All I wanted for Christmas was a licence plate. My own personalized licence plate. One that said “PRO-LYF.” I figured since the car was used for pro-life business 90 per cent of the time anyway it might as well say so. I also figured out that since Ontario will only let you use six letters in your licence plate that “PROLIFE” wouldn’t fit, and cunningly calculated that “PRO LYF” would probably get the message across to anyone old enough to remember phonics. As it turned out I was right.
I laid my plans carefully, starting in August. “Terry,” I said to my long-suffering husband, “wouldn’t it be neat if I had a licence plate for my car that said “PRO LIFE?” “Hummmph,” he said. “P-R-O-L-I-F-E won’t actually fit you know,” I added brightly, “maybe I could spell it P-R-O-L-Y-F, what do you think?” “Hummmph,” he said. “Those personalized licence plates are very expensive though,” I sighed, “I guess I can’t afford them right now.” “Hummmph,” he said. He’s lived with me for a while so I knew the message had been received loud and clear.
Dutifully, he trotted off to the Ottawa licence bureau in early November and applied for the plates. A computer check revealed that that particular combination of letters had not yet been assigned to any other car owner in the Province of Ontario. Money (cash of course) changed hands. Delivery was promised within a few weeks. “How brilliant of me,” he thought as he left, “it’s only November and I’ve her Christmas present all taken care of.”
The letter arrived on December 8. Official, very official. “Your application for Own Choice Plates “PROLYF” is denied because it is deemed INAPPROPRIATE.” An appeal procedure was outlined “…please apply in writing to the above address explaining the reason for your choice.” “INAPPROPRIATE” – in capital letters. Two thoughts: “This is absolutely unfair and blatant censorship” and “Now I’ll have to go shopping.” He showed me the letter; the cursing and shouting probably could be heard all the way to Toronto.
My husband is nothing if not calculating and resourceful. The letter had been mailed from the Kingston office of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. He just happened to visit customers in Kingston two days later and while there dropped by the Licensing Operations Office for an explanation of the situation. They were appalled.
You see they “don’t deal with the general public.” Well, he was the general public and he was standing in front of them and what did they have to say about this. Much stammering, “…might offend people…car might be damaged…contentious issue” and finally, “You’ll have to write us a letter…here’s a pen and paper and there’s a desk.”
He did. And beautifully composed at that, “…means much more than anti-abortion…respect for all human life…an honest expression of heartfelt beliefs…less offensive than other plates like U R SEXY.” Great stuff. They’d let him know.
It is now past Epiphany and the licence plate on my car still reads PPC 948. My husband gave me a lovely Dolby stereo dual cassette recorder for Christmas. The Licensing Assistance Office in Downsview says maybe there’s a letter in the mail, but they don’t know what it says. For now PRO LYF is still INAPPROPRIATE.