Monday, October 26, 2009

Ennui By Any Other Name

One of my favorite anecdotes is about the drunk driver careening down the highway with his name spelled out on his plates - which led to his arrest, since every driver on the road with a cell phone was able to quickly identify him to police.

Personally, I've never felt so strongly connected to my vehicle that I wanted to purchase vanity plates to declare my personality to the world. Not because I want to be able to pursue a criminal career without fear of getting caught...but simply because I've never cared enough to invest the time, energy and money in choosing and purchasing special license plates.

At the same time, though, I have been sucked into the whole "car as identity crisis" inadvertently. Standard issue California license plates have a single number, three letters, then three numbers. So the three letters, even on a normal plate, can sometimes spell a word, or hint at one in that special "license plate jargon." A good friend had the letters "XTC" on her state-issued plate - "ecstasy." Cool!

Unfortunately, at the same time, my middle three letters were "TDM" - and the only thing I could come up with from those letters was the word "tedium." Hardly inspiring to have a synonym for "boredom" as your automotive/highway identity.

I suffered stubbornly for nine years with that plate, refusing to succumb to the materialism and egocentrism of purchasing a new plate simply to escape "tedium." But when I bought a new car three years ago, I was almost as excited at the prospect of new plates (and the possibility of a new moniker!) as I was about having a 2006 model.

So I cannot tell you with what dismay I opened the package containing my new license plates, finding that the state had issued me the letters "TED." Oh, no! "Tedium" again! Once is an accident, a fluke; twice? It had to be a sign from the universe - and not a sign I wanted to see.

But a moment of internet grace has saved me. While surfing the web, I ran across the website at TED stands for "technology, entertainment and design" and the site's tagline is "ideas worth spreading." It is a fabulous collection of online lectures by authors, scientists, inventors, designers, spiritual leaders, all kinds of fascinating people, sharing their expertise and enthusiasm on a wide-ranging field of enthralling topics.

So finally, I can rest happily with my "TDM/TED" license plate identity. I'll just pretend that I knew all along that it brought me into the good company of intellectuals and artists, dreamers and doers.

What does your license plate say? Has anybody lucked out by being issued "ZEN"?


  1. My plate says GFP -- Good For People.

  2. Mine is NPL. I love it.

  3. TED is an amazing source. Do not miss the talk by Sir Ken Robinson about the arts in education. His story about the little girl and her portrait of G*d will make you smile every time you think of it.

  4. Jill Bolton Taylor is on TED also. Great lecture about her experience. It strongly relates to Buddhist ptactice.