Photo Essay: Creative License

Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2011 in Features

Photo Essay: Creative License

by Steve Cartwright

Vanity is so secure in the heart of man that everyone wants to be admired: even I who write this, and you who read this. Blaise Pascal 

Vanity, in seven letters or less, is securely attached to many Maine car bumpers, too. Most of these photos are from my own self-indulgent collection. There is my current license plate, NEWS, that I’ve had for more than a decade. It reflects my career in journalism, as did a former plate I had, REPORT. That’s serious, I guess, although one editor, cynical about the decline of newspapers, saw the plate and said “that’s the only place you’ll find.”

On a lighter note, one of my favorites was a van that had the plate: VAN-ITY. My wife Kathy has C-OTTER on her car, since that’s her nickname. When I owned a little two-seater sports car, I had PURRS on the plates, for the sound of the engine and because I love cats.

Someone has 21AGAIN, indicating he just bought the sports car of his dreams at more than twice that age.

How about 4GV 4GET? Or 2HOT4U? Seems like these could lessen road rage, which simmers in summer traffic jams.

I had WE SAIL on my old Saab, but it seemed kind of smug. So what, you might say. It’s like those window signs that say Baby on Board. Do I really need to know that? 

Once in awhile I can’t figure out a vanity plate, kind of like those newspaper Jumbles … but then you see it, oh yeah!

The reigning local expert on vanity plates is my friend Holly Sherburne, who has just authored a book called "The Maine Plate," guaranteed to be, in the words of one plate, WKIDFUN. And on a light note, oh, FDDL-DD you might say. A support-wildlife plate says BKIND2.

There’s causes, such as the stamp-out-breast-cancer vanity plate that says ELIMN8. Or an aggressive challenge: TRYPASN.

You pay a surcharge for vanity plates, every year. Twenty smackers the first year, 15 bucks annually thereafter. But you get status, a conversation piece, a reminder that life isn’t all heavy. It can be whimsical, even flirtatious, and most of all, fun. As one plate I saw years ago put it, WUPTIDO.

Then there’s the Maine plate I had on my 1961 Volvo in my teens: WILD. You can interpret that any way you like.


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