Arlington County resident Kyle Clifford has strong opinions about traffic in Northern Virginia, particularly the major east-west thoroughfare Interstate 66. And he’s summed it up quite nicely: I66 BLOZ.
Yes, Clifford is the owner of the vanity plate that was highlighted in a story we did last month about Virginians’ penchant for using personalized tags to express how they feel about the muchmaligned, notoriously traffic-choked highway.
Because of state privacy laws, we weren’t able to match the plates we highlighted with their creative owners.
Over the years, many motorists have spotted Clifford’s distinctive plate and tweeted or blogged about it. And, a few days after The Washington Post article ran, Clifford e-mailed and said he’d be delighted to chat.
At 47, Clifford, a genial brown-haired gentleman with a beard and mustache, has worn many hats. He worked as a trade show coordinator for years, then co-owned an Arlington restaurant, Café! Café!, with his wife, Juli. These days, he’s the guy that helps de-clutter your home — as a junk-removal specialist. Slogan: “Let it Go . . . It’s Just Junk.”
He loves coming up with quips and slogans. For his aunt and uncle’s wine shop, he came up with “Stop in, pick up a Cab.” When his wife ran her catering business, he suggested “EAT EM” for her plates. She passed.
And because his work takes him all over Northern Virginia, he’s on I-66 almost every day. Depending on the time of day, that might mean a 30-minute trip —or a four-hour trip. And, yes: Just like the thousands of others in the region who depend on that roadway to get them where they need to go, it makes him crazy.
“ ‘Reverse commute’? There’s no such thing anymore,” he said.
Weekends and I-66? Don’t get him started.
“The weekends on I-66 are as bad as the weekdays,” he said. “I try to get everything done in the morning, because after 2 p.m., you’re stuck. It’s an interstate in name only. Really, it’s a commuter artery.”
He’s particularly critical of how state officials have managed the HOV lanes on I-66.
But back to the license plate.
About five years ago, Clifford bought a new Jeep, which of course, needed new plates.
“I wanted something funny and fun,” he said. So he decided to take a poke at I-66. He pondered the possibilities. He didn’t want “sucks” in any form, he said. Too obvious.
He figured BLOWS was too risky and likely to be quashed by the folks at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles who are in charge of deciding the appropriateness of personalized plates. So he settled on BLOZ.
He submitted his idea through the DMV’s online system. A few weeks later, much to his surprise, the plates arrived in the mail. He hadn’t bothered to tell his wife, who took one look at them and rolled her eyes.
On his first few forays with the tags, drivers honked and waved. At first, he thought they were trying to alert him that something was wrong with his car or perhaps, gulp, he’d cut them off and was about to become the victim of road rage. But he soon realized the honks and waves were from fellow sufferers who shared his sentiment about the road.
“They’d honk, they’d wave, and occasionally, I’d get a thumbs up,” he said.
These days, when he’s stopped at a traffic light, he’ll sometimes look in his rearview mirror and spot someone trying to snap a picture with a cellphone. He’ll slow down a bit so they can get the shot.
“It’s a bumper sticker that makes people laugh,” he said.
Once in awhile, there is an awkward moment.
Like the time a young boy who couldn’t quite spell asked about the meaning. Clifford paused, thinking. Then he faked a French accent and said BLOZ was pronounced blasé, as in something no one really cares about.
The boy walked away satisfied; the boy’s parents just grinned.