Monday, January 09, 2006

What Vanity?

Vanity license plates are a pipe dream of many a car owner. Hey, for $15 extra a year you (or your friends... or your enemies) can peg your car from yards away. Amuse people. Confuse them. Or just tick them off. Heck, just pay the $15 once and then switch back to a normal plate the next year if you want to just nail it to the wall of your rumpus room.

I'm always intrigued to run across a real doozy. For instance, there was a little car (mustardy in color if I recall correctly) that used to park down on Exchange Street in Portland way back when, with the license plate "FUNGI". They had pro-mushroom bumper stickers, too. Then a few years later I saw a giganto red pickup truck rattling around town with the plate "ARMPIT" -- not something I've ever forgotten, as you can see (more on "ARMPIT" later).

Plates like this also make roadtrips fun. Our trip to Lake George NY a year and a half ago netted us a Jeep parked just off the road with the plate "REDRUM". Yoiks!

Well, if you've ever had fantasies of a plate of your own, you can check them on the Maine government site. It's pretty cool. If the plate is available, it'll even pull up a picture of it as a sample (endless fun, here). For a long time I wanted "MACABRE" on my plate, but then I figured I should just paint it on my car (also a fantasy -- some small black muscle car, not too flashy or gassy). I think I'd probably paint it in cool, creepy-looking green letters. Maybe even throw on a few green flames for good measure. It's good that I decided on this alternate route, because someone else already owns "MACABRE," which intrigues me. Who is it??? Gah! The suspense is killing me.

My roommate, who is a heavy metal maven, has the plate "BATHORY" on her red chariot. An ex-boyfriend had "INXTSKI," very appropriate to his skibum mentality. Chris W used to have "MOULTY" on her plate, and got approached about it because there was a South Portland guy with the last name Moulton who had been pursuing a collection of all the Maine license plates that had variants of his name and nicknames on them, and was going nuts because someone else had "MOULTY." Go figure!

The one drawback of the Maine vanity site is that it only tells you if a plate is "unavailable." It doesn't say whether it is unavilable because it is "inappropriate" or because someone else is using it (I figured this much out by typing in "ASSH*LE", using the actual spelling, of course). So I will never know if the license plate "JERK" is actually unavailable or if it is just inacceptable to the State of Maine's sense of decency.

Okay, just for fun (like everyone else), I typed in a bunch of stuff that occurred to me to see who was using what. I can tell you that the following fine selections are indeed available as of the writing of this article (but they may go quickly now that folks know they're up for grabs! so watch out! you there!!!):
HAUNTER (any other Spooky Worlders up here? Probably not.)
SAUSAGE (now there's a choice one)
NOSTRIL (not too surprising, I suppose)
BALONEY and BALOGNA (take your pick!)
ARMPIT (you see? This guy gave up his mantle of ARMPIT for you. For YOU! who will be the next ARMPIT to carry on this proud legacy??? P.S. Must own pickup truck.)

On the downside, I was crushed to find out that both STRANGE and WEIRD are already taken. Also hopelessly lost to us are the following (at least until someone gets tired of paying the $15 extra a year):
DOOM and DOOMED (very thorough of them)
DOODLE as well as POODLE and in fact also NOODLE

Got any Strange Maine License Plate Tales of your own? Or pictures? Let me know! Photos can be sent to msouliere(AT) (you know where the ampersand goes).

Here is Chris's story in her own words!
I used to have the license plate MOULTY. Moulty was the drummer for the 60s band the Barbarians. He lost his hand in an accident and played with his drumstick strapped to a hook!!

One day I was at a local park when I heard someone shout, "Hey! Do you own that car?" I turned to see a large policeman heading my way. When I stated that the car was mine, he said, "I've been trying to track you down for a long time."

My heart froze in terror as I questioned what illegal thing I may have inadvertently done, or whether this was some horrible case of mistaken identity and I was about to be maimed or arrested for something I hadn't done.

It turned out the cop's last name was Moulton. His family had already gotten every variation of Moulton they could think of on their license plates. He really wanted Moulty for his daughters car, and was surprised it was taken.

He checked each year to see if it was available. He was hoping he'd run into the owner so he could ask why they had chosen that for their license.


Chris Jart said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Jart said...

What you didn't mention is that the guy who approached me was a cop, and he scared the hell out of me! Imagine a large policeman coming towards you asking if you own the car, and when you say yes, he drawls, "I've been looking for you for a looooong time."

He was actually really nice, but I thought I was about to be systematically beaten and arrested in a case of mistaken identity.

Chris said...

Imagine seeing the REDRUM guy's plate in your rear-view mirror. I think I'd let him pass.