Vanity Plates Backfire on Mr. 'Not Visible'

When Nick Vautier selected a personalized license plate that said NV, he little knew what a rough ride lay ahead.

"I started to get random parking tickets from Los Angeles," wrote the Bay Area resident, "where my car has never been. For every type of car. Except a Mazda. Which is what I drive." And it wasn't just Los Angeles. In all, he received more than 100 parking citations from around the state for non-Mazdas.

Eventually, he learned the problem: Some traffic officers were writing the abbreviation NV on parking tickets for other cars to show that their plates were "Not Visible." So, each time an NV citation was being sent out, Vautier's name would bounce up.

He got rid of his NV plate. And after writing numerous letters and spending a lot of phone time on hold, Vautier had most of the tickets dismissed. But he says he's still fighting the cities of L.A. and Oakland over tickets mistakenly issued to him.

Such is his frustration that he created a website (100parkingtickets.com) to exhibit his not-so-prized collection of citations.

At one point, Vautier said, "I tried calling my local police department to see if there was a bench warrant out for my arrest. The friendly officer told me that I would have to come to the office -- in person. And I swear she said this with what sounded like a straight face."

Plate shifts (cont.): Vautier has thus joined a small group of unfortunates whose vanity plates turned out to have special meanings for traffic officers, resulting in numerous unjustified citations.

Corky Rice, for instance, discovered that his XXX plate bore the same three letters that some officers wrote to denote a car had no plate. Andrew Burg ran into the same situation with MISSING. And no need to tell you what Robert Barbour's problem was. His plate said NOPLATE.

Back together again: Peggy Bird of Calabasas was shocked to see that the left hand of a harpooner in San Pedro had slid down his weapon, almost as though a sea creature had gotten even with him (see photo). I'm informed that the hand is back in its proper place.

If you didn't think the real estate bubble had burst...: Look at the price of some property noticed by Michael Jelf of Lomita (see accompanying).

Dueling instructions: At an Orange County course, Richard Hoffman of Manhattan Beach noticed a sign that would leave golfers unsure whether they were coming or going (see photo).

miscelLAny: The movie "Hollywoodland," which deals with the mysterious shooting death of actor George Reeves, should go a long ways toward ending one urban folk tale. For years, the rumor was that Reeves, TV's "Superman," had leaped to his death.

Incidentally, Allen Wilkinson of Whittier noticed a promotional blurb for the film declaring that star Ben Affleck "shows his acting chops and rare intelligence." Wilkinson wondered whether the blurb was implying that Affleck is not so intelligent most of the time.

Steve Harvey can be reached at (800) LATIMES, Ext. 77083, by fax at (213) 237-4712, by mail at Metro, L.A. Times, 202 W. 1st St., L.A. 90012, and by e-mail at steve.harvey@latimes.com.

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