Driving either short or long distances can sometimes be boring. Furthermore, it gives one a plethora of things to bellyache about. For instance, being boxed in by heavy traffic, a blazing sun trying to laser you with rays, the brake lights on the vehicle ahead sending out message in Morse code, etc. Citing these excuses as grounds for a miserable time shows just how unimaginative and lazy people can be. There’s a simple solution to traffic tedium and its right in front of you: license plates.
There are more games that emanate from a license plate than come out of a Wii game. Let’s start with the basics: on long trips many people/families take note of the various states they see license plates from. At the conclusion of the trip, this sometimes results in a reward of some sort, like a candy bar, some loose coins or, in the case of abusive parents, one less beating. My wife and I often play this game. We once found a license plate from Guam, which must have resulted in a lot of engine flooding as the person drove over from the South Pacific. Just as an aside, I would doubt that anyone has ever achieved logging all 50 states during a lengthy trip, but it’s still fun to see how many one can amass on the freeway. (Hint to those who are looking for a clever way to cheat: drive up and down the rows of a parking lot at a national attraction like the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH, and you can pick up a ton of hard-to-find plates.)
Another form of amusement is to try to figure out the meaning of certain words found on vanity plates. Sometimes they’re simple, like a plate that reads, “IBILLY,” or “LVR BOY.” But other times they take a fair amount of thinking to correctly interpret them, like a plate that reads “1LESNUT,” which would obviously belong to someone who has had a testicle removed for health reason. See what I’m saying?
Even less common would be to look for license plates that have expired. Think of the scads of fun a family could have following such a vehicle while informing the police of this miscreant, and taking bets how long it takes for a state trooper to thin this scofflaw from the herd. Oh the laughing in the family sedan could be heard three counties away.
My wife and I play a license plate game in honor of my father. His first name was Benjamin (Ben) but unlike his brother, who had two middle names, my dad had none. So whenever I see a license plate with a B and a V in it, if there’s a third letter then I say, “If my dad’s middle name were (fill in the blanks) then that license plate would be his monogram (or initials). I’ll usually state a male name and my wife will come up with a female name (like if there’s an “R” I’ll say “Raoul” and my wife will say “Ruth”).
However, the epitome of license plate fun was something that was taught to me when I was a young, impressionable Hoosier by my Uncle Barney. Barney was a truck driver who drove frozen food from Chicago to various places in Northwest Indiana. He would often stop by my family’s junkyard and, on the days I was there because I didn’t have school, would let me ride with him for several hours to some of his stops, and would drop me off at the junkyard on his way back to Chicago. At the time the license plates of Indiana, and most other states, contained two letters and a bunch of numbers. Barney would take those two letters and make really funny phrases out of them – generally off-color. (Oh, what’s the use of soft-peddling it; they were filthy!) To a young boy who knew all the words because they were spoken repeatedly — and often — at the family businesses, it was hysterical to listen to a real pro put the words into a fluid phrase.
However, the biggest boost in my Uncle’s life didn’t come from monetary gain or anything as crass as that. Not a chance. His whole life opened up to him when states started putting three letters in the plate along with a bunch of numbers. This gave Barney the opportunity to become so creative that, should he utter them in front of grade schools, he could be arrested as a pedophile. For instance, whereas a license plate might once have been “KA 1234,” the best you could imagine would be something like “Kiss Ass.” BUT… with the new system in place the possibilities were endless. A license plate like “KMA 1234” could see the “M” word as “My,” “Marie’s”, “Monkey’s,” etc.
My Uncle Barney has long-passed on, but the family tradition of creative filth lives in his nephew and I’ve interpreted license plates that could make me blush. I’ll point them out to my wife and she will, of course, say that it’s just in my mind that these disgusting phrases are being spelled out. But if I’m thinking of them, I’m sure others are as well, and that’s no way to maintain an ethical, righteous citizenry.
So the next time you’re behind the wheel and traffic backs up don’t get angered; rather, think of it as a break from a hectic commute, and enjoy the challenge of identifying horrifically-filthy statements that appear harmlessly on a piece of tin. Thanks to the tutelage of Word Wizards like my Uncle I’ve learned to hold a “civil” conversation with myself (and others, when need be). And if this doesn’t appeal to your sense of fun then please be on the lookout for a license plate with the letters “GFY.” Those three little words say it all...