December 31, 2009

Man Rant -- This Week's Exercise -- Vanity Plates

1 in 6.18.

Those are the odds that a registered vehicle in Virginia has vanity plates. The Old Dominion is the leader in U.S. states by far for vanity plates per capita.  Overall, there are an estimated 9.3 million registered vehicles in the United States with vanity plates.  Considering that the average cost of a vanity plate is probably about $30 or so, that's at least $270 million dollars spent on a combination of six or seven letters or numbers screwed to the bottom of a car or truck.

 Here's hoping that the recession kills off what's left of this stupid little personality emulator.  I don't have a problem if somebody wants to trick out their car, put moosehorns on the roof, paints it puke green, or otherwise cancels out the factory warranty because, ultimately it's their possession, they need to look at it, and they need to drive it.  The problem with numerous vanity plates, bumper stickers, little metallic fish, and other "read me" car adornments is that they're a facile, moronic form of communication.   You buy a vanity plate because you're apparently trying to tell the world a message.   You want other drivers, strangers with zero impact on you or your entire life, to decipher the cryptic fragment that you LVTOFU.   Hmmm.....either you really dig tofu, or you most probably have self-confidence, performance and intimacy issues.   Either way, your global statement to humanity at large is a cursory, randomized statement of nothingness.   Own a terrier?  Fine.   Hate abortion?  Rock on, Christian soldier.  Want to yell "git 'er done" by superimposing the words on a Confederate flag?  Sure.   Have a kid getting good grades at the local elementary school?  Super.  You're quite possibly an unparalleled model of parenthood.   But plastering it on a car isn't going to make any fellow member of the human race care, change or become aroused one whit.  At all.

Quite the contrary.  Your choice to inform me and others like me similarly situated behind a steering wheel of your political leanings, ability to breed and/or raise children or domesticated animals, preference for sexual techniques, religious steadfastness, etc., is secondary to the fact that you used a form of communication that makes tweeting look like a State of the Union address to do so.  Contrary to popular delusion, this is not an expression of individuality.  There's nothing unique or special about millions of people broadcasting in code language in a six inch square with a mass-produced sticker and/or government-manufactured form of identification.   Do you want to LOLCat your driver's license?  Have your passport info and photo uploaded to Facebook?  Might be neat and cute for about 20 seconds, then realization should hopefully creep in that all that's left over is personal embarrassment and shame.  You're not a special little butterfly.  You're just attention-seeking in a desperately pathetic way.

Of course, the retort is: "Noone is making you look at or read it."  Right.  I'm sitting behind you for hours in D.C. metro traffic, sitting bumper-to-bumper, and I should just avert my gaze from your little metallic message in a bottle.  Tell me again how I should avoid this:

I've never met you in person, probably will never exchange a word or even a glance, and yet I've made a firm and incontrovertible value judgment about you as a person based on six or seven numeric or alphabetical characters.  Most likely, that judgment is that you're an assclown. 

Luckily, there are alternatives.   Vanity license plates are not like tattoos.  They take much less time to deal with than piercings, mohawks, or goth self-hating.  In the parlance of vanity plate: 4GET IT.

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