Between labor and leisure, I put in quite a bit of windshield time traveling life’s highways. Fortunately, the driving I do is rarely monotonous. While the experience of sliding behind the wheel of that 1966 Corvair Monza ragtop for the first time as a legal driver in 1967 isn’t quite the same, I still enjoy driving.
There’s of course quite a bit of variety beyond the ditches on both sides of my roads, even in Ohio, which often gets a bad rep for being too flat and uninteresting. As someone who’s driven long stretches of the West Texas Plains and saw little off the road beyond scrub brush and an occasional gathering of free-ranging cattle, I can safely say Ohio’s landscape is far more interesting.
Now, when it comes to what interests me the most, it’s remained the same ever since sis Joannie and I competed for who could spot the most license plates from different states during our family vacations from my hometown of Chicago to my father’s former stomping grounds in Lynn, Massachusetts. Even to this day, it’s the first thing I notice when a car passes me or I pass them.
When it comes to all those metal products of inmates, of course, I still collect my states the same as sis and I once did, but I also am always on the spy for those specialty plates and the messages that individuals feel compelled to display. While folks didn’t have much choice in the combination of letters and numbers back in 1903 when Massachusetts became the first state to issue plates for automobiles, over time, states have allowed, for an up charge, of course, individuals to select what they wish to display as long as it’s not offensive in some way in the eyes of the good old Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
In 2017, you might be interested to know that, according to the website Cleveland19.com, 330 personalized plate requests in Ohio were denied, some, no doubt by disgruntled Democrats who still haven’t gotten over who’s residing these days at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Among those rejected were “45 A LIAR,” “WTF TRUMP” and “45 SUCKS.”
In many ways, I think, this specialized-plate business is a way for someone to say that among the billions of people wandering around the globe, I’m here, and this license plate is the proof! At least, that’s what I think Frasier Crane might say.
Now, for a brief moment a while back I did ponder ponying up some extra cabbage to put my nickname, Grinder,” on my plates, that is, until I was walking through the Columbus Zoo parking lot with my Lady Jane and saw on a pickup truck my nickname, and that put an end to that notion.
Then, I thought a bit about emblazoning the plates with a favorite team. Of course, professional football was out since, as a Browns fan, I feared the ridicule. Perhaps a greater fear was that I might start finding Browns tickets stashed under my windshield wiper when I came back out of the mall.
I also considered something New York Yankee-related, say, “Yank 1,” that is, until I started to ponder the misunderstanding that can result with those double entendres, so that one was dismissed as well.
As for any Ohio State or Notre Dame references, well, I’m pretty sure that every possible combination, from “BUCKNUT” to “ND LUV” has already been snagged.
As for any occupational affiliation on a plate, during my teaching days, I really never considered displaying that, I suppose, for fear of some vandalistic retribution from some disgruntled student. During my bartending days, I also eschewed any identification like “TENDER” or “BAR MATE,” feeling that wasn’t much more prudent than a message like “I LUV BEER” as far as attracting undue interest from our friends in law enforcement.
Nowadays, as a customer-service rep for a cleaning company, there are some possibilities, I suppose, but none very enticing. I suppose I could do something like “I WRITE,” but that wouldn’t be establishing anything very unique. Since pretty much everybody can write, I’m not sure that proclamation would be much different than “I HEAR” or “I TASTE.” One that did pass through my mind until I realized it was over the seven-character limit was “EZ WRITER.”
While I know I could drop a vowel and squeeze it in, I think I’ll pass and just stick with some random letters and numbers and relative anonymity. I’ll save any messaging I have for the ballcaps, sweatshirts and t-shirts that occupy two full sets of drawers and two closets’ worth of shelves in my upper chambers and continue to be on the spy for what others wish to display.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.