Doubles!

Years ago, when carpooling my son Christopher and his friend Jeffery to a soccer game, Jeffery (according to Christopher) came up with a new in-car travel game. Whenever one of them would spot double numbers or letters on a license plate (22, BB, etc) they would shout “doubles” then punch the other in the shoulder. Jeffery has long since forgotten the game but it still stays with our family to this day. We’ve modified it to include triples (3 in a row), double-doubles (2 doubles on the same license), a full-house (a double and a triple together), and also we’ve changed the punch to just a gentle tap.

Doubles seem to be pretty common, I’d give an unscientific estimate around 25% to 30% of the cars on the road have them. I’ll see an average of at least one at nearly every traffic light. Depending on how much I’m on the road I could see a couple of dozen or more in a day. Double-doubles occur with less frequency but I still can spot several in a day. I see triples about once a day and full houses are even rarer yet, showing up perhaps a few times a week. Quadruples are very hard to find. Since we began the game I’ve only seen a handful.

Quintuples are the rarest yet. Partly it’s due to how license plates are organized (in California, at least). On ordinary passenger cars the plate starts out with a number followed by 3 letters and then 3 numbers (eg: 1ABC234). That limits things to at most a triple-triple (which I’ve seen just a few more times than a quad). Pickup trucks, however, are a little different. Their plates start with a number, then a letter followed by 5 more numbers (eg: 1A23456). Some newer truck licenses have that order reversed with 5 numbers, a letter and another number at the end (eg: 12345A6). The quintuple has been the Holy Grail of our numbers game, a near-mythological quarry that one just dreams of catching, until now.

Recently, I was driving around Stockton looking for an enterprise feature shot. I drove down to Louis Park, finding nothing, I made my way back into town on Monte Diablo Avenue when I saw it. Stopped at a 4-way intersection I glanced down at the license plate on the vehicle in front of me. On a Nissan Frontier pickup was a plate that had 5 sevens! To top it off, the first number was also a 7! I had seen an elusive quint. I felt like a birder who has spotted some rare bird thought long extinct. One thing dampened my enthusiasm. I was the only one in the car and I had no one to punch – er – tap on the shoulder.

California government vehicles have license plates with 7 digits, all of them numbers. So there’s one last ultimate plate to spot: the septuple.

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