Symbols of vanity

Symbols of vanity

Prestige plates like PRETTYZ, JIMMY and CHOTU add to the pride of the car owners.

Remember how you scripted your password for your email account? It should at least be eight words and a mix of both alphabet and numerals. So you thought of something like ahah1946, or 1234ohoh. Right? Now take your car registration number; say KA O4 8355 where KA stands for Karnataka, 04 for the RTO and the rest being the serial number of the vehicle.

Let me now take you to the United States of America where the car registration numbers read, at least to me, like passwords unlike our straightforward KA 04 8355 types. So what do I make out if the vehicle number of the car that overtook ours in New York is 648 P 89 or N 94 CND? Which state, which RTO? And, the vehicle number?

Bitten by this bizarre mixture of alphabet and numerals, I started jotting down these odd looking registration numbers much to the amusement of my daughter. I raked my brains over L 20 CYP, YKR 41 G or 362 ALW which served as license plates as they are officially known in the US.

But more confusion awaited me when I spotted license plates which displayed either only numerals or alphabet, and not a mix. A car with a license plate AROVEJ zoomed past us and even as I wrote it down, my attention was drawn to one that had LATREZ on its license plate. While JSANDAS followed us I spotted JIMMY, and near our house in New York, I found TIPTOP parked. On our way to Niagara, we saw ACETEA coming from the opposite direction. And where did I see BEERAM and KEYTRAIN? There were MENON and CHOTU, too, which evoked distinct Indian flavour. And in the Pittsburgh Balaji temple parking lot, SRIVARU was parked. Lord Balaji in the sanctum sanctorum and SRIVARU outside! As I moved around, I found YELL LAB, SANJANA, JIMMY, PRETTY Z, JOHNNY 99 on the road. 

There were some fully ‘number-walas’, too, that carried license plates  like 90596 or 72138. And there were ones with an alphabet either as a suffix or a prefix like Z 929784 or 37290 N, adorning the front of the car. Moreover, there were many cars with no visible license plates in the front, instead, they had been relegated to the rear, as if they were unimportant. More was in store as I hopped around the vast country. I spotted cars with license plates on which the alphabets had been written one below the other with a number following them. Another variety included license plates of different colours.

So, while a car might make a statement about the owner’s wealth, its license plate is a reflection of his/ her vanity. Hence, the choice is given to make a license plate of their liking and that’s how TIPTOP, MENON, SANJANA move around. No wonder such plates are called vanity plates or prestige plates. They cost extra, of course. But then vanity has a price tag.

So the moral of the story is: Think of any combination of numbers and alphabet, and there will be a car somewhere in the US with such a license plate!

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