I sometimes wonder if there is anything more ridiculous, more ludicrous than a personalised number plate - that rinky-dinky clutch of letters that spells out what you are to the world: "I am a prat with more money than sense."
New figures this week reveal that Scotland - where I live - is the very CAPITAL of personalised number plates. In the town of Buckie, on the Moray Firth, one in four car-owners has got a personal number plate, their proud statement that this is their car and their car alone. That compares to just one in 50 in Cambridge.
What the hell is going on here? I thought Scots were supposed to be frugal, careful with their money, not pissing it up the wall on fripperies.
I have two sons, Dexter, 12, and Geordie, 9, and when we're on the road we are now constantly on the look out for these vanity plates. We jeer lustily at the most absurd ones.
Our favourites are when somebody has spelt out their first name. Marsha, for instance, with her number-plate MAR5HA - or one of our neighbours, Avril, who has got a plate that runs something like AVR11L.
When I see these first-name plates, I like to wind down the window and give them a shout out. "All right Deggsy?"
The drivers turn and gape - how, how did I know that his first name was Deggsy?
One of my finest hours came when I was driving through Ealing in West London. I saw a black 4x4 with a number plate that ran something like OFF1A4. I had soon worked out that this guy's name was Offiah - and since the guy happened to be muscly and black, he almost certainly had to be the "Wheels Offiah" himself, super-star rugby player Martin Offiah.
"All right Martin!" I yelled, giving him the thumbs-up as he cornered in front of me. Martin gave me the thumbs-up right back and a huge smile. "All right mate?"
My kids still talk about that one.
What I find astonishing about personal number plates is how anyone - anyone at all - could ever consider them to be even the remotest bit classy.
Does it speak of good taste and cool and general suavity to have forked out four figures for your initials to be set next to some random numbers?
Or do personal plates in fact shout out to the world - "I am one sad gimp who's spicing up my life by having my own initials on my own car."
Very occasionally, deluded parents give their children personal number plates. These cringe-making gifts are usually for big birthdays like 18ths or 21sts. They're so awful, they'd make your toes curl. Imagine driving along to a student bash with a plate that spells out your name. You'd be a laughing stock!
Some dear friends have given their daughter Abi a nice little runabout with the plate, "0BOYAB1".
Nooo! When I first saw that number-plate, I just thought "Oh boy!"
Another friend, Johnny Irish, was given an exceptionally expensive personal plate for his birthday. Johnny was training to be a vet and so his loving dad had spent weeks tracking down a plate which spelt out "JI VET". Howl! [Hi Johnny! Fancy a beer some time?]
At least with a plate like "JI VET" you've got a sporting chance of flogging it. There's bound to be some mug out there who'd love a plate which spelled out "JIVE T".
But most of these personal number-plates are completely unsellable. The only people who'd be interested in buying them would be the mugs who share your initials - and who have got, obviously, a large amount of spare loot that is waiting to be frittered away on trinkets.
Some drivers buy personal plates "just for a bit of fun". These bits of fun were not even funny the first time round - let alone the fiftieth. They are like the punning fish-and-chip shops which are called "The Plaice To Be" or "The Cod-Father".
Though there are some plates which really do make me smirk. These are the achingly cool plates which are attached to high-end cars. You own a really expensive, really hip Porsche, but you want to make it just that little bit more hip. What to do? Stick on a personal plate, with just two initials and a single number. (And that's fairly going to cost you.)
And what a statement it is to the world! "How rich am I, folks? I am rich enough to be able to spend £50 K on a stupid number-plate!"
There's one guy on our street who has a very expensive black car, might be a Porsche, might be a BMW, but anyway all I have eyes for is his number-plate which is "1RV" (or perhaps "RV1").
Poor old RV. There he is driving along in his polished car with his mirror shades an' all - and he truly thinks, he believes, that he looks so cool! When in fact... at least 80 per cent of the world thinks that he's a plonker! (And as for the remaining 20 per cent who are wowed by his plate... well I'm afraid, dear RV, that merely speaks volumes about the calibre of people who you are impressing.)
These ultra-richies with their ultra-expensive plates are the very opposite of classy or sophisticated. They are like the spotty school-kids who are wandering around with a sign on their backs that says "Kick me!"
One more example from these self-regarding people with more money than sense? How about Lord Sugar, King of the Apprentice, who swans around in his chauffeur-driven Bentley with its plates that read "AMS1". Oh yes - is that not what we all aspire to? You, my friend, will have arrived in the world when you've got a Bentley with your initials on the front.
Know who these personal plates really appeal to? The school-kids who love to carve their names into the desk-tops and the toilet cisterns. Quite fun to do when you're 13 - but perhaps, just possibly, a little sad for a car-driver over the age of 22.