This is a sad fact.

If you happen to find yourself traveling by automobile in the United States, in the state of Florida, you will likely encounter a number of small white signs along the roadway in various odd locales. They are circular and about the size of a standard dinner plate. Employees of the state highway department have erected all of these signs since about 1990, and more appear along the state's roadways every month... hundreds more go up every year. Sometimes you will find several of them standing side by side in the same spot.

More often than not, the signs will be adorned with wreaths, Christian crosses, assorted graffiti. The prominent words which the state puts on these signs are "DRIVE SAFELY". Other words, too small to be read from an automobile on the road, are featured below. These smaller words are people's names preceded by the words "In Memory Of".

In every location where one of these signs are placed, it signifies that someone has DIED in an automobile wreck at that spot. I shit you not! Someone actually died right there. The signs were legislated out of a desire to replace the ad-hoc memorials and tacky shrines that the dearly departed's various loved ones were routinely erecting along roadsides in Florida on a daily basis. This was explained to some extent by briiiiian's writeup in this node once upon a time, before it was deleted.

I wish I could find at least one "official" web link to show you what I'm talking about here, but I can't. It doesn't appear to be documented on the web. Maybe E2 is the only place on the Internet that you can read about this. Who knows.
Read all the way down to the bottom. Cry as necessary. briiiiian's writeup:

I was passing by the Denny's on 436 in Casselberry today and I saw about a half dozen people putting up a small, circular sign on the corner. It said


They had some balloons that they let fly away, and I suddenly realized it was a ceremony to honor a life passing. I pulled over and cried and cried and cried. I couldn't stop thinking about how impermanant and fleeting our lives are in this world. And about how people are extinguished every day. I couldn't bear it. I believe in the circular motion of things, that we are all part of some giant wheel. But it's a crushing, ruthless wheel. One we all must watch turn in our time.

Originally posted under September 5, 2002

Dear gut-wrenching daylog,

Today was one of those rarest of days, those few days of my life when I get to briefly stare directly into the face of Death. I am happy to report that once again, Death blinked.

It didn't seem like it would be a special day when I awoke this morning. I had to drive to Orlando to install some new routing equipment. A four-hour drive down I-10, I-75, and the Florida Turnpike. I arrived at 401 W. Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park, installed the equipment, tested for functionality, same old same old. Back in the truck at 3PM, headed back north on the Turnpike.

Ah yes, the truck. 1999 Ford Explorer Sport. The Turnpike. "Florida's Main Street." The sudden torrential rains that commonly fall out of the Central Florida sky on late summer afternoons. The flowing water, the high rate of speed, the ruts in the pavement.

Yes, you guessed it.

Now, this has happened to me in this truck before. In Central Florida, as it just so happens. I should know better, I guess. But anyway, the event begins, and I think to myself, Oh shit, here we go again. Turn into the skid. Let off on the gas. Don't brake. Just ride it out, and hope you don't hit anyone. Try not to think about how shitty the tires on this work truck are.

So down into the median I go, skidding along at a gradually decelerating speed from about 75 MPH. The truck turns completely ass-end into the skid, as has happened before, so I gently begin to apply the brakes (perhaps a mistake). I've plowed up about 250 yards of healthy Argentine bahia grass, and the friction and scattering mud have reduced my rate of movement to about 40 MPH. Roughly two seconds have passed.

And I'm thinking, This is okay. I haven't crossed into the oncoming lanes. The vehicle is moving back into the center of the median. I will be stopped and can recover control of the truck in a few moments.

Then the truck's left rear tire caught the concrete drainage grate that someone had thoughtfully hidden in the grass at the center of the median. This, of course, caused the truck to become airborne. This was not part of the scenario that was playing out in my mind. This was when Death suddenly appeared.

Having been propelled into the air, the truck began a brief argument with Newton's Laws of Motion. It seems that Newton was right all along, and the truck would continue on its previous path, regardless of the fact that the axis of rotation had suddenly changed. And I was now thinking, Oh dear. Gravity is suddenly doing very peculiar things inside this cab. Death grip on steering wheel, lower head, close eyes. Oh, and Hi There, Mr. Death.

So the truck flipped over on to its top. Crunch, crunch, crunch went the safety glass. This was bad, in a general sense, but beneficial in that the side of the vehicle with no wheels on it was very disinclined to continue rolling, and quickly absorbed a great deal of the forward momentum into the vehicle's frame, what with all the bending and mangling.

The truck finally came to rest upon its left side, in the median, about two feet from the edge of the inside Northbound lane of the Turnpike, a dozen yards shy of mile marker 280. I was still inside, held firmly in place by my trusty seat belt. A little minor trauma, and a few cuts here and there, but very much still intact. I opened my eyes and thought, Well, I'm still alive. But I have just fucked up a perfectly good truck.

The stuff that followed was pretty routine: Passers-by stopping to help, Highway Patrol on the scene, paramedics checking me out, fire fighters checking the truck for gas leaks, tow truck picking up the wreck, TV news traffic helicopter getting it all on video tape high above. The usual automobile accident thing.

Anyhow, I'm fine. Made it home safe and sound. By the way, did you know that Death has had his eyebrow pierced?


Please drive safely.

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