Finding romance while in traffic on the Palmetto Expressway

Party cups stuck into a fence on a pedestrian overpass on the Palmetto Expressway read, “You are the woman of my life” in Spanish. The messages change every so often but the very Miami method remains the same. Grace Wehniainen // Opinion Editor

Horns. Gridlock. Texting drivers who jerk and swerve with reckless abandon. Miami has its romantic hideaways … But the Palmetto Expressway is not one.

But somehow, when heading south toward UM, you spot it: the work of a lovelorn artist, or maybe just someone who wants to make the dreaded drive a little brighter. Either way, this artist’s preferred medium – red plastic cups arranged to spell out motivational, sometimes sappy messages in the overpass fence links – is an overlooked treasure.

Whether it’s one person or a string of copycats, the MO seems to be the same: take red solo cups, spell out something clever and leave without a trace. Sometimes, the messages are general. Others read more like love letters. In November, a sweet “Eres la mujer de mi vida Oraimys” (replete with a backwards “j”) was especially vibrant in atypical black, white and yellow. Valentine’s Day should no doubt deliver a few love notes, too.

In a city known for its swanky club and culture scene, it figures one of the most authentically expressive pieces was likely done in the middle of the night, with materials totaling no more than a cool $10.99 at Walmart. And then there’s the sweet sense of determination – while relatively simple, these displays must be at least somewhat planned out, with the artist carefully working to lay out backwards letters to face the drivers below. In any case, it doesn’t seem like the product of a drunken jaunt around town.

More than that, though, the Palmetto art embodies serendipity – the surprises you stand to lose when you walk (or drive) through life with your head down. When you’re stuck on the Palmetto at 8 a.m. and don’t seem to be going anywhere fast, you know how that story ends. Muttering, complaining or eye-rolling won’t help, so why not enjoy the ride anyway? There’s at least one artist out there who seems to hope that you will.

Apply a heads-up mentality to life outside of gridlock – not just to you avoid bumping into skateboarders on your way to English, but so you can fully experience what’s going on around you. It looks like the same old, same old, but one day that might change, and you could miss it. Enjoy the ebbs and flows between the more dramatic, snap-able moments and you might see something that perks up your day and shifts the way you view things … If only for a bit.

So look up. Savor your surroundings, no matter how mundane they may seem. But please, don’t drive too slowly.

Grace Wehniainen is a junior majoring in motion pictures.