.  At a certain point he stood up to leave, and it was my turn to take the open seat.  So, although I've never actually spoken to him, I have shared his butt-warmth."

OK, now that I'm completely off the topic of vanity plates, two more quick coincidences.  On the day before we left for Seattle I had placed a call to a business advisor and was told he was out of town.  The following morning I ran into him in our hotel half a continent away.  Also in our hotel, one evening after a night on the town we were riding the up escalator when we spotted Bill Gates riding down.  No one should ever accuse him of overdressing.


If you haven't figured out the MIYY4U message yet, you're not alone.  Only a dozen people I know of have gotten it without a hint, and at least half the rest have eventually given up.  The message wasn't really meant to be gotten; it was meant to stimulate conversation.

Anyway, if you want the answer to MIYY4U, just and I'll just let you know.



Update of 2000: This is an unaltered scan of a photograph of my new plate.  Can you explain all of it?

Update of November 14, 2011: Today a fellow named Vic from Maitland, Florida, explained it all and said he found it easy because he's a "member of Mesna."

3mta3.gif (28,879bytes) 11292003


Update of May 2005:
This is an unaltered scan of a photograph of my newest vanity plate.

It was also this year I decided to order a vanity plate for my motorcycle, and at the DMV I asked the nice lady whether PLATE was available.  It would have looked funny with the car and the bike parked next to each other.  But that was taken, so I asked for TITA3, and I was told it was not taken and not forbidden, so I ordered and paid for it and waited.


Update of June 2005: As you can see, Kansas rejected my application for the custom motorcycle plate TITA3.


Before you answer, I should point out that Kansas is where

  • the theory of evolution is seriously questioned by some members of the very board of education that you would think would be in favor of promoting facts over faith, of promoting critical, scientific thought and common-sense logic;

  • marriage between people of the same gender is now prohibited by the state constitution (and Kansas is also where FRED PHELPS* lives);

  • one of the U.S. senators is Sam Brownback, who has since proved himself to be arguably the worst governor, of Kansas or anywhere, ever; and

  • one of the state senators, Kay O'Connor, said when asked about her views on the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution (women's suffrage) that if it were up for consideration today she would vote against it.

*The Fred Phelps site linked to above, called God Hates Fags, is breathtakingly perverted.  You don't have to spend much time there to see why.  But no matter how evil and how lunatic Fred and his few followers are, they do, in my opinion, have the right to say what they say.  If you disagree, please go here now and don't come back till you've changed your mind.

Update of May 2006: This is what I decided on.
More importantly, what five-character combination should I try next for my non-profane, non-vulgar, non-lewd, and non-indecent meaning?  If I'm going to pay extra money to wear a plate on my bike for five years, I want it to be good.

So, I really will donate $10 to your favorite charity if you are the first to supply me with a personalized plate idea that I end up using.  It must meet the following criteria:

  • It consists only of the 26 capital letters A to Z and the ten digits 0 to 9.
  • It is no more than five characters long.
  • It is not already taken.
  • It meets Kansas' rules against profanity, vulgarity, lewdness and indecency.

If you think you have a candidate or some other comment or question, please , and thanks.


Update of July 24, 2007:
I took this photo today at a mall in Overland Park, Kansas.  I did not make this up, and I did not Photoshop it to look like this or anything like that.  Really.

So, the question is, is this a joke?  If it is not, is it possible the owner doesn't get the joke?  If she does, it's interesting she went ahead and ordered this plate.


Update of February 12, 2009: I found this custom "plate" attached to the otherwise blank front license frame of a truck my friend owns.

As you might be able to tell, it is merely a piece of paper, quite meticulously lettered and filled in, that's been Scotch-taped on.

KJ frequents a garage where it's not a full day unless everyone accuses everyone else at least once of being homosexual.


Update of June 24, 2010: I got my bike's new custom plate today, the moiety of the complete set.  In case it's hard to read, the bike's plate says just that, "PLATE."

Thanks go to Gavin for attaching it for me so well, and also for helping stabilize my horns.  He's a natural with pliers.

And also for singing for me, on July 1st, 2010, a cover of Billy Gilman's "Oklahoma." It's pretty darned good for someone his age.  Gavgav is 11, and he seems to be a wonderful child.  He's packed full of energy and inquisitiveness and charm.  Behind his head are some books I've been reading, some of which Gavgav disapproves of because they promote atheism.  Gavin has been brain-washed into believing in the God of the Christian bible, which makes me sad.

To the right of his head is a framed photograph of B, who is also charming but who has not been brain-washed to believe nonsense.  Below her is the right arm of the chair I sit in to read books, and below that is  PheyeG'hdeaux, a dog that loves B and Gavgav a lot.  While Gavgav was here for a week in March and another week in June, PheyeG'hdeaux pretty much stood guard over his makeshift beds the whole time he was asleep.  And when Gavgav left, PheyeG'hdeaux pretty much moped around for a couple days.


Update of June 25, 2010: "LICENSE" from above is my old vanity plate.  For the next five years my car's rear end will remind people just how mired in junior high school humor an adult can be.



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