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RUBORNG? Personalized License Plates

Jun 21, 2016
Photographers: Monica Gonderman
“Your license plate is gone,” my husband notified me as I pulled my truck forward in the driveway.
“What?” I replied, hoping that the drone of the truck had confused the message I was hearing. “What do you mean, gone?”
“Like it's not here; it’s missing. Plate and plate holder, gone—not on your bumper.”
Photo 2/3   |   002 Stolen Plate
My stinking truck has always been a magnet for petty theft and childish vandalism, but this, this I could not understand. First off, stealing a license plate really pegs you as the guy who did it. Nothing pins you to my truck like taking its primary identifier. The plate in the thief’s hands would match the one on the front bumper, which was still intact. (Here in California we are required to have front and back plates.) The last guy who messed with my truck didn't want to have anything to do with my license plate, and he courteously left it on the tailgate, screws and all.
Here's where it gets even more ridiculous. My truck's registration was two years overdue, so it wasn't even a legal plate. Stolen and expired—now that’s useful! I didn’t even want to drive it with tags that outdated, but I was in the process of getting it smogged. (And yes, it passed!) And the icing on the cake? My license plate holder was my University of California Irvine Alumni plate, which really meant a lot!
The mysteriously annoying disappearance of my license plate brought up the topic of personalized plates, which, in California, is the option of combining up to seven letters and numbers in a way that's meaningful to you. Of course, you've gotta keep it mostly appropriate. Both my brother and my husband have an affinity for these customized plates, which started with their trucks way back and continues with current vehicles. My husband threatens to just order plates for our vehicles without telling me.
Since I would need new plates anyway, now was the time to join the crew and get my own custom plates. Yes, the temptation was there, but when the conversation came up yet again with my husband, I somehow blurted out that personalized plates were a waste of money. You pay a yearly fee, somewhere in the $40 range. It's not a ton, I realize, but it adds up over the years, especially with multiple custom plates in the family. The last thing most young families need is more fees. This type of expenditure fits into the can-live-without category. So yeah, I told him it was a waste of money. His response? “Well, you're boring.” With my hands in the air I responded, “OK, I'm boring.” And that's how the highschool-like conversation ended.
Photo 3/3   |   001 Imborng Plate
I reject the accusation that my standard-issue license plates make me boring. Besides, all custom plates do is make you an easier target for cops. CUPCAKE is sure a lot easier to discern than a jumble of letters and words. Heck, I had even adopted my old standard-issue plate as my own, using variations for usernames. I had grown to like it over the years. Maybe I'd eventually feel the same sentiment toward the new plate. That is, once I get around to memorizing it.
I'm curious to hear your opinion on personalized plates. Value added? Something you have? Something you want? Have the perfect plate in mind?
In case you were wondering, IMBORNG is available. He told me so.
- OF



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