We bought new tags for our cars last week, and for the first time in a long while we got actual plates instead of the little decals that updated our vehicles every year.
You can’t say the state didn’t get its money’s worth from my old metal plate; it kept me legal for more than a decade, and how much could those little reflective decals each year have cost the folks in Atlanta? There were so many of them on my tag (decals, not Atlantans) that the stack stood out like a poor man’s Stonehenge.
This year, Georgia finally brought out new plates for drivers whose cars are old as the hills. Mine easily met that criterion. It’s been around for 138,000 miles so far, which is nothing compared to my previous car. Its odometer registered 233,461 miles when I bought my current car 12 years ago, and that old car ran perfectly when I let it go.
For a car guy, I have owned very few in my life. Since the fall of 1977, I have owned only three: a sedan that lasted only 110,000 miles; the 1988 sedan that put 233,461 miles on me during its 14 years; and the 2001 that I drive now and expect to drive for a long time more. (If you take care of a vehicle, there is no reason to fix what ain’t broke.)
All told, those three cars have rolled up nearly half a million miles, and they did it on only a few license plates.
We had our old tags for so long that I knew their numbers by heart. Mine was easy because it happened to read like a combination of my car’s advertising slogan and its horsepower. My wife’s had less of a pattern, and she never learned it.
Does anyone really need to learn a tag number, you say? My wife probably does.
Many years – and several cars – ago, she returned to her sedan in a parking lot, unlocked it with the key, got in and started the engine. Before driving off, she looked around the interior. Who had cleaned her car?
She was in someone else’s car – another vehicle that was the same make, model, body style and color. Her key had opened the door and started the engine.
(The auto manufacturers make only so many key designs, so I suppose it was inevitable that we would encounter two cars using the same keys.)
With a final look around at the spotless interior, my wife got out, locked it and searched around for her own car. I would like to say she searched for her tag, but the truth is, she goes by color and doesn’t always walk toward the right car the first time, but just one in the same shade of gray.
MOORE WORDS: By the way, the Online Etymology Dictionary says the word “tag,” when meaning a license plate, was first recorded in 1935, having evolved from a Scandinavian word around 1400 meaning “prickle or thorn,” and later “a small hanging piece.” About the same time, “plate” originally was a flat sheet of silver or gold. That means my old car is running around with a tag, not a license plate.