Getting a vanity license plate for your car is an opportunity to bring smiles to the drivers around you. Thousands of people have used the system to make jokes and puns. But there are some words that have unintended consequences when they are attached to your car.
In 1979 a Los Angeles man named Robert Barbour found this out the hard way when he sent an application to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requesting personalized license plates for his car. The DMV form asked applicants to list three choices in case one or two of their desired selections had already been assigned. Barbour, a sailing enthusiast, wrote down "SAILING" and "BOATING" as his first two choices; when he couldn't think of a third option, he wrote "NO PLATE," meaning that if neither of his two choices was available, he did not want personalized plates. Plates reading "BOATING" and "SAILING" had indeed already been assigned, so the DMV, following Barbour's instructions literally, sent him license plates reading "NO PLATE." Barbour was not thrilled that the DMV had misunderstood his intent, but he opted to keep the plates because of their uniqueness.
Four weeks later he received his first notice for an overdue parking fine, from faraway San Francisco, and within days he began receiving dozens of overdue notices from all over the state on a daily basis. Why? Because when law enforcement officers ticketed illegally parked cars that bore no license plates, they had been writing "NO PLATE" in the license plate field. Now that Barbour had plates bearing that phrase, the DMV computers were matching every unpaid citation issued to a car with missing plates to him.
Barbour received thousands of such notices over the next few months, and it was years before anyone did anything about it. He was far from the only one. Read about other people with different vanity plates that got them into trouble through bureaucratic means at Snopes. -via reddit
(Image credit: Randall Munroe/xkcd)