That was December 1993 or early January 1994 and the young woman in the new Mustang convertible was Roberta Hernandez. We worked together at Sierra Designs in Oakland from 1979 through the mid 80s. She had a vintage Mustang back then and the biggest, wettest, most beautiful brown eyes I had ever seen.

One day she came to me with an idea for a vanity license plate: BGBRNIS. Big brown eyes. She asked me what I thought.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I see BGBRNIS and what jumps out at me is Big Bernice.”

Big Bernice. Roberta didn’t like that. She began to pout a little.

I had another idea.

“How about BGBRNII instead?” I offered. “II instead of IS. It’s more of a puzzle, you have to work it a little harder, but there it is. Big brown eyes.”

Roberta pondered this for a moment. “Not Big Bernice.”

“Big Bernice is gone.”

She went with BGBRNII.

A few years later, on 5 January 1994, long after I had left Sierra Designs and shortly after Roberta had moved on to be one of the founding core employees of Mountain Hardwear in Berkeley, some years since we had last seen each other, I was reading Herb Caen’s column when, in the very first graph, I saw her BGBRNII as big as life, right there in black and white in the San Francisco Chronicle. That vanity license plate had moved with her from her old Mustang to a new one. Our BGBRNII. I’m sure I glowed all day.

I don’t know if Roberta saw Caen’s column, too. I hope so.