Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and VANITY. The 7 deadly sins. Often quoted. Seldom understood. The ‘Cardinal’ sins as they are often called have been the downfall of many a man and perhaps a few civilizations. I’ve heard it argued that one leads to another and another and so forth. But isn’t each of these human conditions evident in all of us in trace amounts? As bikers our vanity makes us pine to be seen on the newest bike. We are gluttonous for more and more and more horsepower, we satiate greed for never ending appetites of chrome and leather and asphalt and lust, well, let us say no more. I thought of these recently when decoding some license plates I saw on a few motorcycles parked curbside at a bike rally. Are the ‘vanity’ plates, as I’ve heard them called, a sign of a bigger problem? Why are they called VANITY plates? Sin notwithstanding, some of these vanity motorcycle license plates are just absolutely clever. I take great joy in decoding certain plates that spell out semi clandestine messages like “DADUV6” or “BRAVFAN” or “EVO MAN.” Some of the messages are easy and some are not so. Some come right out and tell you what the owner wants you to know. My 1952 Panhead, “52 PAN,” an easy one. I see many more vanity plates on cars than I do on bikes. I do not know the reason for this. Maybe it’s because the car plates are bigger and seems a better value for the sixty bucks DMV charges you. The term “Vanity” plate alone tells a tale. The word “Vain” is a derivative of an old English word ‘vainglory.’ This long forgotten word is associated by linguists with the need for attention. I can’t say that I’m immune from the draw of the vanity plate. The pics with this story tell the tale. One from my car, one from my truck.
Do these monikers make me vain? Perhaps. Although some plates are worse than others. I recall that many moons ago I dated a girl whose brother drove a Porsche. A 911 model, upon which he sported a vanity plate. Of course, it was a gift from his father evidencing his lack of ‘skin in the game.’ Dude was a real spoiled ‘Biff’ type, if you know what I mean. You wouldn’t like him. I didn’t. If you are unconvinced, then you must know that his license plate read “2GQ4U!!!” No kidding. The kind of guy that frosted his hair and waxed his eyebrows and wore penny loafers with no socks. He made it obvious he did not like me. He was a jerk then, I trust he is a jerk now. A vain jerk. I suspect he was gluttonous, envious, greedy and perhaps even lustful. Speculation, but educated speculation. The vanity plate fit the man.
I do like the plates that leave something to the imagination. Those clandestine messages that get you wondering about the guy on that bike or in that car. Funny little messages leaving clues to the occupants or riders. I did a search on the internet and found some pretty clever plates. They may ‘Live Free or Die’ in New Hampshire, but the “I FARTED” plate was one of the funniest I’ve seen, especially coming from conservative New England. How about the New York plated Hummer with “5 MPG.” The Connecticut Ferrari with “HOT MILF.” The DeKalb County, Georgia tagged Jaguar with “I WANK” was really good. AND, I swear to GOD, a California plate reading “MUF DIVR” – Now how well would that go over here in Georgia, the buckle of the Bible Belt? Not well. I once put in for a plate years ago for my SUV that read “DAM YANK.” A recent transplant from New York, I wished it known I was that “Yank”, who was here to stay. Not only did the Georgia DMV deny my request, but I received a letter from an angry church lady at DMV telling me that I was rude and the word “DAM” was offensive. Well, perhaps she was right. Although perhaps she was an uptight, undersexed, middle aged, bitter, overweight, government bean counter. Pure speculation, although gratifying speculation. If you had 7 digits to set out your identification, what would it be? Anyone could write an autobiography. Well, if you have to look that word up, chances are that the statement does not apply to you. Nonetheless, 7 digits limit chances at self expression. 1 YANKE, 8 BUGS, CATHLIC. All good fun. Have you ever played the game ‘describe yourself in 5 words?’ It is a fun exercise at self examination. “Christian, Father, Biker, Lawyer, Husband, etc…” It is not an easy game. Try it. To write out a long dissertation is not difficult. Edit it down to 5 words. For that matter 7 digits. Difficult! In our fast paced world there are multitudes of obvious overindulgence, greed, sloth, envy and yes, overly expressive license plates. To indulge in the boast of a personal ‘vanity’ plate for your motorbike isn’t necessarily sinful, especially in light of all the other excesses of the biker community, most of which I am guilty of. I hope you are too. But it could be a sign of a greater issue. I guess it depends on what you put on your plate. We can’t begrudge a little self expression in the name of art or 1st Amendment freedom or good old fashioned American Biker Pride. After all, our bikes are expressions and extensions of ourselves. Spend 20 g’s on a bike, why not 60 bucks more expressing yourself on your tag. My friends, you know that you are guilty of the $800.00 chrome pipes, the $450.00 custom seat, the $3,000.00 ghost flame paint and so on and so on. Vanity notwithstanding, give it some thought. In the overall scheme of bike cost, it really does not add up to much money. Less than 1%, or better yet, about the cost of a tank of gas. What would the plate on your current bike say if you don’t already have a vanity plate? Would it be funny, lascivious, clandestine, sporting, family, religious…? Let me know. I’ll add you to my list of deadly sinners! –Irish