The Iowa Department of Transportation, having issued personalized plates to Mr. Glen Keenan of Jefferson County, has decided it wants them back:
If he would be so kind, the state told him, please "voluntarily surrender" the new plates. Within 10 days….
Keenan tells me this is what his personalized Iowa license plates say: ITMFA.
Which makes for a not-so-obvious problem that he had to explain because I was unable to pronounce anything objectionable—or anything at all, for that matter—using the combination of letters he'd chosen.
Keenan directed me to the Web site "itmfa.com".
For those of you who didn't click through, the "I" stands for "impeach" and the "M" stands for "mother."
"They look them over and do their very best to screen the applications," said the DOT's Dena Gray-Fisher. "They exchange information with other states and find what people are trying to get through."
A few slip in now and then and alert citizens file a complaint.
There were two complaints about Keenan's plates…
See, that's the part of this story that bothers me. Not the fact that the state wants to squash the plate. That's annoying, and I suppose I'm against it, but it doesn't speak to any larger issue. It's the fact that there are people trolling through the highways, looking for messages that show insufficient respect for the president, and squealing to the authorities. Doesn't matter if the word "motherfucker" doesn't actually appear on the plates. Doesn't matter if it's an obscure abbreviation that will be impenetrable to anyone not already in on the joke. Do your part, Citizen! Make that call!
"I don't know what the big deal is with mine," said Keenan, 41. "My plate isn't vulgar. It's simply a series of letters than can mean any number of things."
"Sure," he said. "It can mean 'Impeach the Miserable Failure Already.' Or it could mean 'Information Technology Masters Fine Arts.' You could think of lots of things. I mean, any vehicle with an 'F' on the license plate could be objectionable to somebody."