Ah, to be a child in Ohio in the ’60s and ’70s. The simple pleasures — the misadventures of Woody Hayes, a swimming pool in flat landscape on a hot summer day, waiting for the new license plates. Yes, that’s what I said; the plates changed every year, and you always waited to see what the new colors would be. The introduction of the “Seat Belts Fastened?” plate in the early ’70s was, simply, well… it was the introduction of a license plate, but it was something you noticed.
Well. Time passes, state budgets shrink and you no longer get a license plate every year. It’s silly, really, when you can go to a five-year plan on plate replacement and show current registration with a sticker in the corner. But some states don’t even do that, and one of them in Michigan.
When I registered my car here, I was offered the usual silly array of alternatives — plates for a Michigan alma mater, lighthouse preservation, or just flag-waving patriotism. For only $5 more, I could get a plate showing the Mackinac Bridge, totem of much of my early U.P. partying years.
But I spurned them all. I wanted the navy blue blazer of license plate-hood, the venerable white-on-blue plate known only as standard.
And I do mean venerable. The plate has been in use since 1982 with only minor tinkering. This leads to a curious sight in this wintry, car-crazy state — like-new cars bearing salt-corroded license plates. (This is an illustration, but it’s a pretty good facsimile.)
Before we had the white-on-blue plate, Michigan had a white-on-black one. During the economic upheavals of the early 1980s, when thousands of out-of-work Michiganders headed for the Sunbelt in search of a better life, some welcoming Texans referred to them, sneeringly, as “the black-tag people.” You can see why, when the price of oil collapsed a few years later and Texans were being foreclosed upon, my eyes stayed dry.
Anyway, after a mere 25 years, we’re getting a new license plate. No design yet, but they’re saying most likely we’re going with the same ol’ same ol, only blue-on-white, this time. The state says it’s time to make plates using newer “reflector technology” and anyway, 25 years is a long time to be rockin’ the same plate, even if it is a classic.
Having lived through Indiana’s misbegotten Wander plate, the much nicer blue-and-white and, finally, the “back home again/www.IN.gov” fiasco, I’m just hoping whatever discussion the state needs to have about this will blow over quickly.
OK, then. It has been raining for most of the past two weeks, but not today. In fact, the sun is shining. I’m going to exercise one of the perogatives freelancing gives you and go outside. It’s not supposed to last long, so carpe diem.