Thursday, April 06, 2006

Let the billboards teach us...

Unless I'm headed somewhere different than the office, my commute takes me down Interstates 395 and 95. It's freeway traffic, with lots of different headed different places - and usually in a big hurry to get there. As a result, anyone doing the speed limit will get dusted pretty quickly.

Going that fast without any traffic lights, there's no time to take in the scenery. Not that there's much to see anyway, but it all whizzes by so rapidly that it's hard to see anything of consequence that might be there.

Still, there's little to do on the 20-minute ride, especially if XM's playlist turns decidedly crappy that day (or your receiver suddenly stops working, as mind did, but that's another story). So what else is there to keep the mind occupied besides actually paying attention to the road?

Well, we are in Virginia. And our fine Commonwealth also happens to be the king of vanity plates. You know, license plates that have some clever saying that tells you something about who owns the car.

Like one driver I passed in the express lanes. His plate read, "TO DFARM". Made sense; it was a somewhat-grizzled-looking guy wearing a flannel shirt, driving a late model Chevy pickup. It wasn't hard to imagine that guy busting his tail before sunrise to make sure the resident animals had a good meal for the day.

Not far behind the Silverado was a Mercury Grand Marquis. It also had vanity plates. These read, "HES WRTY".


This is supposed to give us a snapshot at someone, a public glimpse into an otherwise anonymous life. But this told me nothing. At first, I made the assumption that the "HES" was supposed to be "he's", but since VDOT doesn't really use apostrophes, it had to be omitted.

But then what? Does this person like to doodle a lot (he's writey)? Does this person have a distinct inability to run on and on about nothing - kind of like this blog - and the plate combination "HES WRDY" wasn't available?

That theory took a bit of a hit when I glanced into the window, and the driver appeared to be an older black woman. Maybe it's her car; maybe it's her husband's or brother's or father's. But her presence introduced an unforseen element of doubt.

So what if the first part wasn't a contraction? VDOT allows seven-letter license plates without spaces; why the space? HES isn't a word, doesn't sound like a word, and is the beginning to very few words. Is Heswerty a tiny, heretofore unknown branch of Hezbollah - with an Americanized spelling?

Perhaps you've heard the Lewis Black bit about hearing something so stupid and incomprehensible that the mind cannot let it go and feels the need to deconstruct it. That's what happened here; possibilities swirled through my mind - all were plausible, all were equally flawed.

Hey, I said it was a boring drive.

Perhaps this person and others can take a lesson from billboard advertisers. Because of where they are, they inherently have only a few seconds to catch your attention, so the message must be punchy. Quick-hitting gags, one-liners, scantily-clad women, whatever - it has to make its point fast, because the target audience will soon be gone, zooming down the freeway and in view of another billboard.

If you're going to tell us something about yourself, make it understandable. "TO DFARM" was well-done. "HES WRTY" was not. But if their goal was to make me think, they did that.

And helped eleviate another uneventful commute.


ME said...

That's a tough one to decipher. I'll probably think about that all day as well.

You can figure mine out:


donna said...

He's worthy a la Wayne's World, "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy." Or he's warty. Ew. BTW - I had a list of vanity plates once because I was going to blog about them. Stacy was even helping me research. I dropped that dream, though. Maybe I should revisit.

Brian said...

Well, I've got two for you already and will be happy to add more. That drive really is boring.