My last rego sticker arrived in the mail this week. I haven’t decided quite how I feel about this yet.
I still have the first registration sticker from the first car I ever owned. Or what’s left of it, anyway. They weren’t quite as easy to peel off in those days. Apparently my Mazda – Maude, she was called – was due to be re-registered on 7 July 1995. That sticker holds bittersweet memories of my beautiful Maude, written off after 110,000 trouble-free kilometres one balmy summer’s eve in February 2001, after a 1964 Holden made entirely of reinforced steel approached from behind at full speed and decided its brakes didn’t want to work. It was a sad night. The whiplash and the paranoia of anyone driving behind me, the latter enduring far beyond that fateful night, were pretty unpleasant too.
I kept the first one from the second car I owned too, even though it was a hoary old bomb that I was never particularly enamored of. I guess I’m a bit of a hoarder. Strike that: I know I am.
The humble registration label – ‘rego sticker’ in the vernacular. A bit like a UK tax disc or those little stickers in the corners of American license plates. Everyone has one, though few people ever give them much thought. They just sit there quietly, inoffensively, in the corner of the window. They’ve been with us since my dear old Grandma was far younger than I am now, maybe longer.
Each state always had its own design, though all have cycled through the same nifty colour-coded sequence – blue one year, red the next, then purple, brown, green and orange and the cycle goes ’round again. Some states’ designs make a focal point of the month rego is due, others the year. Either way, every year (in the dark times before the world-wide interweb) it meant trudging along to your nearest Roads & Traffic Authority (or local equivalent), taking a number, sitting in an ugly grey plastic chair in front of some tattered 80s vertical drapes and commencing the interminable wait for an unhappy little person behind a perspex window to eventually call you up, take your payment and chuck your rego papers through a clattery old dot matrix printer. This would add an imprint of the critical sequence of letters and/or numbers that affirmed, in -2 point font for all the world (not) to see, that the roads were now officially a safe place to be for another year – this was a kosher rego sticker.
New South Wales recently became the third Australian state to sound the death knell for the humble registration label. New number plate-recognition technology means it’s now just as easy for police to extract all relevant details about us, our car and its registration status through a process that’s little more complex than taking a photo. From 1 January we’ll never have to affix another rego sticker to our windscreens again. What a relief.
Sure, back in the olden days they were a pain in the proverbial and it was all too easy to make a dog’s breakfast of it. There was backing paper to remove, trying to prevent the thing from rolling up into itself as you went. Then it had to be dampened with a sponge before you could start gingerly applying it to the windscreen (to clean glass only, they alway hastened to add), all the while slavishly smoothing out lumps in a valiant attempt to avoid that fatal air bubble – exactly what we thought might happen in the event of one, I was never entirely sure. Applying a sticky label that was, all at once, both brittle and slippery to the inside of a sheet of glass sloping downwards and away from you from the confines of the front passenger seat was no mean feat, but it didn’t end there. In fact, it didn’t even start there.
Anyone old enough to’ve attempted it and survived will also remember how much more of a dog’s breakfast could be made of getting the old one off! A razor blade, a paint scraper or sometimes even a chisel were the required tools of trade. Several hours of elbow grease later and, with a generous application of eucalyptus oil and shitloads of Windex, you might just have gotten your windscreen back to near-original condition. Just. After stepping out of the car to snatch a lungfull or two of fresh air – the heady aroma of eucalyptus and window cleaner making it impossible to breathe normally inside it – you’d then be ready to make a start on getting the new one into place. What fun it was.
Actually now I think about it, no it wasn’t. It was tiresome, tedious and a legal necessity. Thanks for the memories, rego stickers – on further reflection, I don’t think I will miss you after all. But the colours were nice.
Vive le progrès!