Today, I found myself idly flicking through the Sunday Times motoring section. This is not something I do very often, because although I am not immune to masculine fetishism (wrist watches and fishing tackle in my case) I have little interest in cars, other than as a means of getting around.
Anyway, towards the end were two pages of adverts for personalised number plates. I examined these with a steadily increasing sense of incredulity.
Initially, I failed to see why this selection of apparently random collections of letters and numbers should be in any way special. Then I noticed that next to each number was a translation, so that potential purchasers would know which one to choose in order to impress their friends and relatives.
Now, it occurred to me at this point that the need for this assistance in no small way undermined the whole purpose of the exercise. I mean, really, what is the point of a ‘personalised’ number plate that you have to explain to people? You can picture the scene – “no, go on Dad, of course you can see it, just squint a bit and put your head on one side and ignore the gap between the numbers and the letters, and remember that the 4 looks like A – although sometimes it’s E – have a bit of imagination!”
Down the side of the page were pictures of celebrities (or at least, they were celebrities to about the same extent that their plates were personalised) showing their own examples. I wonder if CNO 14N is the only Nolan sister to have one? I certainly doubt that, crazy as he undoubtedly was, Charles Manson would ever have been tempted by M411 SON.
I began to wonder just how much money buyers parted with in order to give such derisory meaning to their existence, and then over the page, I found out. For the paltry sum of £39,995 you could announce yourself to the world as WDA 1. If you wanted CBR 1, you’d need an additional £10K, although why Colin Barry Richards should have to pay such a premium just because he wasn’t christened Walter Dennis Adams is beyond me.
I suppose I can see why a maxillofacial surgeon with more money than sense (and is there any other sort of surgeon?) might go for 9 TMJ, a snip at £6995, although the vendors don’t seem to have the surgical market in mind, because the translation of 13 ENT was ‘Bent’. There again…
Recent experience suggests that similar considerations apply to diseases, to the extent that if you are going to play host to one, you would be well advised to avoid having the sort that you have to explain to people – especially if you want to get any sympathy. A friend of ours developed cardiac amyloid, and has, I believe had a similar experience to me.
My retirement has been rendered more interesting by the advent of microscopic polyangiitis – and no, don’t pretend you know what it is (unless, possibly, you’re a nephrologist) – and I can tell you that there are few more chastening experiences than to be struck down with a disease you’d never heard of during a forty year career in medicine.
When friends who know you’ve been ill ask what’s been wrong with you, and you make the mistake of trying to tell them, you can see their eyes glaze over as the words fail to compute. Tell them you’ve had a triple by-pass, and they come over all sympathetic, and marvel at how brave you’ve been.
For some reason, explaining that you’ve developed antibodies to antigens which have migrated to the cell surface from the lysosomes in your neutrophils fails to excite the same degree of empathy. So now I just tell them that I’m rejecting my own kidneys and they look at me as if to say “why on earth would you do that?”. It’s a good question, of course, and strikes me as an excellent argument against Intelligent Design.
But I digress – those number plates. No, really…why?
Still, you have to laugh. Or to be specific, if you are up for a bit of very expensive levity, then I see from the adverts that the legendary (sic) Bernard Manning’s old number plate is up for grabs, price on application – perhaps we should club together and buy 1 LAF* for Jeremy Hunt, given his reaction to the imminent politically-induced collapse of the NHS?
*I laugh. Actually, that one’s not so bad.