Sunday, July 31, 2005

Backroads and License Plates

I’m on vacation at the beach in North Carolina and the weather is doing its best at making this experience memorable and less than desirable. It’s raining. It’s been raining more than not for the past three days. But I had a good drive down here—taking the back roads through Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. How else could I’ve seen Annie Oakley’s gravesite, stop at local potters, or drive through an Ohio town that had a sign noting that it was a "Certified Clean Community?" And just what is a clean community? Do they have a community ordinance that all children must bath regularly? Or have they cleaned up their toxic landfill? Or have they outlawed dirty bookstores? I should have stopped and asked. But I didn’t. Instead, I spent the trip looking at license plates.

Just before leaving home, I’d read about Kentucky’s discontinuation of its smiley sun license plates. According to the announcement complaints have poured in from those who dislike the plates. Who with the possible exception of a psychopath road rage warrior would complain about a smiley sun? I’d not even seen one, but about halfway through Ohio (near the certified cleaned community), I spotted my first. It didn’t look bad, except that the sun resembles the rising sun in the toddler’s television show, Tele-Tubbies. Other than a lawsuit from the producers of that hideous show, I couldn’t see why Kentucky would want to change their plates. After all, many states feature a sun. New Mexico is the only one that sports a risen sun, at least as far as I could determine through my unscientific study. My own truck’s license plate features a partial sun either rising before or setting behind the Mackinaw Bridge. Both of Kentucky’s neighbors, to the north and the south, feature a partially risen sun. Of course, Florida, whose plate features oranges as large as the sun, lays claim to the sunshine state.

Most states try to say something clever on their plates. My home state of North Carolina has a plate bragging that it’s "first in flight." Not to be outdone, Ohio boasts of being the "birthplace of aviation." And both are true, the first flight occurred in North Carolina on Kitty Hawk, by the Wright Brothers, who obviously chose the location in order to catch the fall Bluefish run. Their plane was built in Dayton, Ohio, an early example of outsourcing. Ohio also has a plate bragging that she’s "the heart of it all." This trend to see one’s state as the center of the universe is catching. Indiana is "the Crossroads of America" and Alabama is "the heart of Dixie." South Carolina has at least two different sayings. For those who feel that God’s getting shortchanged these days, there is the "In God we trust" plate. I wish those from the lessor of the Carolina’s would learn that having such faith doesn’t mean you can drive like a bat out of hell. The other saying on South Carolina’s plate brags even more, "Smiling faces, beautiful places." The smiling faces must have been of coeds on Clemson’s campus. I’m not sure about the beautiful places, maybe the author was thinking about a site just north of the state line.

Another trend I noticed in license plate design is the inclusion of state websites. Wireless Internet users could type in http://www.in.gov/ and discover what’s going on in Indiana. Florida, Pennsylvania and Georgia have followed suit. And people think cell phone users are dangerous. Of course, tailgating in order to read the fine print on the plates isn't the safest activity around.

I hope the sun shines for a least a few hours tomorrow. I wanna dig my toes into some warm sand, ride a few waves, read some, nap a bit under the rays of the sun, all while jumpstarting melanoma.

1 comment:

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