A few years ago, after my children and I completed an inspiring tour of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C., we were returning to our prime parking spot right outside the building when my daughter noticed that my license tag was gone. I was mad. Here we were learning about our sophisticated law enforcement while at that very moment, a major crime went unnoticed.
My son, having been duly impressed by the G-Men on the tour, suggested I report it to the FBI. The security desk radioed upstairs and soon we were leading three or four federal agents down the steps of the J. Edgar Hoover building toward our car.
“This section of the street is considered federal property,” one G-Man was telling us. “If they stole it from here, then you’ll have the full authority of the FBI behind you.”
My anger at being a victim suddenly turned to delight as I envisioned some poor unsuspecting dude surrounded by a dozen G-Men yelling: “FBI – Freeze! Give us that Georgia tag back.”
When we walked up to my car, one of the men started shaking his head.
“I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “But you are parked 20 feet outside our jurisdiction. We’ll have to call in the D.C. Police on this one. If you had just parked a few spaces down, we could have helped you.”
Nearly 45 minutes later a cop pulled up, took a few notes before his radio cackled with reports of an armed robbery at a nearby Wendy’s.”
He scribbled something on a scrap piece of paper and handed it to me. “I’ve got to run. Here’s your incident report number. I’ll write up your incident in a few days and you can request a copy.”
Back in Atlanta, I went to the county tag office, but they refused me a new one, demanding to see my police report. Calls to the D.C. police found my incident number had not been turned in yet.
As I stared into my computer screen at work, I searched for a solution. I then did what any good designer would do: I designed my own exact replacement, replete with year and month, the county name and even positioned the state peach behind my number. Then in a burst of honesty, instead of merely typing the state name at the top, I wrote: “Tag Stolen from Georgia.” My coworkers were impressed. So, it seemed, were the police.
Soon, I was being pulled over all over town. Policemen would walk up to my window, scratch their heads and inevitably begin with, “Sir, where in the world did you get that tag?”
“I designed it myself, on my computer,” I would say.
I would then tell my story about taking my kids to visit the FBI and how the G-Men had to call the D.C. policeman, who was called to an armed robbery … yada, yada.
Some would cut me off with a roll of their eyes and wave me on while others expressed great admiration for my handiwork. One asked about my computer software, and how I scanned the peach. Once I was pulled over twice on the same night on Piedmont Road.
Realizing I was spending more and more time on the side of the road meeting Atlanta’s finest, I located one clerk in the D.C. police department who took sympathy on my sudden popularity. She promised to harass the original cop until he got his paperwork in. When that proved fruitless, she typed the report herself and faxed it to me.
Within hours, I was fastening on a new – albeit more boring – state tag on my car. I haven’t seen any blue lights in my mirror since. Next time I go to D.C., I’ll know to park directly in front of the FBI.