My $30 license tab promised by Tim Eyman cost way more this year, because the tab came packed inside a large envelope containing two new license plates.
How, I wondered, can the state be sending Christmas presents in the present economic climate? Then I noticed the $70-plus total for tab and plates, and I realized you shouldn’t look a gift plate in the tab. The state had somehow decided I needed new license plates and kindly ordered them for me.
Had the state asked, it would have found that I was perfectly happy with my old plates. In fact, after five years of ownership, I already had them half-memorized. The plate ended with three letters, NXM, which I related to former president Richard Nxm, who devoted his time to making Bob Woodward famous. He was also the last liberal Republican who believed in wage and price controls, environmental rules and breaking-and-entering.
Shortly after my new plates arrived I saw a newspaper article explaining that the state requires new plates every seven years, whether you need them or not. My plates were perfectly fine, usually the cleanest part of the car. I wipe them off in the winter so if I drive into a snow bank the investigating officer can read my back license plate without getting out of his car. I try to make things as easy as possible for the police. When I see a flashing light behind me I pull over. I guess everyone does that, but not everyone gets out of his car and flops face down on the ground, just in case they’re coming after me. It’s particularly irritating to be lying in the mud and see that the flashing light belongs to a fire truck, not a police car, but that’s the price you pay for wanting to help the police in their difficult job.
Supposedly, Washington’s license plates lose their glow-in-the-dark iridescence after seven years, which is why they have to be replaced. But I live in a dark area where sometimes the license plate is the only thing I can see illuminated by a faint moon as an owl hoots in the distance. Without that shining license plate in the driveway, the dog and I would never find our way home. We’d wander Whidbey Island endlessly, like lost souls in the cemetery.
Regardless, the state sent me two new plates, presumably with fresher radioactive paint to glow even better in the dark. It was the same picture of Mount Rainier, but the license numbers and letters were different. I grumbled that I’d almost had the previous plate’s numbers memorized (one of them was 9), and now I’d have to start all over. Considering the aging process, I doubted I’d remember any of the numbers in another 7 years.
However, the letters on the new plates had possibilities: ZMD. That was easy to remember, as it reminds my of Dr. Z, at Whidbey General Hospital. He’s the most famous of all the doctors and serves on the board. Anyone would assume, seeing a car with a ZMD plate, that it belongs to Dr. Z. You know what that means? I can park anywhere at the hospital — loading zone, disabled zone, emergency zone, doctors-only zones, it doesn’t matter, because everyone knows Dr. Z and that he’s always responding to medical emergencies. I do feel sorry for Dr. Z., however. People will start talking behind his back when they realize what a clunker he drives.