As a kid, my family took road trips involving Turnpikes and hours of travel. Most often the trip was between the panhandle of Maryland and Detroit, Michigan. But there was also one cross country extravaganza to Denver from Detroit. And on the way, we played road games! One was also a timed round of "Slug-Bug-No-Touch-Back". This is involved sighting and claim Volkswagen Beetles. My sisters and I would peer longingly at both the surrounding traffic flow and the adjacent roads and places along the way. My mom, in the wing-seat, always had the role of arbiter of disputes, and her word was final--of the game ended then and there and "no one will win." She was a good mom who knew how to maintain the established order.
Another game was to collect states via the license plates on cars. Everyone could collect the same state, but not from the same car. So, if I got Georgia off of the Oldsmobile station wagon, my sisters would have to get from some other vehicle. As a result, I became quite adept at recognizing the color schemes and then the imagery on license plates. And when a state transitioned to a new design, it was a big deal.
As an adult with a commute around the Beltway and then north of the nation's capital, I sometimes--okay, often--play a version of this game myself. This time I assign points to the various license plates I discover based on the votes of the Electoral College. I rarely ever make it to the magic 270! But I average on a daily basis of a full commute 195 points. And there is a single state that I do not see over the course of any year. In this, I have become an expert on identifying the state origin of a license place. The pale yellow back ground of New Jersey, the cactus in the middle of Arizona, the oranges and green letters of Florida, the particular fade of blue background that is Connecticut, or the look of the pale blue Mount Rainier behind the numbers and letters of Washington state. Consistency of design in this matter is a crucial component to it's function.
And so it really hit me the other day about my own state. Maryland is just off the charts strange when it comes to license plates. We have (not counting personalized or honorific plates that express support of an alma mater) 6 distinct designs currently being used on our cars and trucks. SIX!! They are as follows:
1) The plain black letters on white background
2) The same, but with a shield in the middle from the heritage of Lord Baltimore
3) The Farm friendly plate with a red to yellow background and panorama of a barn across the bottom
4) The Chesapeake Bay plate with a Great Blue Heron on the left side
5) The Fort McHenry Bi-centennial plate with the red and blue image of the fort's rampart and fireworks exploding above it (The plates I own)
and 6) The new 2017 plates with a image of our state flag billowing across the bottom
I pity people who play such games and have to recognize a vehicle from Maryland for a piddly 10 points.