This log of vanity plates I’ve collected over the past few months happens to run coincident with the recent attention to the Sons of Confederate Veterans “cause plates.” Apparently this Confederate plate has recently sold out in North Carolina, perhaps based on the governor’s recent feint toward banning them.
My civil libertarianism that leans towards allowing the plate as a right to self-expression stands in conflicts with the anti racism sentiments I strongly hold. What about if the state doesn’t like what I stand for? Where do bans on ‘speech’ appropriately end? North Carolina has banned 6,000 license plates with a list of 100 amusing bans found on WRAL’s web site. Why ban “Devil, Got Beer, Sugrdady, Potehd, Immoral, or Work Sux?” as the state has done?
I’ve been driving around wearing my heart on my sleeve, American style meaning beliefs on my bumper, for almost 20 years now. In 1996 I bought “IRECYCLE’ as my first vanity plate and held that for 13 years. When I retired that plate, I opted for a combination vanity and “cause” plate announcing myself as supporter of the N.C. Coastal Federation and not incidentally sending $20 a year their way. “Cause’ plates are limited to four characters so to represent myself, I chose“RE3” for reduce, reuse and recycle. A more arcane message than IRECYCLE, but still knowable to the cognoscenti and maybe those who cogitate on it for a bit.
The combination plate ain’t cheap. The fee for a basic plate plus cause plate plus the vanity plate plus the cost of living in Orange County makes my total 2015 registration $125. While my wife is a bit perturbed by this frivolity, it’s worth it to me because not only does it proudly announce my support for the Coastal Federation along with over 3,000 other NC coast lovers, but the vanity plate premium revenue is divided among other causes I support including flower plantings along the interstate, promoting North Carolina tourism, handicap access travel information and the Clean Water Trust Fund, at least for now. I have no idea what the legislature may do to even these relatively ‘benign’ causes that still enhance our state’s well being.
I am not alone in announcing my loyalties. Over 300,000 N.C. vehicles opt for cause plates, choosing among 248 categories. Over 39,000 of those are also personalized. You’ve seen most of them including many announcing University affiliations. Top five are the Blue Ridge Parkway with over 23,000, Great Smoky Mountains with almost 20,000, then UNC with a paltry 7,700 followed closely by Animal Lovers at 7,500 and then N.C. State with 5,600. Save the Sea Turtles is coming on strong at 5,100. Almost every college in the state system as well as many private schools has some presence and for some reason those with affinity for Georgia Tech, Florida State and other interlopers also feel a need to announce their loyalty within our borders. More true to North Carolina “values” are the fifty-plus NASCAR related plates recognizing everyone from Ricky Stenhouse with one plate topping out with Dale Earnhart Jr. at 412, beating out his late father at 154.
Some of the more interesting ones on the list furnished to me by Margaret Howell of N.C. DOT are “War on Terror Veteran,” “Watermelon,” “Shag Dancing,” “Horseless Carriage” and The Rocky Mountains Elk Foundation. The latter would be hard for me to understand but my brother-in-law from Lexington is a life member, so I guess there must be others, I was surprised there are 1,500 of them though. That means $30,000 to the elk.
During my data-gathering phase over the past few months, I harvested these on the list below, mostly within Orange County but a few scattered in parking lots at the coast or elsewhere. None are made up but I could not resist a bit of parenthetical editorializing.
The first one here is what started the list keeping: “1 the lorax” and the clincher to starting this exercise came when I asked the little girl next to the car why, she told me, “We got it because my dad likes trees a lot.”
Then came roughly chronologically: Tygerpaw, I tattoou, Crab, Bookluvr, War Pig (“It’s Ozzie!” the bearer scoffed, incredulous I didn’t know.) Followed by: Timbrboy, Zhanguo (what or who is that?), Babar 1, Got mold?, Enone, Haybale, Microbes, Dog Dr, (yes, a veterinarian), Train fan, ADgurus1, Spankr (with hand print!), 6SPRBWLS, Rhino#78, Pcewalkr, Birdnbst – When I asked the woman of the couple getting out of the car next to us, she replied “It’s my husband’s band from Raleigh. I'm from Massachusetts and I've never seen this many vanity plates up there.”
More: Giaconda, Figrsktr, Deep 13 (Science on MST3000 – by a scientist), Trebeard, XFit CH, HIKR (on a Smokey Mountains cause plate ), Turtle 4, KEEB, Ibis, Watrdog, Yourgood, AWSME, Clawsout (that one on a red car scared me), Fluffhed (you really want to tell the world?) , DBL YOY (what?), CLAM (on a Core Sound cause plate), Homework on a home improvement van, TPSL on a Save the Sea Turtles cause plate, Neurocar (on the car of a scientist at local firm Neurocog), Practical, Eat Tofu, Stayinin and Antigen.
It was fun. I will never figure out some of these; maybe you can. Those who hold them care feel free to write in explaining themselves.
You can reach Blair L. Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org