Friday, July 25, 2008

CRE8N PL8S by Jenny Gardiner

Sometimes there is a Grand Canyon-esque gulf between how one spouse approaches something and how the other one does. Over the years there have been certain marital undertakings that I learned the hard way should have been handled by one, not both of us. There was the Great Wallpapering Debacle early in our marriage, an experience that about destroyed our union in the first year of operation. But we managed to traverse that trying experience, if barely. Despite my husband’s cynically dubbing me “Mrs. Goodenough” because I didn’t exactly care about the accuracy of my plumb line. After all, the house wasn’t plumb; how could my strip of wallpaper be? As far as I was concerned, it was good enough!

Then there was the whole child-rearing venture. Talk about a situation highly-charged with potential for ongoing disagreement. Sheesh!

We recently hit upon yet another source of conjugal conflict: selecting a vanity license plate. This task was already fraught with warning signs. After all, the old mini-van I drove for years carried a vanity plate that he couldn’t stand (IMSOOL8). While I have a propensity to screech into my destination about 10 minutes late, my husband veers toward the punctuality of an Army sergeant. That my car ratified my glaring timing inadequacies didn’t thrill him, as if it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For laughs I suggested he get a coordinating plate on his car so that when parked side-by-side in the garage, mine would read IMSOOL8 and his would read IM NOT. He didn’t find it so amusing. But he tolerated my tell-all plate because it was on the car I was stuck driving.

As a mom, I long ago resigned myself to being mistress of the mundane mini-van. It’s the most practical vehicle for hauling kids, particularly kids who love to trash the interior of cars. I hadn’t anticipated an escape from mini-van-dom for another decade. But out of the blue recently, we happened into a really cool used convertible just as our decrepit spare van keeled over, it’s second transmission beyond resuscitation.

So finally. Finally! After 20 years, I get to drive a less-than-lame car. One that’s free of the stench of wet dogs and the detritus from kid abuse. This car’s got pizzazz. Up until now, the closest thing to pizzazz associated with my vehicles were pizzas: slices of them dropped on the filthy fur-coated carpet or left to petrify in the back seat, forgotten by absent-minded kids who dined and dashed there. For this stylish car we needed a plate to fit its personality. But because we share the car, we had to agree on a plate. To me it was a no-brainer---it had to be something that would herald the onset of mini-van liberation. IMFREEE came to mind, but seemed a little much. VANLESS? Eh, not so bad, but lacked oomph.

I love reading license plates---it keeps me from complete highway boredom. I could read clever license plates all day long (though thank goodness I’ve never had to do that, as it would mean I was incarcerated in the big lock-up and I was the official license plate inspector).

License plate design provides a chance to exercise your creativity. Alas my husband tends to take the ho-hum snoozer approach with plates (i.e. just put on the one that comes with the car), which I suppose is okay, as long as all parties are in agreement on it.

So for starters, I had a terrific plate idea that would have betrayed my political leanings. My husband nixed it for fear of the car being keyed by ape-ish oafs who object to freedom of speech. Fair enough. This just meant I had to come up with something better.

I next pitched PROFLG8 to him. He laughed at me, insisting no one even knows what it means. Okay, a survey of everyone we knew proved him right (in case you were wondering, it means extravagant). But still, it was at least different. Next came LIDLESS. Perfect for a convertible. Nixed. NFA28D. Nope. I don’t know about him, but I sure am infatuated with that car. MAKNTYM, HD OVRHL, FRIVOLS, OHAPYDY, DNT BH8N, B-DRAGLD, NO ENNUI, 42ITOUS, JUSNTYM, ATI-2DNL, FYNALEE, SUBLIME, HLF ASLP (I wake early). All rejected. TOPLESS. Vetoed for obvious reasons.

My naming prospects were diminishing. I was frustrated. So instead I started coming up with clever plates for other people. ADJUDIC8. Perfect for a judge. LEGISL8. Many a do-nothing politico on Capitol Hill could use that. How about the multi-use IV LEAG? Could work for a nurse or Princeton grad. VNDIC8D. Ideal for that special someone just released from prison after serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. I made a very long list, including one that I now can’t even interpret (NTNELYN). Oh, yeah--that was supposed to be Nittany Lion (mascot of my much-loved alma mater, Penn State). Never mind. And then there's the ever-so-clever anesthesiologist plate: I IN2B8U. I mean come on, that's a good one, you'll have to agree. My old babysitter's mom was an oral hygienist and she had this one on her car: TTH PCKR.

That I devote even the least bit of time to such endeavors perhaps says less about my creative aptitude and more about my latent obsessive tendencies. What can I say? I’m a wordsmith at heart. Creative license-plating is my New York Times crossword puzzle. Maybe it’s my inner mathematician (the one I thought died doing long division in fourth grade) screaming out at me, trying to make clever words through seven-digit letter/number combinations. If so, she’d probably be of more use if she’d correctly balance my checkbook occasionally.

I’m not going to tell you the plate we chose. Suffice it to say each time I look at it I stifle a yawn. I’ve also realized that if my plate were a car, it would be a mini-van. Worse still: now that it’s on the car, we realize that the letter combination can also be misread to be something entirely inappropriate. So if you do see me driving by, spare me the catcalls. Trust me, I really did try to provide my fellow motorists something more amusing to interpret while driving. Perhaps I achieved this inadvertently. Who knows? Not to worry. My license plate ideas are definitely INCHO8. Look it up.


Kalynne Pudner said...

The vanity plates are definitely one of the Top Ten Things I Miss about Virginia: you get 7 characters, and it only costs $10! (So you don't have to be PRFLIG8 to PRTICP8.)

In Alabama, we only get 6, and it costs $50. Still, when I register MY new convertible this week (GR8MNDS, you and I, thinking alike), it's going to have a vanity plate: UVAPHD. Which would be perfectly understandable in Virginia, though probably INCHO8 in Alabama.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Isn't it great? Plus you can pro-rate them if you choose one that people mistakenly think has a pornographic message on it and you need to change out.
That's awful w/ six--you can't get any good messages on there. California has 8, and that would be ideal for me...
You totally crack me up, Kalynne! One of these days we can get together INVA and CR8PLS over drinks...

Suzanne Macpherson said...

POSITUDE is the one we came up with LOL. ~~ hey you are way good at this. way better than me. I obviously only have a right brain. The left has gone dormant. this comes of having four children I think.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

we were just talking about how our brains are saturated with information. No room left for anything but mindless nonsense. So once the kids grow up and leave do we get our brains back?

Pat Cochran said...

OK....great pastime, but my brain is too tired to attempt any activities
of the mental sort!

Pat Cochran

Nathalie said...

I did not know we could chose... I like the randomness of the thing!