In the paper the other day, I read that Virginia leads the nation in number of vanity lisence plates. Yes. Way to represent, Old Dominion.
The weird thing is, it didn’t even occur to me that other states don’t have this mania. For my first car, I requested “Neato.” It was a phrase I used a lot back in the day (although I could have easily substituted “jeezu” or “cool beans.”) My dad sent the form in, and throughout high school, I drove a car that seemed to be named NEA TOE. (Presumably for my respect for the National Education Association, an organization of which my mom is a member. I am just a chip off the old block, a toe on the foot of the this educational union, people!)
My dad has worked in the car business for many moons now, and when I got to college and needed another car, he came up with a silverish Chevy Citation. It cost $500, but it ran like a champ. By the time I got this car, I was working at C-Ville Weekly, my first job that didn’t entail a nametag or a uniform, and my dad was proud of me.
My license plate was: AUTHR.
I can be an asshole in many other ways, but I could not bear to tell Dad that the plates were just wrong on so many levels. As my friend Christina and I were talking about the other day, in Charlottesville, you might think you’re good at something, but chances are excellent that someone else here is not only better but has a genius grant to prove it. When I had the car, I was living in the same area as authrs such as John Grisham, Rita Dove, and Ann Beattie.
I putted around town in it. Its paint started peeling, and the cloth on the ceiling of the car hung about an inch above my head. I drove it to the grocery store, to clubs, to work. I parked it at work one day in the alley we shared with Snooky’s Pawn Shop. One man from the shop—perhaps Snooky himself—came into the office. He had an appointment and needed to get out of the alley. We walked back together. Then, stopping at my car, he cried, “Hey! Is that your car? My real name’s Arthur!”
I could have hugged him for thinking that I gave my Citation a kicky name, not that I was pretentious or insane.
These days, I go anonymous with the plates. I also try to be kind about plates I see--and I see many here. It could be vanity or jerkishness or any of the other things that might lead one to screw HOT GRL onto one's bumper. Or it could be just misguided love.