The DMV in the DMV (and how I chose my custom license plate)

I’ve referred to my new home in a couple of different places online as the DMV. Since I’m likely to use that term a lot in the future, I thought that it might be a good idea to explain why this doesn’t mean the Department of Motor Vehicles (except for when it does.)

Part of moving to any new place is learning the ways that the locals refer to things. For example, many people who live inside Washington DC refer to it as The District. Similarly, people who live in this geographic region sometimes call it the DMV because it’s comprised of three very close-together places- DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

As for the place most commonly known as the DMV, that was a challenge. Since the pandemic started, the local DMV has a reduced capacity and is appointment only. I arrived in Arlington on August 8th, and I went online to make an appointment for my Virginia driver’s license on August 10th. The first available appointments were in mid-October, and I set one for October 15th.

In the interim, I was able to change my voter’s registration easily- there’s an elections office a short distance away, and I was able to walk in and fill out that form very easily, no muss no fuss.

While I waited for the DMV appointment to finally arrive, I noticed that there are a LOT of custom license plates in Virginia. I’ve always noticed custom plates more than most people, because they fascinate me. Sometimes they’re hilarious (like the Corvette I once saw with a plate reading ZOOOM), and sometimes they’re just completely obscure and ineffable.

I have since learned that part of the reason there are so many vanity plates here is that it’s really inexpensive to get them customized. When I realized how cheap it was, I decided I was going to get a custom plate. I started work-shopping possible plates with my friends. Here’s some of the contenders:

  • Every possible version I could think of for my name was taken, except for STG42 and STEEEV. (Hilariously, STEEV was already taken, so I needed the extra E.) I considered this one to the very end, but ultimately chose not to use it because I don’t even call myself Steve. I’m a Steven, through and through. I also considered BLOO42 because I like the color blue and the number 42.
  • DRFATE and MOGO – two of my favorite less frequently used DC Comics characters, and both were inexplicably available. I liked both of these as potential plates, but not quite enough to go with them on my car.
  • UNGOTH – this plate tickled me a lot and it very nearly won out.
  • WHMSY – I have said on numerous occasions that my resting state is whimsy, so this would have been appropriate. NERFECT was also available, as in “Pobody’s Nerfect.”
  • WHTSTR, NLSHOK, and BBYLON were all available, in case I wanted to go with my Babylon 5 fandom. I like to think of my car as a Whitestar, so it was tempting. Notably, both ZATHRAS and NOTTHE1 were both already taken.
  • SISYPHS was available, and it appealed to my sense of futility. Also, I live on a hill so this would have been extra funny to me and only me.
  • “GZIP SUV” is available. This is extra funny to me, and I might have gone for it, except that by the time I thought of it, I had already chosen and ordered my plate.

I also considered multiple different iterations of the number 42 and “Don’t Panic,” but every iteration I could think of was already taken by somebody. At the last minute, before I went to the DMV, I tried one last option, and it was miraculously available. That’s how I wound up with this plate:

The actual DMV visit wasn’t much worth writing about. They only let you in ten minutes before your appointment, there are no walk-ins, and their capacity is very much reduced. That being said, I was able to get my Virginia driver’s license, car registration, and license plates sorted out all in one visit, so I’m making a note here, “huge success.”

Do you have a custom license plate? What does it say?

29/52 (and 8 of 30!)


22 thoughts on “The DMV in the DMV (and how I chose my custom license plate)

  1. Sarah

    I had wondered about the DMV reference – thank you for clarifying, and I have learnt something new! Enjoyed reading through your list of license plate options (especially liked WHMSY and NERFECT), hurray for it all being done and dusted now!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant. Also interesting is that when you move states you have to re-register car and acquire different plates. Makes sense given the size of your country. Do you have a collection of plates?? Here vehicles have, until brexit been able to carry two plates. EU and GB registered.

    Liked by 1 person

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