You definitely see some sights when you’re out driving.
On life’s highways the bold and the bizarre come into view on many an occasion.
Varied coloured cocoons each filled with people hermetically sealed within their own worlds, moving at speed to the rhythm of green light – yellow light – red light – for starters.
There I was stuck in traffic, two lines of steel and tire, each capable of over 160 kilometres per hour and each averaging about five in their stop-start fashion. My viewing options were limited so I chose what most others would do in this situation… to gaze zombie-like at the car in front of me. This turned out to be a not entirely wasted experience. In a vision of loveliness sullied only by the grey mist exhaust coming from its tailpipe sat the sleek chrome rear of a mustard yellow Nissan GT-R sports car.
That type of auto-eye-candy under any normal circumstance would have been satisfying enough but this particular sleek unit of hot metal came with a bonus: a personalised number plate that read “SIR YANG”. (To supply added context to this story, the location for my stuck-in-traffic experience was the Brisbane suburb of Sunnybank which is recognised as having a higher than average Asian population).
With time on my side and not going anywhere fast I tossed over in my mind exactly why that particular combination of words seemed so.. so.. unique (not to mention hilarious, at least to me). The best I could come up with was the idea that mixing the most English of sounding royal titles ‘Sir’ with the quintessentially Asian sounding surname (or is that first name?) of ‘Yang’ results in a most unlikely blending of European and what used to go by the name of ‘Oriental’ flavours one could possibly imagine.
Probably the most out-there personalized plate I’ve seen on a car on the road was one that simply read ANTS (to be honest I can’t recall if it was spelled with an ‘s’ or a ‘z’) Make of that what you will.
Naturally that’s nothing compared to the likes of the wanton weirdness you can find online –
And they’re just the G-rated ones!
In the minds of some, there isn’t an item that screams ’empty status symbol’ more than the personalised number plate, or ‘vanity plate’, as they are still referred to in some circles. So why do people sometimes mentally roll their eyes when they see another driver’s attempt at being funny or what they may interpret as a gaudy ‘look at me’ gesture?
In part, it’s a legacy of the fact that personalised plates were born in the eighties, a decade when bankers’ greed had poisoned the well of public opinion against conspicuous displays of wealth. Getting a personalised plate was seen as something that was done by those with more money than sense, a rather gauche, loadsamoney thing to do.
But three decades on, the general wealth of the middle class has risen exponentially and personalised number plates, much like tattoos or piercings, are now widely considered simply a fun thing to do ‘because you can’.
Ps. Your bonus read this week is the incredible story of the car that carried Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the day he was assassinated in June of 1914 (an event that triggered a series of events which lead to the outbreak of World War 1) and the eerie significance of the number plate of that motor vehicle.
It’s helpful if you keep in mind when reading this article that the peace treaty that ended World War One was signed on the 11th of Novemember 1918.