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Happiness St. Petersburg Signs

The signs are red and yellow and simple with the lone word “happiness” and a little heart below. They’re made to last about 20 years, said Gary King, the 75-year-old retired marine mechanic and sand sculptor from Treasure Island, who last November began nailing them to poles along busy thoroughfares.

There are now, to his count, more than 140 of them. Some were placed by special request after strangers messaged him online, hoping “happiness” might come to their corner of the city.

King says that driving around putting up the signs is his therapy, after a lifetime marked by trauma and PTSD. He lays out some of his experiences in his book, the Happiness Formula.

The idea a year ago was that I’d be handling happiness all the time,” he said. He means that literally, as in picking up his signs from the print shop, laying them on the seat of his car — where there is always a stack — and holding them up as he drives in the nail. As if the joy might seep in by osmosis.

These days he puts up at least one sign almost every day of the week.

“Now," he said, "when something is uncomfortable, happiness is the first word that pops into my head.” He recommends people tape a paper reading “happiness” to their refrigerator or mirror, and hopes his signs have a similarly joyful effect on the people who drive past them daily.

“It could be affecting thousands and thousands of people,” said Gary, who authored a book titled ‘The Happiness Formula’ in 2016. In it, he shares his journey battling complex PTSD.

“This is a form of therapy and it’s a really great form of therapy,” he said. “There’s not a lot of therapy for PTSD and millions and millions of people suffer from it.”

Gary lost his only child, Jason, to suicide in 2012.

“I think about him every hour of every day.”

Gary understands what it’s like to be depressed. He was instrumental in helping get measures passed to place security netting on the Skyway Bridge. He hopes these HAPPINESS signs remind drivers to stop and realize that happiness is a choice.

“How often do you see the word happiness? People think pleasure and happiness are the same things and they’re not. They’re completely different. Pleasure has to do with the external world and happiness has to do with the internal world.”

“They will not damage the tree,” he assures.

The potential is unlimited. I have people contacting me from other cities saying they want to do it in their city,” the 75-year-old said. “It changes the way people feel.”

“Happiness is a choice and, even more interesting, happiness is a journey. It’s not a destination.”

His friend, Marty, at Piranha Graphix makes the signs. They are inspiring others to smile more.

“After I put them up I stand and I watch people as they look up at it. Sometimes I even point about it. What happens is that as soon as they see it they smile,” said Gary.

Here are some of the locations where you can find Happiness Experiment Signs:

  • Central Ave. and Pasadena Ave., in front of Walgreens

  • Central Ave. and Pasadena in front of Amscot

  • Pasadena Ave. at St. Pete city limits sign

  • 58St No. and 39th Ave on St Pete city limits sign

  • 22nd Ave North and 55st, in front of Westgate Elementary School

  • Tyrone Blvd. and Park St., westbound side

  • Tyrone Blvd. and Parks St., eastbound side

  • 1st Ave. S. and 49th St. , eastbound side

  • 5th Ave. S. and 45th St, westbound side at school crossing

  • 66th St. N. and 5th Ave. N., northbound side

  • 66th St. N. and 13th Ave. N., northbound side

  • 66th St N. and 30th Ave. N., northbound side

  • Park St. N. and 25th Ave., northbound side.

  • 5th Ave. N. and US 19 (34th St.), eastbound side

  • 38th Ave. N. and US 19 (34th St.), eastbound side

  • US 19 and Park Blvd., southbound side

  • 38th Ave. N. and Haines Road, eastbound side

  • 38th Ave. N. and 4th St., eastbound side

  • 38th Ave. N. at the approach to Shore Acers Bridge, East Bound Side

  • New Hampshire Ave. NE and Chancellor Ave NE.

  • Beach Dr. and 6th Ave. N., southbound side

  • Beach Dr. between 1st Ave. N. and 2nd Ave. N., northbound side

  • 22nd Ave. S. and 23rd St. on 23rd St.

  • 22nd Ave. S. on 22nd, westbound side

  • 1st Ave. S. and US 19, northbound side

  • 2nd Ave. N. and 55th St.

  • 22nd Ave. S. and 2nd St., eastbound side

  • 22nd Ave. S., entrance to Tropical Shores

  • Tyrone Blvd. and 22nd Ave. N, in front of Vision Works, westbound side

  • 5th Ave. N. and 59th St., the southbound side of 59th

Resources: WTSP | Tampa Bay Times

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