Hot Spots
My GaramChai

FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America: Ask-A-Desi

This section will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in the US, Canada and North America that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

Vanity License Plate lists interesting examples on the website
-CSHFLW Negative Cashflow. In Missouri, the state usually fills in any spaces on a vanity plate with a "-". This person has the most creative use of that little quirk of state government I've seen. (I know this doesn't really start with zero, but I don't know where else to put it!)
OOO LALA What more do you need to say? On a 1991 Red Convertible Corvette with IL Plates
02 BE ME Modest fellow, isn't he? On a 1991 ZR-1 Corvette
02BNLA      Oh, to be in LA or Love to be in LA since 0 is called love in tennis, from the movie "LA Story"
0GRAVTY Zero Gravity!

Road and Driving Trivia: Custom plates

Customized Number Plates

Custom Number Plate S JOSHI 3

Most of the 50 states allow vehicle owners to have cutomized number plates for their vehicles.

In US, a number plate is registered for the owner of the vehicle and not for the vehicle itself. That means, if one decides to sell the vehicle, he/she will retain the number plate and use it for a different vehicle he/she would purchase later. Person who bought this "used" vehicle will have his/her own plate, fix it and run the vehicle!

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues and regulates license-plates to all types of vehicles.

Every state will have its own laws and rules governing the customized plates. In some states, it's a free service while in some there is a nominal annual fee. In Illinois state, it is free if there is at least one digit in the pattern (E.g "S JOSHI 3" as seen in the picture). If all seven (maximum no. of characters allowed in any state) are alphabets, then there is additional fee of say 75$ per annum.

People use all intellect to come up with unique fancy numbers like "XLR8" (accelerate), "FXION8" (affectionate), "CMUTE"(commute) and so on...

"1DERFUL", isn't it?

An interesting episode !

This episode began in 1979, when a Los Angeles man named Robert Barbour sent in an application to the Department of Motor Vehicles 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. "BOATING" and "SAILING" had indeed already been assigned, and the DMV, following instructions literally, send Barbour license plates reading "NO PLATE." Barbour was not thrilled that the DMV had misunderstood his intent, but he eventually 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 about 2,500 notices over the next several months. He alerted the DMV to the problem, and they responded in a typically bureaucratic way by instructing him to change his license plates. But Barbour had grown too fond of his plates by then to want to change them, so he instead began mailing out a form letter in response to each citation. That method usually worked, although occasionally he had to appear before a judge and demonstrate that the car described on the citation was not his.

A couple of years later, the DMV finally caught on and sent a notice to law enforcement agencies requesting that they use the word NONE rather than NO PLATE to indicate a cited vehicle was missing its plates. This change slowed the flow of overdue notices Barbour received to a trickle, about five or six a month, but it also had an unintended side effect: Officers sometimes wrote MISSING instead of NONE to indicate cars with missing license plates, and suddenly a man named Andrew Burg in Marina del Rey started receiving parking tickets from places he hadn't visited either. Burg, of course, was the owner of a car with personalized plates reading "MISSING."!

Street Signs - Which Way?

Street Sign

Have you ever wondered what could be the logic behind street-name suffixes?

The suffixes generally are alley, avenue, boulevard, circle, court, crescent, crossing, dale, drive, extension, gardens, gate, heights, highway, lake, lane, park, parkway, path, place, plaza, point, ridge, road, roadway, square, street, trail... etc., to name a few.

You must have seen this plethora of terms and reacted:

(1) We need some kind of system here.
(2) There should be some minimal restrictions to protect the public interest.
(3) Whatever, I don't care. Go away.

Street Sign

There isn't any System


Reaction #3, has historically predominated among the public officials in charge of these things, but reaction #1 has occurred often enough to convince people there's some underlying plan when in fact there isn't.

Street Sign Street Sign Street Sign

The most famous system is Manhattan's grid (New York) of north-south avenues and east-west streets.

In Lansing (Michigan), they have a system in place:

Cul-de-sacs (dead-end roads) are named circle, court, way, or place
Meandering streets : drive, lane, path, trail
North-south streets : avenue, highway
Streets with planted medians : boulevard, parkway.

Street Sign Street Sign

In Guilford County, North Carolina, the system is:

North-south streets : street; East-west : avenue (reverse of Manhattan logic); Diagonal : road; Dead-end streets : terrace, point, cove, dale or way; Short curved roads with ingress and egress from the same thoroughfare : circle.

Means, there is no detailed national standard, One gross generalization is that long streets typically are called avenue, street, highway, road, etc., while short ones get terrace, court, place, and the like. But there are many exceptions even to this simple rule.

The U.S. Postal Service, however, has decided suffixes aren't worth worrying about. It merely requests that street names be unique without regard to suffix, lest mail carriers be confused if the suffix is left off. The agency adds a few other reasonable guidelines, e.g., street names should sound dissimilar to one another to avert mix-ups. These rules appear to have been widely adopted by local officials.

Links of Interest
  • Most states allow custom / vanity plates for a fee. Check out your local DMV website. Examples are
  • Traffic Offences: For most people, the most likely encounter with the law, might come in the form of traffic violations such as speeding and accidents. While driving on any public road, one needs to be prepared to be stopped by a police officer for speeding or other traffic inspection. Most roads have speed markers prominently placed, and the enforcement is quite rigorous with automatic speed cameras and radars being increasingly used. - Mohan's book


Buy Visitor's Travel Insurance
Get A Quote


Trivia and Questions for Indians and Immigrants in America

General Trivia : Introduction //Dollars and Cents // Social Security Number // About Mail and USPS // Story of The Old Glory // Green Card– Why Not Green? // Telephone Area Codes // Convex Mirrors and Caution // Bankruptcy and Chapter 11 // Radio and TV Broadcasting // Consumerism: Trivia on Wal-Mart. // Retail Trivia // Gas Prices– What's 0.9 Cent? // Roads and Interstate Highways // Road Driving Trivia // Finance 101 // Daylight Saving Time // Trivia on Etiquette

FAQ Disclaimer: All information provided in these FAQ’s is deemed to be accurate by the author.  Due care has been exercised to ensure the veracity of this information and guidelines. However, there may be error (s) and omission (s) and all information is subject to change., and its affiliates do not assume any liability for the information provided herein. The reader is strongly recommended to confirm this information from official sources.

GaramChai © 1999-2008 || Terms of Use