Some time ago, a creative genius came up with a way to increase the income states receive from their lowly license plate. The idea — allowing folks to personalize their tags —was the birth of the “vanity plate.”
The first of these rolling messages tended to carry names or nick names like SMITH or BARBIE. But through the years, folks have become increasingly inventive in their choice of license plate content.
If you’ve spent any time driving the highways and byways of the country, or even scanning the cars near you in any parking lot, you’ve seen your share of these small rolling billboards.
During our travels, I’ve come to look on these little car tag messages as glimpses into the lives and interests of my fellow drivers. Apparently, I’m not the only one who has found the plates memorable. Many friends have shared their favorite vanity plate sightings with me.
When the subject came up recently in a conversation with a friend, she reported reading of two outstanding examples of vanity plates displayed by celebrities. One, seen on the swanky car of the late Liberace, read “88 KEYS.” And, though she wasn’t able to confirm it, she had heard that the late bandleader, Lawrence Welk, opted for a plate that read, “A1 AN A2.”
Some of our wintertime friends have used their car tags to underscore their favorite pastimes. For instance, a sailing pal proudly displays a plate that reads “SEAGUY.”
Another friend, who lives in Wisconsin, refers to his get-away cabin in the north woods with his license that says simply, “2 DA WDS.”
Among my favorite sightings during our travels was one that summed up the friendly folk in West Virginia. A car we passed in a small town had a plate that read “HOW-D.”
Also seen during our snowbird travels was a big white Chrysler zipping along near Charleston, North Carolina. The owner, who had apparently just paid off his spiffy vehicle, proclaimed the fact proudly to the world with a tag that read, “DEBT FREE.”
In the library parking lot, I noticed the car of a creative reader. Obviously the lady was a fan of a childhood book classic. The plate on her white VW Rabbit read “ALICE.”
And a sunny yellow sport utility vehicle bore a plate with the fitting description, “BUTRCUP.”
A van I saw in a packed parking lot of the local mall read “OF 2 SHOP.”
Then there was the well-worn pickup we noticed at Home Depot. The vehicle was driven by a tool-carrying handyman. His plate proclaimed “I DO ALL.”
Another old truck that bore a plate indicating the owner’s line of work was the muddy farm vehicle with the license that read “EI EI O.”
But, of all the message plates I’ve noticed over the years, one clearly told a story to anyone who took the time to put together the clues. The husband sat in the passenger seat, beaming at his wife as she drove. Her smile rivaled the glow of the brand new silver Honda. And the car’s plate proclaimed to the world, “25 TH .”