Q: Can you return and exchange for a new license plate on a car? Seeing the word, "WAR," preceding the numbers on a Florida license plate behind a car is my reason for writing. Why in the world doesn't whoever makes these plates check for offensive combination of letters DUM, OLD, UGL or GAY? You get the idea. If my plate arrived with the word 'WAR' on it, I would take it back for another one. Can you do this?
— Paul Reed, Naples
A: Of course you can return the license plate for another one if you do not like the letter or number combination.
"The plate can be returned to any tax collectors office in Florida," said Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, deputy communications director for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. "The person needs to take the plate and registration with them."
Consider, though, that what is offensive to one person may not be offensive to another. It's probably best not to read too much into it.
For instance, "WAR" on a license plate doesn't necessarily mean one is a warmonger. It could be the plate of a veteran or someone who enjoys a simple card game. Or, likely in this case, it could mean absolutely nothing.
Would you be offended by the reverse of these letters, or "RAW"? That license label wouldn't necessarily mean you are crude or unrefined. Maybe you just love sushi or uncooked veggies.
You may want to return a license plate with the numbers "666," but another hellbent motorist may sell his soul for it. To each his own.
Unless you've paid extra to create your own vanity plate, the plate you receive is the luck of the draw. Olsen-Doolan said the state doesn't use letters and numbers on license plates in a uniform way.
"We have so many plates, we use a combination of letters and numbers on both sides of the orange," she said.
Floridians have the option of the county name, "Sunshine State" or "In God We Trust," stamped along the bottom of license plates. For a few dollars more, you also can switch to a specialty license plate.
Florida specialty plates are available for more than 35 colleges or universities in Florida, nearly 25 environmental groups, nine professional sorts teams and more than 50 other miscellaneous causes or organizations.
Of the nearly 1.4 million specialty plates sold last year in Florida, the top two show school spirit for major universities – University of Florida and Florida State. More than 100,000 UF plates were purchased in each of the last five years. Nearly 65,000 FSU plates were sold last year.
The other top specialty plates provide support for the state's unique environment. Ranked 3, 4 and 5,respectively, are plates for Helping Sea Turtles Survive, Protect Wild Dolphins, and Protect the Panther. Each cause sold about 60,000 plates or more last year.
For a full-color brochure showing all specialty plates available in Florida, go to http://www.flhsmv.gov/html/tagbrochure.pdf.
Santa on the Moon
Q: We have been in Naples since 2000 and have always enjoyed the "Santa on the Moon" on Third Street South. How long has it been there and how old is it?
— Wes Scott, Naples
A: Unfortunately, not much of a story could be learned behind the large Christmas decoration, but it has been a holiday fixture hanging from a tree near the gazebo on Third Street South for about 15 years.
The plastic decoration features a dozing Santa Claus reclining in a crescent moon.
The Third Street Concierge directed me to Neapolitan Enterprises, the property manger for the Third Street South business district and the folks responsible for the decorations on the downtown street. Unfortunately, the brightly colored Santa on the moon decoration doesn't really have a colorful history.
"It's made to look like an antique but I don't think it actually is. It's just a neat-looking decoration," said Justin Collins, director of operations for Neapolitan Enterprises.
The decoration, though, is a timely excuse to mention the annual Christmas on Third celebration which kicks off tonight and runs through Saturday up and down Third Street South in downtown Naples. Tonight, Naples Mayor John Sorey will flip the switch at 6:15 to illuminate the Christmas tree. Spirit of the Gulf, a more than 150-woman a cappella group, will be among the many performers.
Downtown's "Celebration of Lights" continues Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights this week. Enjoy the lights, decorations and music from 6 to 9 nightly, with "snow" falling at 7:30 p.m. every night except Thanksgiving.
Also in downtown Naples, the 38th annual Christmas walk and tree lighting ceremony on Fifth Avenue South will be Dec. 6 from 5 to 9:30 p.m.
For a local list of other holiday events, go to naplesnews.com/christmas.
Have a local question? Email it with your name and city of residence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.