Read My Ass

It used to be said that, “Vanity, thy name is woman.” but, nowadays, when it comes to specialty licence plates, “Vanity, thy name is Legion!”  Vanity plates are everywhere; everything from obvious, easily understood letter/number combinations, to stuff that just has you shaking your head, wondering what he’s smoking, or where he parked the spaceship.

Many years ago, when the children were small, we owned a small Honda Civic station-wagon.  When I got steady, although not great-paying, employment at the shoe factory in 1983, Ontario offered custom plates.  At first only 6 spaces were allowed.  I splurged, and spent $100 for a set.  They read, surprisingly, “ARCHON.”  They’re a lot more expensive these days.  Someone told me they’d seen another pair, “just like yours”, which is impossible.  I finally located them.  Ed Arconovitch, who worked day shift at the same plant, got a set which read, “ARCON.”

I moved to the auto plant at a better salary, and the wife went back to work.  First we bought her brother’s 10-year-old Chevy Monte Carlo for her commute, then I felt I could afford a used motorcycle.  The Civic sat unused for 9/10 months a year, eating insurance, while I rode the bike, so I took my vanity plates off, and sold it.

When we traded up to a better car for the wife and kids, I tried to put my custom plates on it….and bureaucracy struck.  The car was in her name – but the plates were in mine.  We could transfer the car to my name – and pay a 15% tax on the book value.  I could sell her my custom plates!  Oh, no says the DMV, the plates must be surrendered and offered to people who have put in a request for that particular set.  Screw that!  I put them in a bag under my work bench, and the son can turn them in for a refund after I die.

After a couple of years’ gainful employment for both of us, the wife got her own set which read, ”3 TEASE.”  It might mean, “Terrible Tori the Terror,” from her childhood, or it might mean, “Terribly Terrific Tori.”  It might just be the third time we’ve messed with your mind!

I knew, when I went to get my plates, that the DMV could be a little suspicious, and had my story of, Why Archon? carefully rehearsed.  Sure enough, the middle-aged matron wanted to know all about it, to prevent evil from entering our streets.  Even as I was drawing breath to defend my unique personal expression, the much-younger male manager piped up, “That’s from the original Star Trek episode, Return of the Archons.”  I’d been hauling the handle around for 15 years before that episode was broadcast but, if it gets me my plates with no hassle, “Yeah!  That’s right!”

My neighbor, Tom, owned a Buick 88, and applied for TOMS 88.  Ontario plates were three letters and three numbers, like ABC 123, and you couldn’t get those combinations.  The DMV clerk told him that the O of TOMS was a zero; therefore he couldn’t have his choice.  I told him to appeal, but he didn’t want to fight city hall.

There are two kinds of bureaucrats; the one will find a rule to deny whatever you request; the other will dig through the rulebook to find you the exception you need.  Sadly, the first type outnumber the second, a hundred to one ~ or maybe a thousand to one.  In an ongoing campaign to prove their importance and power, Ontario DMV clerks continue to deny thousands of applications.  Custom plates are now up from six spaces, to eight.

Custom plates may not be obscene, derogatory or racist.  They may not refer to drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, criminal activity, law enforcement, public figures, politics or religion.  Nearly a third of the 3315 rejected applications in the last three years, have been refused on the criterion of “clarity and readability.”

If I’m a nihilist, who just wants a random collection of letters and numbers which no-one else has, I don’t see how or why it’s any of the government’s business.  The government, being the government, makes it their business.  Everything is forbidden, unless they specifically allow it.  This rather nebulous category has eliminated such seemingly clear and readable requests as HO5ER, A.BATMAN, 2THF4IRY, and ST4RG4ZER.

Predictably, the second and third most-censored categories were plates that referred to religion and sex.  DMONSEED and LUC1F3R were deemed too evil.  NIHILIST and AGNOSTIC were too honest, and JAWS2GOD and APOKLPSE just too unthinkable.

No doubt drug dealers were disappointed when plates such as GOTSPEED, B.JUICED, ILOVCOKE, and SPD4WEED were rejected.  Government clerks will seize any opportunity to flex their bureaucratic muscle, even reversing previous decisions.

In 2007, United Church Rev. Joanne Sorrill became a political cause célèbre, after the Ministry refused to renew her, “REV JO” plate, because, it claimed, “rev” could encourage unsafe driving, and because Rev is an alcoholic cooler-type beverage.  I’m surprised it wasn’t rejected on the “No Religion” rule, but the clerk was probably a Christian.  It took a newspaper humiliation campaign before the Provincial Premier personally authorized the renewal.  He called the Ministry’s behavior, “laughable.”

The Ministry issued a statement, saying, “This is a difficult job, being done by sincere people, but it is an imperfect science.”  They went on to say that employees use resources such as Wikipedia and UrbanDictionary.

I’ve got mine, even if I don’t use them, and I see lots of others around.  A beautifully rebuilt 1947 Ford Business Coupe, at the downtown summer Cruise Night had a pair which read, B DRULN.  Do any of you have vanity plates?  How much did you pay?  Have you seen some amusing or confusing ones?

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Information Retrieval

This will not be a computer tutorial.  I started with a bitch about certain website set-ups, but, in my best shit-hit-the-fan tradition, I’m going to touch on a couple of other things that sour my milk, and attitude.

I have Loi Vo’s, Style and Home magazine….actually, probably his wife’s.  Last month, I had his Business Quarterly magazine.  The month before that, I got his bank statement.  Are you sensing a pattern here?  At least once a month I get mail for him.  In the meantime, I’m waiting for my knifemakers magazine.  Once it just didn’t show up in the mail at all, another time I received the next month’s issue two days before the late one showed up.

The central city gets door-to-door mail delivery.  To save money, out here in the ‘burbs, they put up Super Mailboxes every block or so.  Forty or fifty individual boxes, one for each house, and a couple of larger package boxes.  You walk, or drive to the box to get your mail.  I hear you ask, “Is Loi Vo’s box right beside yours?”  If only!  He lives 4 blocks, two super mailboxes and a postal code away….but his house number is the same as mine, so I can see how the nuclear physicist, who moonlights as my mailman, could make that mistake….over and over and over.

Instead of hand delivering to his house, I finally decided to complain to head office, and went online to CanadaPost.ca.  What a piece of milquetoast.  They already have answers to every question you might possibly ask….except mine.  Want to buy stamps online?  Need a postal code?  Want locations of Canada Post outlets?

Every decent site does much the same.  It saves you time, and them money and manpower.  However, most sites also include a spot where you can drop an email to cover concerns not listed.  Has the Post Office got one on their site?  Uh uh!  Probably to discourage irate customers like me from actually getting service.  Well then, I’ll just take Loi Vo’s magazine, go to the main office, and complain.

The main branch used to be right downtown, then they moved it way out to an industrial plaza, how wily.  I know where it is, within a block or so, but thought I’d use their Find-a-Branch service for an exact address.  I opened it up, and they list every pharmacy and corner store which contains a postal outlet – but don’t list the main office.  I think I’ll format a letter to take with me, to list my complaints, and that will be one of my bitches.

A movie based on one of author Lee Child’s books, has come out, and he has just released another in the series.  His character, a huge man who needs a Dolf Lundgren Viking to play him, is being portrayed, some fans say betrayed, by a Tom Cruise pipsqueak.  Books I might like, which are part of groups of 20 or more, interest me.  With the number of books I read, a series like that could keep me reading for several years, so I went online to do some research.

My orderly mind doesn’t want to start in the middle.  With character development, I want to begin at the beginning.  I went to the Chapters/Indigo site.  This is the big book purveyor in Canada.  Chapters merged with Indigo some years ago, and they bought up Coles Books.  Coles used to, and still may, provide Coles Notes.  These are like the American Cliff’s Notes.  They were banned at my highschool.  You were supposed to do your own learning.  That didn’t stop them from being used at home.

On the book site, I chose advanced search, and started to type in Lee Child’s name.  I got a prompt which read, “Lee Child books”, so I clicked it.  Now, I know he’s published about 20 books, but the top of the page read, 493 Items.  493??!  Okay, there will be hardcover and paperback and large print and audio books and trade-size softback, but 493?

This is Chapters own sorted listing.  They claim this is “Lee Child books”, so I started to scroll down.  The first listing is a Regency romance called The Agency, by Y.s. Lee.  I loved the, one capitalized/ one lower case, initials.  Is she a friend of k.d. lang?  Well, it does have an author named Lee.  A couple of books by Lee Child, then, Just Like Me, by Jan-Lee Music, then a couple more by Lee Child, then Quinlan B. Lee, then Robert Lee, (no middle E.), then John Lee, then Chris Higgins and John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series.  Wait, what??  How did Higgins and John D. MacDonald get into this list?  McGee does rhyme with Lee.

I managed to sort out only Lee Child books.  Since I’m looking to start at the beginning, I sorted again for date of publication.  Yeah, that worked so well!  Since the movie just came out, that book, which is at least five novels old, is at the top of the list.  All the others were chronologically scrambled too.

I think I found the first in the series, a book titled Killing Floor.  I clicked on its image for more information, including cost.  Along with the hard cover, large print, and audio, I found two paperback editions, identical, as far as I could see.  One offered an online price of $12.95, or used from $15.65, the other online price was $10.44, and used from $10.80.

I am confused by all this.  Why is one online price $10.44, and the other $12.95?  Even if these are not exactly the same book, why would I pay half again, or better, to buy a used copy, when an original is available.  I’ve reserved a large-print copy at the library for free, with one person ahead of me.  I prefer the tactile sensation of print.  The library is only authorised to issue 6 E-books at a time, and there are 56 people on the waiting list.

Wikipedia dispenses comprehensive free information.  These other sites just hand out free question marks.