Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Vanity Plates

November 18, 2016

It wasn’t my smartest decision, slightly better than using a kitchen strainer for an unintended purpose, but Mrs. Chatterbox and I had come into some unexpected money and we thought…why not?

 

Mrs. C’s dad had recently passed, leaving her a fairly new, Titanic-size baby blue Cadillac. Mrs. C. was too young to be tooling around in her father’s caddy so I suggested she trade it in for something sportier, which she did—a BMW which we couldn’t have afforded without the trade-in. At some point we had a discussion about vanity plates. Our careers had been humming along without setbacks so we were in a position to splurge. But what should our vanity plates say?

 

Mrs. C. decided on “HAPPY GIRL.” The car was primarily for her use, but there would be times when I’d be driving. I told her I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving a vehicle with plates that read “HAPPY GIRL.” We decided on “HAPPY US.” Unfortunately, we could only have a maximum of five letters so it was shortened to HPY US.

 

 

 

 

I usually have a firm grasp of what things cost and knew vanity plates cost nearly triple the price of regular ones, but I foolishly thought it was a onetime fee, except for the modest price of renewals. I was startled to learn it cost triple to renew each time.

 

My enthusiasm for our plates took a nosedive when I pulled into the parking lot of our local mall, climbed out of the driver’s seat and headed into a store. Someone strolling beside me yelled, “Like those plates, HIPPY US!”

 

HIPPY! I wasn’t sporting long hair, wearing a tie-dye t-shirt and carrying a bong so I figured he was referencing my weight? Over the next few months others made comments about our vanity plates, and no one caught our meaning as “HAPPY US.”

 

We’ve had the BMW for nearly fifteen years and those plates have long since been replaced with generic Oregon plates. What about you? Have you ever had vanity plates? If so, what did they say; if not, what would you like your vanity plates to say if provided to you at no extra cost?

 

 

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Only a few weeks remain for my holiday giveaway. Check out the details on winning this painting (here).

 

 

 

 

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Comments

31 Comments
I guess HPY US was better than ASSMAN like that old Seinfeld episode. I've noticed that a lot of Indian people (you know, from India) have vanity plates with a name on them and I always wonder if it's their name or are they naming the car? My sister got a plate once to name her car but I've never bothered. Personally I think unless you're someone super famous like Elvis there's not much point to it, especially not putting your name on it.
By: PT Dilloway on November 18, 2016
Never wanted one. Most custom plates require a translation to understand. I would've gotten Happy Us out of yours thought.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on November 18, 2016
I got a new car and just got what you get is what you get license plate but I was thrilled with it. NDN 666, to me it said Next door neighbor to 666 and he is .... btw.
By: Oma Linda on November 18, 2016
Never went that route but it would have to be something environmental. We can pay a small fee and get a plate that supports taking care of the Bay!
By: Tabor on November 18, 2016
In case I ever do something stupid I wouldn't want my car to have easy plates to remember. "Be on the look out for CRANKY MAN." Oma Linda; I've had neighbors where I would want those plates too. Classic!
By: cranky on November 18, 2016
Sorry about this but my mind went straight to hippy. I would never have thought of happy....what does that say about me!?? My actual plate, that I never asked for was 007 ksr and I love it:) I would never get a vanity plate unless I could put a screw and then a ball on it:)
By: Birgit on November 18, 2016
I immediately thought "Hippy Us," too. We thought vanity plates would be a good idea when we had our hotel. The name was Viola's Resort, so we got "2Violas." Some people thought we both played the viola. But worst was when we realized we would be remembered if we expressed our frustration with another driver. Never again.
By: Mitchell is Moving on November 18, 2016
I used to have "1 DUCK" plates. One rainy day I was driving behind a car with the plate "MALLARD". I was VERY careful I didn't rear end her; it would probably have made the news!!
By: fishducky on November 18, 2016
No, but I enjoy seeing what other people come up with - and what gets inadvertently spelled out with regular plates. Oh, heck, MAYBE I'd get vanity plates if I could get "VROOOM" ...
By: jenny_o on November 18, 2016
We have vanity plates inherited from family, and sporting the name of the local university, so we can never, ever give them up. They are the envy of every fan.
By: messymimi on November 18, 2016
Aww, I went right to Hippy also. Sorry. I followed a car for quite a while once trying to figure out 2BZ2P. It finally hit me. Too Busy to Pee.
By: Arkansas Patti on November 18, 2016
I don't blame you for letting those go and I'm sure they were snatched up fairly quickly since Oregon is home to a few hippies. I always tease the wife that we will get vanity plates that say the S & M car because those are our first name initials. When we win the Powerball I am going to buy a huge parcel of land and get a big sign that says the S & M ranch. Ha.
By: Mr. Shife on November 18, 2016
When we had our bookstore I got plates that said BOOKIE. No one ever approached me to place a bet though.
By: Catalyst on November 18, 2016
i thought of 'hippy' first, too. :)
By: TexWisGirl on November 18, 2016
Yeah, I'm sorry, but it would make me think HIPPY US if I saw it. We used to say we would get vanity plates for our daughter that said 1590 (her SAT scores when 1600 was perfect). I don't know what I would want my vanity plates to say. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on November 18, 2016
At first I thought it said, HIPPY too, ha-ha!
By: marcia @ Menopausal Mother on November 18, 2016
I have too much Scots blood to pay the extra fee. I love trying to decipher some of the more arcane vanity plates though.
By: Tom Cochrun on November 18, 2016
I've never had vanity plates but there are some very neat sayings on them using a limited number of letters
By: red Kline on November 18, 2016
Not sure if I'd ever want a vanity plate for myself. I have fun reading them, though.
By: Pixel Peeper on November 18, 2016
Vanity plates? No way. I'm not that vain (or maybe I'm just too cheap!)
By: Tom Sightings on November 18, 2016
As a teacher all my life, there was no way in not-heaven that I would have vanity plates. It's bad enough being a small-town celebrity when you can pretend it wasn't YOU in that car doing something stupid. Or parked somewhere you'd rather your students not know.
By: Val on November 18, 2016
Never had nor wanted vanity plates. Note my cup of tea, :)
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 18, 2016
Hippy us. that's what I thought too. and no, never had vanity plates. and I wouldn't have the slightest idea what I would get. probably my first 5 choices would already be taken.
By: Ellen Abbott on November 19, 2016
Huh- I thought you had 7 letters/numbers you could use? The closest to vanity plates we have had is references to my husbands over 20 years serving in Special Forces (on his motorcycle) and also he had a special share the road bicycling plate on our one car. Me? I prefer to fly/drive under the radar.
By: Kathe W. on November 19, 2016
I'd have guessed Hippy U.S. Considering all the states now legalizing pot, that license plate could become popular. I've never had the money or inclination to buy vanity plates. Have a great weekend.
By: Lexa Cain on November 19, 2016
We've never had vanity plates because they are costly here too. But I saw the Hippy Us thing coming :) R
By: Rick Watson on November 19, 2016
I had a vanity plate back when I was a single gal - OPUSLUST (for the Bloom County penguin, not the music). When we got married my lovely friends put shaving cream over "OPUS" so that all you could see was LUST. Ha!
By: The Bug on November 19, 2016
I wouldn't want to spend the extra money to get vanity plates. Plus, I don't think I could ever top the one on Seinfeld for a proctologist: Assman.
By: Al Penwasser on November 19, 2016
It's always tough to settle for an abbreviated version of the word you'd like to use. Hippy, happy...at least the misreading wasn't bad. My brother-in-law is a huge fan of Arsenal FC, and he has (at least) two BMWs - but what he doesn't have is the Arsenal vanity plate. His read "ARSNL" and "ARSN4L" haha...I'd like to meet the guy that has "ARSENAL" and shake his hand. Also, my ex-girlfriend had a vanity plate on her car. She claimed it was her mom's idea and/or her mom bought it for her, possibly with the car. Can you guess my ex-gf's name? Here's a hint: her vanity plate read "FIONNA"
By: Chris on November 19, 2016
My plates would say Jersey Girl but I wouldn't want people to think I drove like I was from Jersey! Lol
By: Bee BB Bee on November 20, 2016
There is a Thai restaurant in our area and every time I frequent the joint for lunch there is a very expensive vehicle in the parking lot with a vanity plate that reads "E COLI." My friends and I figure it is the restaurant owner's car. I'm not sure why we go back to eat there, but it is a very popular place. Things that make you go Hmmm.
By: STL Fan on November 30, 2016

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