Among the many memorable things about being features editor at the daily paper in Key West was how often you didn’t have to step foot outside the office for the oddest little stories to find you; they walked right in the front door. Right up there at the top for me was the boisterous Eastern European expat who was trying to set the world record for balancing things like motorcycles on his teeth, and this guy, a true Key West fixture. Originally published Sept. 21, 1999 | (c) The Key West Citizen, 1999
A license to die for
Gary Burchfield is feeling a little nervous. When he applied for a new license plate for his truck, he decided to spend the extra dime on a customized plate. “GTC,” he figured, for “Gary The Carpenter.” The name people know him by around town. Give his truck that extra, personal touch. But now he hopes the plate he got back isn’t something he should take personally. “D666Y,” it reads. The details add up to something Burchfield’s pretty sure he doesn’t like. They spell trouble. First of all, Burchfield got the plate Sept. 9. That’s 9/9/99. Flip that new plate upside down, and it reads “999.” But leaving it right-side up bothers him enough. “When I saw the ‘666,’ it was the sign of the devil,” he said. And then he thought about the “D” and the “Y” bracketing those portentous numbers. “Die” — that’s the way he read it. And to top it off, the date on the plate was May 1999. It’s not even valid. Expired plate. Death in the letters. The devil in the numbers. “Would you tempt fate and put that on a black truck?” he asked. What does the license-plate agency say about all this? Burchfield hasn’t had the nerve to ask.