Sunday, March 23, 2008

License Plates

I am a person who knows quite a bit about license plates - it's one of the little bonuses you get when you've been sitting in traffic jams for 30 years.

In the United States, each state has its own distinctive plate and most of these have a slogan imprinted on them, usually right beneath the numbers. Sometime in the '80s I thought it would be cool to memorize each state's slogan and then, once I'd done that, to challenge passengers to "ask me any state and I'll tell you the slogan" (if it has one). Rarely would I be stumped and it was (and hopefully still is) a little entertainment for my passengers, if they can tear themselves away from these damned televisions all NYC cabs now have in the rear compartment.

Most of these slogans are really advertisements for how great that state is or why you should go there and spend your money. Maine's slogan, for example, is "Vacationland". Louisiana's is "Sportsman's Paradise". But there are a few that go against the grain, and these are my personal favorites:

1. Oklahoma - "Oklahoma Is OK". This slogan is taken from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! and if you know the show and the song itself you would know that what they're really telling you is, hey, Oklahoma is a really swell place, why don't you come on over sometime? But if you weren't familiar with the show you could easily imagine that the people who thought this thing up must have low self-esteem. "Oklahoma? Well, to be honest, it's not really that great... it's, well, you know... okay."

2. Missouri - "The Show-Me State". Here's a slogan that clearly says, "I don't trust you." Which is awfully close to just saying, "Fuck you!" Gotta love a state that's upfront with its hostility. But maybe if they start to feel better about things they might consider changing it to "The Anger Management State".

3. New Hampshire - "Live Free Or Die". Uh, aren't we being just a bit extreme here? Couldn't we work out a compromise? How about "Live Free Or Live Not Quite Completely Free"? Or "Live Free Or Live A Bit Encumbered By Circumstances We're Not Fully In Control Of"? I mean, do we have to die?

Here in the States, if owners of cars pay an extra fee, they can have their plates personalized. These kinds of plates can be messages which have meaning only to a few people, like this one...

...or they can be Messages To The World, which can be quite interesting. Now that I'm armed with a camera, I've taken to snapping shots of these kinds of plates whenever I can pull up to them at a red light. So, for your viewing pleasure, please check these out...


Say what? You want more? Well, dude, just click here for Pictures From A Taxi.


Mike S said...

A couple friends compete with each other on everything. They're brothers and both own their own businesses, and they try to outdo each other on their company cars plates. One owns a radiator mfg company & has 'WECOOL8' (7 characters max) & the other has a business running 'super-sucker' vacuum trucks. His current plate says 'BDNZSUX':)

John said...

Then there was the guy who thought about a personalized number plate until he found out how much it would cost him.
So he did it the other way round.
He changed HIS name to KZL 1482

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

The best part about the New Hampshire license plates is that they used to be made by prisoners. Think about seeing that slogan every day.

who_the said...

My favorite ever, seen on a Porsche 911 driving north on the West Side Highway just before the GWB:


Awesome blog. Another S.F. cabbie keepin' tabs. Cheers!