Saturday, January 01, 2011

What happens when you achieve your dream (and it wasn't what you expected it to be)?

I have always collected license plates, Virginia plates to be exact.  No, I do not have a physical collection of license plates in my office or anywhere in my house.  The collection is in my brain.  I like to run across low-number license plates.  In Virginia, the lower the plate number the more important the driver...or so it seemed to me for all of these years.  Most of the low-number plates I have found belong to members of the Virginia government.  Some are house or senate members, others may be a court clerk or someone else of elevated status.  In most cases the person's job title is spelled out on the plate itself.  I guess that is code for "do not tow me, I am important."

I saw Eric Cantor's car at Panera Bread one day, a few years ago.  If you are not familiar with Mr. Cantor, he is a member of the United States House of Representatives from Virginia and I think he will be the Majority leader for the House in a few days.  Cantor is a pretty good guy.  I remember when he actually went door to door and talked to people.  My mom saw him so many times, he actually remembered her name...but that was years ago.  Anyway, I was excited to see his car, but he was not in the restaurant.  One of his aides was picking up lunch I guess.

One little-known fact is that the members of the Virginia legislature park in the basement of the Library of Virginia.  They ride the elevator up to the main level and then walk across the street to their offices.  I have ridden the elevator with many prominent figures.  One of my most memorable experiences was bumping into John Hagar, who was Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1998-2002.  I actually ran into him on the street and spoke to him for a few minutes.  At that time, he was in office and was alone on the security whatsoever.  I do not remember if it was before or after 9/11, but it struck me as odd that he would be alone.  

You have to keep in mind that Hagar is in a wheelchair.  I have no idea why he is disabled but he uses a wheelchair for whatever reason.  You also have to keep in mind that Richmond is a very hilly city.  Here I am, on West Broad Street, and here come the Lieutenant Governor wheeling himself, in a manual chair, up a hill.  I gained a huge amount of respect for the guy at that moment.  He probably could have had help from any number of people but he was out on his own, living life.  I saw Hagar a few times after that, at various functions around town, but never in the same light I saw him that day.  You may have also seen Hagar on the national news in 2008 when his son married President Bush's daughter, Jenna.

So, back to the license plates.  After all of my years of searching for low number plates, I had found a lot of good ones.  I have seen numbers 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on but I never found the illusive plate number 1.  I always assumed it belonged to someone of utmost importance, probably the governor himself.  I doubted that the governor drove himself around a lot so I understood the elusiveness of the plate.  Well, that all changed for me one day last week.

My wife is a photographer and she wanted me to deliver some photos to a client.  I agreed but was not overly excited about doing it.  I had to drive to her studio and pick them up before making the actual delivery...more than I really wanted to do.  Being a good husband, I took the ride and kept my mouth shut.  Well, on the way to drop off the photos, a truck pulled in front of me and to my was plate number 1!  It was nondescript except for the blaring "1".  It gave no indication that I was following the governor, or anyone else for that matter.  It was absolutely killing me to pass the person and see who was driving.

We were on a one-lane road so I had no way of passing them.  Luckily the driver was going the way that I was, so I waited for the perfect moment to make some kind of move.  Luck was apparently on my side because the vehicle's driver decided to take a right up ahead.  I sped up and got as close as I could so that when the vehicle turned, i might be able to see the driver.  Now, my memory is a little fuzzy here, but the driver seemed to have been an older man or woman...but clearly not Bob McDonnell!  I was a little disappointed but I drove on and delivered the pictures.  I did manage to pull out my iPod Touch and snap a photo of the plate as a keepsake.

The more I thought about this over the next few days, the more it began to bother me.  All of these years I held license plate 1 up to this really high level of expectation.  For all intents and purposes, my dreams were crushed because, as far as I could tell, the driver of car 1 for the Commonwealth of Virginia is an average Joe.  Now, I could be wrong.  The driver could have been someone of great importance but I can at least say they were not who I expected or was looking for.

I went and saw the Disney movie "Tangled" with my daughter this past weekend.  There is a scene in the movie where Rapunzel is in a boat with Flynn and they are talking about dreams.  Rapunzel always dreamed about seeing the release of these certain lanterns into the sky.  As she waited with Flynn to see the lanterns drift into the heavens, she found herself being afraid.  What if the lanterns did not meet the expectations of her dreams, or worse yet, what if they surpassed her expectations, what would she do?  His answer was simple, you just find another dream.

Now, I find myself sitting here waiting for a new dream to come along.  I know all of this sounds silly but I really did just achieve something I had been looking for all of my life.  I cannot help but feel a little bit lost.  In genealogy, we have tons of little find the grave of great-grandpa or locate cousin Joe on the 1880 census.  It is easy to pick a new genealogical dream because there are tons of them available.  Genealogy is a search that never ends...unlike finding the only license plate number 1.

I am sure that one day I will find a new dream, to find a new game to play.  License plates were great fun while it lasted but those days are gone.  I mean, what am I going to do, start looking for plate 10?  No, because that could never evoke the excitement of finding number 1.  But at the very least, if you think about it, I got 32 years worth of entertainment for free.  I guess I should be grateful for that much!


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your blog about the license plates... you conveyed your enthusiasm and disappointment very well... I always wondered about those low numbered license plates and now I know. I was doing my usual genealogy search (Markwoods of Augusta County) and stumbled upon your site. Great site btw, I've bookmarked it as a resource and will visit again.

Anonymous said...

How you would conduct a reverse license plate owner look up? I want to know whether there is any kind of way you can type in a license plate number on the internet and see the identify of the person if it is associated with or perhaps the address of that person. Can someone help me to solve this? It is an The state of illinois plate with S right at the end of it. Please e-mail me if you can do a search or post if you know how you can do a free one. Thanks very much.