By John Matonich
I remember learning about planned obsolescence while in school. The premise was certain items would be built with an age in mind when they would fall apart and a new one would have to be purchased. I was never a fan of this and even more disappointed today.
I remember growing up when cars in Michigan had two license plates. One plate was positioned in the front and the other in the rear of the vehicle. Many states still do that including our neighbor across the pond, Wisconsin. On top of the two plates, it seemed that each year, new plates were issued and the old ones discarded. I know there are still thousands of barns across the state with the history of license plates hung up on one of the barn walls. I think it is cool today to see older vehicles with their front license plate with the year the vehicle was made on it.
I guess this was too cool, so some brilliant state budget person years ago convinced the state legislature that having two plates was totally unnecessary. In fact, not only were two plates a waste of a prisoner’s time in the cross bar hotel, we should be able to re-use the one plate we will be given for umpteen years and only have to print a sticker once a year. Obviously, this saved enough money to give someone a raise, but to me this system has been a joke ever since especially with what I had to go through recently.
It is the month of the year when I have to add the new sticker issued by our great state. It is added to the upper right hand corner of the plate I was given when my truck was purchased in late 2013. If I do my math right (and believe me I excelled in math), this plate is slightly more than 4 years old. Unless you are a mosquito, this isn’t ancient in my book. Imagine my surprise when I went to clean off the plate and discovered the entire surface was peeling away from the metal backing.
What! How can this be? Aren’t these plates stamped out of metal and painted with the appropriate letters and numbers? They sure aren’t. They truly are some type of plastic overlaid on a stamped metal plate. I guess hoping otherwise is my payback for leaving a tooth under my pillow and cookies and milk out on Christmas Eve.
After I took the plate off and had to hold the film covering on it so it didn’t blow away, I headed to my local Secretary of State office. The lady there was very nice, but didn’t look surprised when I showed her the collection which once was a license plate. She simply said, “That’s too bad” and “Would you like a duck plate for an extra $5”? “What do you mean an extra $5,” I asked?
She went on to explain there was a $5 charge to replace the original plate even though it simply fell apart without any evil doing on my part. Well she kind of had me. I couldn’t really fix the original plate although if duct tape came in a clear version, it would have been a serious consideration. I shelled out the $5 bucks and turned to leave. “Excuse me”, the lady behind the counter said. “You will need to dispose of the old plate and separated cover”. I guess throwing it in their dumpster would eat into the $5 I had just paid. I took the plate and the separated cover and left.
When I got back to my shop, I was going to toss it in my garbage can, but stopped. It isn’t that I can’t afford the space it would take up in a garbage bag. I just thought it was time to start a new tradition. I am going to hang it up on the wall in the storage area of my woodshop. Given how short the life is on our Michigan license plates, I should have the wall full well before I head to the Promised Land.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
Image credit: randychiu