Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Home of the Barfing Orange

I will never be able to look at Florida's new license plate design again without thinking about barfing oranges. In theory, the plate shows two oranges, with a spray of orange blossoms in the middle. I hadn't even noticed that there was a new plate design; I still thought it was the old single orange.

But as I was walking through the Downtown Disney parking lot last week with a group of friends, one of them pointed to a plate and said, "Doesn't that new design look like a barfing orange?" I squinted at it, and from a distance that's exactly what it looks like! I am a "Little Shop of Horrors" fan, and to me it looked like the man-eating plant, Audrey Two, regurgitating some sort of white substance through green lips. I'm posting the plate design below...you won't know what I'm talking about if you look at it closely, but back off from your computer and it will become readily apparent:
My husband thinks I'm insane. He insists that all he can see is a lovely Floridian portrait of fruit and orange blossoms. But I'm forever traumatized, and I'll never be able to see that plate again without envisioning a barfing orange.

Fortunately, I didn't have to subject Canyonero (my Aztek) to the indignity of bearing one of those plates. Besides being the land of oranges, lizards, gators, and hurricanes, Florida is also Vanity Plate Central. There are literally over 100 plate designs to choose from. Here in the Sunshine State, they'll issue a plate promoting anything from sharing the road with cyclists to paratrooping. Here are just a few examples...we have plates honoring: hospice, golfing, the arts, the state wildflower, the Tampa Bay Estuary (whatever that is), manatees, dolphins, panthers, bass, Native Americans, and survivors of Pearl Harbor. That's just a small sampling! In addition, every college and sports team has their own plate design, so there are over 40 plates in those two categories alone.

If you think I'm exagerating, click here to open a PDF file listing the various options. Sadly, this eight page list doesn't even include some of the newer ones!

When I trooped off to the DMV a few months ago, I had decided that I wanted the spay/neuter plate. I like to do all that I can to prevent more lazy, spoiled rotten cats like mine from entering the world. As I waited in line, I was visually overwhelmed by the wallfull of license plates on display. I was glad that I had pre-determined my choice because otherwise my brain might have exploded from choice overload.

Unfortunately, when I asked the clerk for the spay/neuter plate, she looked at me like I was off my rocker. "I don't think we have that one," she said. "Do you see it up there?" I knew that such a plate existed, but I also knew that I'd never find it among the dozens of little metallic rectangles mounted behind the counter. The pressue was on...what should I do? I knew that no matter what, I didn't want the standard plate. Even before I realized that it portrayed a barfing orange, I didn't want Canyonero to be one among the teeming masses. I wanted something at least halfway unique.

Impulsively, I said, "I'll take the Florida Panther plate." Out of all the choices, it seemed like one of the prettiest:
I like all feline life forms, so I figured it was for a good cause, too. Thus, Canyonero now sports a snarling panther on its backside.

At home, I went online to assure myself that I hadn't imagined the spay/neuter plate. Sure enough, it did exist (I knew that it had to, since Florida has a plate for everything...I think there might even be one to commemorate "My First Hurricane" for new residents). The trick is, I would have had to ask for the "Animal Friend" plate:
Unfortunately, it was too late, so now I'm just a panther friend...to heck with the other critters.

At the moment, my husband and I are getting by with just one car. Since we both telecommute, and we don't have kids who need chauffering, it's pretty easy to juggle one vehicle between us. But I live in fear of the day that a second vehicle might ever become necessary and we might have to go through "plate choice trauma" yet again. Maybe between now and then, they will develop a special plate for people like me: the "I Can't Choose Between So Many Freakin' Options!" plate. I'm sure that would be a popular one.

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