Mr. 666

Plate numbers are important in Lebanon, but who would want to own this one?

I put the question to a couple of bodyguards standing around the black-tinted window SUV it was attached to.

“Who are you,” one asked suspiciously, identifying himself as a member of the “mukhabarat” (secret police).

“You don’t believe me,” he asked. “No,” I said.

He pointed to a heavy set man in the passenger seat who held up an AR-57 machine gun, grinning.

“He’s in the army,” the first man said. Both were wearing civilian clothes.

“Where do you live, what do you do,” I was asked.

With each answer they examined me skeptically.

“So does this guy own a shop here or something,” I wondered.

The first bodyguard pointed a finger up and down the busy commercial street. “He owns all of these.”

Suddenly, a tallish man wearing jeans and mirrored sunglasses appeared walking toward us. The body guards scurried into action, leaving me on the curbside.

I wonder if the owner of this ‘666’ plate knows the owner of the Saudi ‘666’ plate, who also likes to hang out in Lebanon.

Three number plates can cost tens of thousands of dollars on the informal market. But not only does the lucky purchaser get prestige–if you look closely, the plate reads “private” on the lower left corner.

Does this mean the owner is immune from stops at checkpoints or any other type of police ‘interference’? After all, who would want to pull over Mr. 666 anyway?

***

Correction: I’ve never noticed this but apparently all plates bear the “private” insignia in small print, separating them from commercial plates. So I guess Mr. 666 is treated just like the rest of us 😉