vanityLast night on my way into the hockey rink, I noticed a vanity license plate on a non-descript car in the parking lot. It said, simply, “JRS PLS“. Most logical folks would assume that these are the owners initials, and rightly so. Not being logical, I began running scenarios through my mind, like “do they mean JUNIORS, PLEASE? Do they hate senior citizens?” And I wondered what their initials stood for. Are their names “Jamiroquai Rufus Steinbeck” and “Penelope Lorena Sanchez“? Or am I just completely out of my mind with idiocy for dwelling on something so inconsequential?  The answer is definitely, maybe.

But sanity notwithstanding, it made me think about vanity plates as a concept. First off, I doubt anyone who has vanity plates ever refers to them as such, because it would make you sound, well, vain, if you peppered your cocktail party conversation with “I was down at the Department of Motor Vehicles today and ordered some vanity plates for my new Prius”. You are therefore announcing to the world that you are, yes, vain enough to display the word “TREHUGR” on your new hybrid. You are spending double digits to make this proclamation. So I like to imagine folks with vanity plates probably refer to them as “custom plates” or they try and bullshit their acquaintances with lines like “oh that? That’s mere coincidence that I, Alex Sheldon Smith, got a plate that said ‘ASS MAN‘”. And I’m fine with that, I really am. How a person chooses to spend their disposable income is an autonomous joy; some people choose to spend $50 on a bag of weed. And I would gladly piss away 50 bones in one evening at Patton Alley Pub just to enjoy good Guinness and good company. Therefore, I’m in no position to define what goes through the mind of the individual who feels the need to display a license plate on his ’72 Corvette that states that this is, indeed, a “72VETTE“. Other Corvette aficionados should be able to discern this fact without needing to be told by the State of Missouri plate, and quite frankly the rest of the populace isn’t going to waste too much time wondering “now just what year IS that iconic piece of automotive history? I won’t sleep until I have the answer. WAIT! There, on the plate……AHHHHHHHHHH, okay, just as I thought – it’s a ’72. I damn well suspected that all along, Edith, I really did.

Which brings us to the next logical step when considering the importance of vanity plates in the collective scheme of things: The Lyin’ Dutchman. The Dutchman had/has a special place in his heart for vanity plates, but only one will do; it will read, boldly and simply, “GULJE“. I suspect this is for several reasons. The first is that he always wants the world to know he’s coming. This in and of itself is totally unnecessary, because my dad always has a flair for garish automobiles that could never be mistaken for anyone elses’ ride. From the screaming banana yellow Mustang (which resembled an infant’s full diaper in color) to the battleship grey Dodge Colt with the hand applied black “racing stripes” and corresponding numbers painted on the hood, there was never a doubt as to who owned the weirdest pile of car in the neighborhood. And if the make, model and custom paintwork did not alert you, there was comfort in knowing that he ALWAYS took the time to glue miniature figurines across the dashboard for his own amusement. Amusing, sure, to him, but fatally embarrassing when you arrived at school having to explain the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote chase scene taking place on the dash. Add to this some “custom” paintwork that he would apply to a spare tire cover on a beat up old Dodge Ram (usually it was the name he gave to the vehicle) and a Darth Vader mask that he would wear once in a while, and you begin to understand why my brothers and I preferred our bikes as a means of transportation.

Thus, our family had “GULJE” license plates in the old black and yellow colors of California, the blue and yellow ones, the white and red and other schematics that came out with each new vehicle purchase. By boldly pronouncing that “GULJE” was driving down the road, he was able to have a vehicular posse precede him, if you will. In fact, he was so enamored of the idea that he often referred to himself by his last name, and liked it when others did as well. That, or alternatively, “Mr. G“, which happened to ALSO be the name of his boat. So, conceivably, Mr. G could be driving Gulje to the lake so Gulje could take Mr. G out for a spin. It was a confusing time in which to grow up. This could also explain my love of random license plate numbers whose only purpose in life is to make it easier for the cops to expedite the ticket writing process. My last name is hard enough to pronounce, let alone explain and spell. So much so that it’s crossed my mind to take that old license plate off the shop wall and lug it around with me as a form of identification.

But, like clouds in my coffee, that would be pretty damn vain, wouldn’t it?