Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Death Be Not Proud

I've just retrieved the latest issue of MacLean's from the mailbox, which means I've just engaged in my weekly morbid ritual of flipping to the back page first to get right to the obituary profile of this week's unfortunate soul. First, I note the dates at the top and make the quick narcissistic calculation that Roz Chast so deftly captured in this cartoon:

Then, my eye shoots down to the last paragraph for the satisfyingly depressing details surrounding the circumstances of death. This week's profile ends thusly:
Last year, Peter survived a double-bypass surgery, and quickly recovered, eager to enjoy the summer. On Dec. 31, he retired. By mid-January, he and Lydia set off on another big adventure: a three-month road trip through the U.S., from California to Florida, which they had been planning for months. Four days in, on Jan. 19, 2011, they stopped on a Washington state highway so Peter could take a photo of a farmhouse. The sun was in his eyes, and he didn't see the truck that hit him. He was 66.
Damn. You spend decades building a life and this is how it ends--you stop for a bucolic Ansel Adams moment and end up a road pizza with a Peterbilt logo tattooed on your stunned face.

Anyway, I summoned the Google gods and found that the fully-capitalized designation, "Washington State," is indeed the preferred way to go here (although some cautioned against it if it could be confused with the university of that name). After all, we're talking about a highway in Washington State, not a state highway in what could be Washington, D.C.

As for why he was going from California to Florida by way of Washington State--alas, that's something we'll never get to ask poor Peter.