Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I know this won't be popular...

We all know that sometimes driving can be dangerous. We all try our best to be careful and “watch out for the other guy,” as my dad always says. And we have to. We’ve all seen people doing strange or just stupid things while driving. I’ve seen people reading newspapers or books, putting on make-up, shaving, brushing their teeth, talking on the phone or texting (that last one really pisses me off). So sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes it’s because of stupid behavior, and sometimes it’s just dumb luck accidents resulting in fender-benders, injuries or in the worst cases, someone looses a life. No, this isn’t another rant about unsafe drivers or assholes on the road.

A few years ago there was a tragic accident in St. Pete. A small child (3 or 4 I think) wandered out of the home, down the road and into a busy street. The child was hit by a car and sadly killed. As you can imagine, this was sensational news, and we were all horrified at the loss – especially since all the news channels insisted on interviewing the grief-stricken mother. They were after ratings, but it was truly heart wrenching. You couldn’t help feeling this woman’s pain. Not long afterwards, there was a small roadside memorial for the child – a simple white cross with a teddy bear. Eventually, the family moved away. I don’t know why – I imagine that seeing the place where she lost a child everyday was too much to bear. And here’s where it went wrong. The crucified teddy bear was left on the roadside for about a year. It was weathered, dirty and falling apart when someone finally took it away.

A few weeks ago, another roadside memorial appeared on the Bayway. A white cross made of PVC (presumably so that it will last forever), and a wreath of silk flowers. I understand that people need to grieve. I get that. But WHY is it that they feel they have the right to foist their grief onto the general public? I really don’t need to see it. Yes, it’s sad. I’m sorry for your loss. But I don’t need a reminder of it every morning on my way to work. And on my way home from work every day, as I begin to unwind and enjoy the scenic view of the water and trees, I get to be reminded that something bad happened here. This is the only road off the island, so avoiding it isn’t an option. I really hate that. That is why we have memorial services. That is why we have cemeteries. And chances are really good that the family and friends who endured this loss do not even live around here. The locals here do not spend their time at the roadside beach. So who the hell is this for?! I’m really tempted to pull over one of these days and pull it all up and dispose of it myself. If not, that PVC and plastic flower crap will be there for years. We do NOT need to litter our roads with your grief.

I can’t believe I’m the only one who feels this way. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.


mycroft said...

Yeah, I'm with you on this one - is it tragic that people die in cars? Yes. But for the memorial to look anything but tragic (I mean how sad is it that a family neglects maintenance of the memorial to their loved one?), the memorial needs to serve a purpose.

I can see that initially, putting up a memorial might feel like the right thing to do and feel right in the grieving process. But it can't end there. Some cultures have ceremonies significantly after a death which might be incorporated. So, like people could go back and remove the memorial a year after the death which might give some folks some closure. Or they might annually do something to beautify the site to honor the dead. Or come up with something that requires low maintenance - plant a tree or put up a discreet plaque or something.

Australia has what they call the 'Black Spot' program. They research the causes of accidents (whether fatal or not) and, if the investigation finds something that should be corrected to make the spot where the fatality occurred safer, they fix it and put up a sign staying 'Black Spot' and indicating the cost of the repair. That, at least, has a purpose.

But the neglected roadside memorial really only serves dysfunction and littering. It says that it is ok to create an eyesore and leave rubbish around as long as your grief is significant enough.

But then the last question I have: Who's responsibility is it to remove the neglected memorial? The family? The city? The highway commission? The prison work crew who cleans up the side of the road? I'd nominate the person who put it up in the first place, but I think they're not unlikely to neglect their duties.

callenstewart said...

I agree. And I think you could be guaranteed that the person who put it there is not going back to remove it.