For once, a tale of wretched excess is not ours

My father recently emailed me a story that ran in the Wall Street Journal. Seems that vanity license plates are the rage in the United Arab Emirates, a very pleasant, oil-rich, friendly country in the Middle East, next to Saudi Arabia. An Abu Dhabi businessman Saeed Khouri made the Guinness Book of World Records when he paid $14 million for a license plate simply reading: 1.

OK, fine. I get it. He's a businessman in an oil-rich country. He's going to have some money that I don't have, and maybe he made some better choices in life, perhaps, like going into business instead of writing. So he has a license plate worth more than my car -- and house -- and life's possessions. I'm not jealous. (Well, maybe a little.)

The article explains how low-digit numbers are a status symbol, and so even mediocre, but low, numbers can fetch quite a price. In 10 auctions that have been held, buyers spent $120 million for 900 plates. The money is going to go to build a new trauma hospital for traffic-accident victims.