Enter The Pols
Of course highway right-of-way is owned by the people, so like tacking up signs at street corners advertising No-Fail diet plans and Earn Big Money by stuffing envelopes, the people can't just use their property any way they like, because the state moves in -- and the politicians wander in behind them.
There is apparently an effort in Michigan to make it so you can only display roadside memorials for 60 days. It is felt that the memorials are themselves a distraction, as drivers crane their necks and take their eyes off the road to see what the memorials say. And apparently in some places there have been really elaborate memorials which catch they eye as well. A caller described one near St. Louis (don't know if that's MI or MO) with a circle of white rocks about twelve feet in diameter with a five-foot high white cross in the center that seemed to surprise drivers a lot.
I have mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, I can sympathize with the nuisance factor concept, as well as the keep the right-of-way free of obstructions and other non-sanctioned things. But I also have great sympathy for the families, because no matter whose fault it is, or whether their person drove like an idiot or was an innocent victim, the fact is that someone is gone and this place is going to be in their minds anyway.
Because I've always liked the idea that markers of some kind might, over time, show drivers both the real trouble spots and showcase that bad things can happen anywhere. For every driver annoyed by the establishment of shrines, I would be happy to know that one driver began to think a little less recklessly out there on the road.
A Real Distraction
So with that as a preamble as I got onto US-131 southbound at Grand Rapids, as I was within a mile or so of getting off the highway in Kalamazoo, I was startled to see this yellow thing by the side of the road -- right where the grass met the shoulder. It was some variety of pygmy sunflower, the kind which only gets maybe two feet high.
At first I didn't think it was real. Sunflowers have that fantastic look of something weird and plastic. But no, I'm pretty sure as I saw a clump of two more a little further back from the shoulder and then a fourth a bit further on, again by the side of the road, that they were all live plants.
Since I don't think that MDOT would plant them right by the side of the road, one wonders where the hell they came from. Someone littering after eating some sunflower seeds? Escapees from a nearby garden plot? A deliberate planting by pranksters? I don't know.
But it sure was eerie, because with the sun where it was above and to my left, the bright yellow heads of these sunflowers looked like they were staring right at me. Reminds me of the spore plants that promoted "happiness" in the famous Dr. McCoy Mint Julep/Spock Laughs episode of original Star Trek.
In Other News Of More Import
My Clarion classmate slithytove, who is an ER doctor in real life (or is he a SF fiction writer in real life but an ER doctor as his secret life?), ran a nice bit about the changing face of realities in heart attack symptoms. Boy, if the patients and the doctors aren't sure what the signs are, no wonder people leave heart conditions go untreated or fall down dead "without warning".
As a person who lives a fairly sedentary life style while being overweight all his life, back when I was working at the Northwestern University Library in the early 1980s, I found myself with this sharp radiating chest pain which got steadily worse. At that time, as library staff I had joined an HMO and I have to tell you -- I have never gotten a quicker appointment than when I called them. I wasn't having other symptoms and so they really wanted to rule out "something bad".
So after they had taken an EKG, the very nice Indian doctor I had seen before came in and laughed. He showed me two strips of paper -- my EKG and the one from a 90-year-old woman he had seen earlier in the morning. He was going to post part of mine on the bulletin board to "remind everyone what the textbooks say an EKG is supposed to look like."
Poking and prodding revealed a bruised rib. This was the 80s and the doctor told me to take a high aspirin dose "until my stomach complained" and by then I probably wouldn't need the painkiller anymore.
It worked. And I'm still here about twenty-three years later... though of course I should really work harder to reform myself, Real Soon Now.