Vanity Tag Fans Find a Bumper Crop of GR8 Plates

Randy Bograd's 1967 Amphicar, an amphibious car manufactured in Germany in the 1960s, has a vanity tag that simply tells it like it is.
Randy Bograd's 1967 Amphicar, an amphibious car manufactured in Germany in the 1960s, has a vanity tag that simply tells it like it is. (Family Photos)
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By John Kelly
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monday's column about Bruce Powers's infatuation with vanity license plates inspired readers to share their own sightings.

Frank McNeirney of Bethesda said his all-time favorite is one he saw when he lived in Arlington in the mid-1980s. "It was affixed to a car that Chrysler made back then, the Plymouth Horizon. The car's color was blue. Its plate: BEYOND."

Hughesville's Bill Branick got a kick out of the plate on a beautiful, fire-engine-red Corvette he once sat next to at a light. "The California vanity tag read 2 CDUCE U. Bet the guy practices what he was preaching!"

Nancy Welch of Takoma Park says she is particularly enamored of dog-related plates: ARF, WOOF, 2LABS, XL K9. "My own plate is BGDGZ," she said, "which I proudly tag around in just in case folks can't identify my Great Dane car companions. . . . But the best ever is PB4UGO. Pretty much says it all."

A reader named Wendy said her plate says NU YAWK. "I was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, and I take personal pride in showing off my home state."

Randy Bograd's plate reads CARBOAT, which makes perfect sense, since it's on an Amphicar, an odd little German import made from 1961 to 1968. It's a car that goes in the water. Or is it a boat that goes on land?

The District's Martha Adler takes us into meta-territory with the tag on her car: LCNSPL8. "It's fun to watch people in crosswalks try to figure it out, their looks of puzzlement and then their 'aha' moments."

Stefan Lonce, author of the forthcoming "License to Roam: Vanity License Plates and the Gr8 Stories They Tell," pointed out that Connecticut does not have the highest per capita use of personalized plates. That honor goes to Virginia, where 16 percent of registered vehicles have custom tags. Connecticut is seventh, with 8 percent. In Maryland and the District, about 2 percent of registered vehicles have vanity plates, below the national average of about 4 percent.

Finally, Brenda K. Bickel of Bethesda reminds us that every personalized tag lover should check out "Preamble," a work of art on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Artist Mike Wilkins re-created the Preamble to the Constitution "with vanity license plates entirely, with no other added text!"

A Weather Eye

As I write this, icky weather is in the forecast. Will it come to pass? Who knows. This is Washington. Anything can happen. Whether it comes or not, I thought I'd let reader Bob Leffler of Damascus have the last -- or at least the next -- word on President Obama's Washington weather-wimp comments.

Bob is a retired government climatologist -- and an Obama supporter. He pointed out that Chicago had its own weather disaster in 1995, when a heat wave resulted in the deaths of about 500 people. The high temperature during the heat wave was a record 107 F. Wrote Bob: "Yes, hot, but if we compare it to Phoenix, it palls. Phoenix's average July maximum is 105 F with an all-time high of 121 F. Phoenix does not experience anything close to the heat deaths Chicago does."

But woe to the person who called Chicagoans weather wimps for expiring in such conditions. "Any locale is adapted it its average climate," Bob said. "Regardless, extreme situations can occur anywhere -- like ice -- where stuff is forced to shut down in the interest of public safety."

Furthermore, as far as winter goes, Washington has some aspects of life that Chicago doesn't. "For example, does Chicago have tens of thousands of visitors (embassy employees, tourists, etc.) on any given day from the tropics where snow does not exist? No. Does Chicago have the second-worst traffic congestion in the country? No. Is Chicago's infrastructure and society better equipped to handle the normally much greater snowfalls it receives? Yes. Is it economical for D.C. to be set up to handle its much more meager snow/ice the same way as Chicago? No. Can the District's worldly, diverse population be expected to handle winter weather and cold as well as Chicago does. Absolutely not.

"Everyone should understand and respect the fact that not every city in the country can socially or economically be equipped to handle winter weather as well as Chicago. Much the same as Chicago is not equipped to handle heat as Phoenix residents do. Let's be respectful of each other's differences."

Well put, Bob.

Agree? Disagree? Agree to disagree? Weigh in on "John Kelly's Commons," my blog: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/commons. My e-mail: kellyj@http://washpost.http://com.


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