Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

The Car Tag Saga

(Or: Come and See The Idiocy Inherent in the System!)

Last updated: Feb 22, 2005

April 20, 1999

On Tuesday April 20, 1999, I went down to my local courthouse to renew my car tag (license plate). I requested a custom tag: DOUGAL. The lady checked and let me know that it was available, I wrote my check, and got my temporary tag.

The next morning, the lady from the courthouse called me back and said that the people in the Montgomery had denied my request for DOUGAL as my tag. It seems that somebody in Montgomery interpreted this to mean Do U Gal, and was somehow offended. Even the lady who relayed this message to me was surprised. She said she showed the DOUGAL request to several people in the courthouse, and they all saw a name. None of them interpreted it as Do U Gal.

Now, it seems that I have to write a letter to the Administrative Law Judge at the Alabama Department of Revenue to ask them to reconsider my request.

Let us recount in how many ways this whole thing is stupid:

  • The state has records of my birth certificate, driver’s license, taxes, voter registration, and a whole slew of other documents which can attest to the fact that my middle name is MacDougal.
  • When the lady from the courthouse called me to relay this message, she had to listen to my company’s phone extension directory to find my extension. The name given in the directory is Dougal Campbell.
  • My business cards list my name as Dougal Campbell.
  • The phone company has a listing for me in the phone book under the name Dougal Campbell
  • I have three different email accounts, all of which are dougal@something
  • My name has been listed in the newspaper on numerous occassions when interviewed about events in the local Internet business. It has always been listed as Dougal Campbell
  • Dougal is still a fairly common name in the United Kingdom. Gee, do you think my name might sound just a wee bit Scottish?

    And last, but not least:

  • Even if my intention was for the tag to say Do U Gal, what’s so friggin offensive about that?

So anyhow, now I have to write a letter to justify my name to the state of Alabama. I’ll let you know when I hear something new.

My letter to the judge: PDF, 7.8KB or HTML, 3KB

UPDATE May 5, 1999

I have received a response from the Administrative Law Judge: HTML, 1.7KB

I’ll let you know more in 30-60 days 😉

UPDATE August 6, 1999

A few weeks ago, I finally got the judge’s decision. I might type up a copy of the letter later, but for now, here’s the quick synopsis:

  • The judge did not personally think that having DOUGAL for my tag was offensive.
  • The judge can’t do anything about it because the DMV has the authority to deny my request on whatever criteria they decide.
  • It’s now four months later, I still don’t have a custom tag, and the state still has my extra $50.
  • I’ve moved in the meantime, which I’m willing to bet will complicate matters when I get around to requesting a new string for my tag.

UPDATE April 13, 2000

BWAAAHAHAHAHA! HA! Late last month I went to renew my tag here in Coffee County, where I now reside. I explained to the girl behind the desk at the courthouse that I had requested a custom tag the previous year, but had moved around the time it should have arrived, and that I never got it. After verifying that the tag wasn’t already in the system, she let me re-request it, accepting my $50 that I had paid the previous year. I also got to specify alternate choices (which I was not given the opportunity to do on my previous attempt), so I put down some alternates: WEBGURU and EMC3.

My tag arrived yesterday. What does it say? DOUGAL

Game over. I win. Or, as the old man in High Road to China says, “the ox is slow, but the earth is patient.”

The Empire Strikes Back!

March 21, 2002

Doh! I can’t believe it…. They refused to renew my “DOUGAL” tag this year! Once again, my name has offended the delicate sensibilities of some goober in Montgomery. AAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!

I am so sorry that I have been offending everyone with my name. Obviously Iowe everyone profuse apologies. From now on, you can reach my homepage at http://d—–

July 17, 2002:

Upon relaying the Car Tag Saga to some of my wife’s relatives, one of them made an interesting observation. You see, the reason that they reviewed my tag this year is that the state issued completely new license plates for everyone (with some stupid “Stars Fell on Alabama” tagline replacing the old “Heart of Dixie” motto). If it had been a normal renewal, I would have just gotten updated stickers showing my tag expiration date, and I would have put them on my existing DOUGAL plate.

Do you see what this means? The government of Alabama had to issue new
license plates to every resident in the state, just to eradicate my personalized car tag!
They realized that I had done an end-run on the system, and made every other resident of the state pay (in the form of tax dollars) for their mistake!

I had previously decided that I wasn’t going to try to fight the system any more. But this realization has stoked the fires of my indignation. So when it is time to renew my registration next March, I will again be requesting a DOUGAL license plate.

March 6, 2003

It’s March again — time to renew my car tag. And I have an idea. I don’t want to say what it is just yet. Let’s just say that it’s time for a certain Jedi to show the Empire how to use the Force….

In other news, if you’re still reading, you might be interested to know that the state of Alabama actually has a web page where you can check the availability of a custom tag. So, if you want to know if “AL SUX” is available for your personalized tag, check out this form at the Motor Vehicle Division. That link is thanks to my lovely wife, Susan. Thanks for finding that, Suze!

February 24, 2004

Someone recently pointed out to me that I hadn’t updated this page in a while. The idea that I mentioned previously was to apply for “DOUG4L”. But I finally decided that I didn’t want to stoop to l33t sp33k. I got “EMC3” instead.

But you know what they say, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” If the state of Alabama is going to change tags, just so I can’t have “DOUGAL”, then I’ll just move to a different state! Ha! More to come….

Foiled Again!

August 16, 2004

Bah! Susan was registering our other cars here in Georgia last week, and while she was in the DMV office, she checked on the availability of “DOUGAL” for my car. They told her that was “unavailable”. We don’t know if that means that it’s on a naughty list here, too, or if it just means that somebody else already has it. I suspect the latter. Especially since Metro Atlanta alone has nearly the population of the whole state of Alabama.


March 22, 2005

When we renewed my car tag back in January, Susan asked again about the “DOUGAL” tag. The DMV folks said that “DOUGAL” wasn’t available, but “DOUGAL1” is! So I’m actually thinking that I might get “DOUGAL3” (since I’m a “third”). It will probably have to wait until next year, though. There are too many other things going on right now for me to deal with a vanity plate.

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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