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plate [‘plAt] n. 1 a: a smooth flat thin piece of material; 4 d: license plate

The current California license plate standard is one number followed by three letters followed by three more numbers. So for each initial number-three letter combination there are 1,000 possible plates, from 000 to 999, for all of the millions of cars in the state. Granted, the plates aren’t distributed randomly across the state—when you register your car at the DMV, you get the plates right then, so they’re distributed in batches to the DMVs. This means that the other 999 cars with the plates in my particular set of 1,000—my last three digits are 893—probably registered their cars and got their plates at the same DMV office. Still, it amazes me that in the last two days I’ve been immediately behind two other cars with plates from that same set. On Tuesday I was behind a white car with the same first digit and three letters followed by 873 all the way from San Francisco up Skyline Drive and even on to Westmoor, though she continued down Eastmoor when I turned down our street. And on the way to work today, as I was driving through Golden Gate Park at 8:30—I still get a kick out of the fact that I actually drive through Golden Gate Park twice every day—I was behind a silver Saab 900SE that was number 935 from the same set.

Now I’ve become hyper-aware of other cars’ license plate numbers as I drive around, and I want to find more of the other 997 from my set.

credits

mint 190 banner image adapted from Lovely vintage Mercedes photo by June Shieh (misocrazy), cc Attribution 2.0