ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Gary King loves it when he goes into stores and gets recognized.
“They go, ‘You’re the happiness guy’ and I go ‘Yeah, I’m the happiness guy’,” said the St. Petersburg man. “There are worse nicknames.”
It’s easy to earn a nickname when you care around as many signs as Gary. Since November, he’s been hanging red, white and yellow signs on trees and telephone poles near crowded Pinellas County intersections baring one simple word:
“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.
“Every tree has potential,” he said as he sauntered over to a palm near the intersection of 4th Street and 54th Avenue North. “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.”
Gary has hung 48 around town. The signs are hung just out of reach for most people. Gary stands on a milk crate to reach the necessary height – out of reach of people yet high enough to be seen by drivers stuck at red lights. He attaches the signs using a hammer and roofing nails.
“They will not damage the tree,” he assures.
The results are hard to tabulate but the feedback he’s gotten has been nearly universally positive. Only one person has complained among his hundreds of Facebook comments.
“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.
According to this Amazon author page, Gary’s book is based on “The Happiness Formula”. In it, Gary “shares with readers a formula developed over years of research. It is about my real-life experiences of tremendous highs and unfathomable lows. I used that hard-earned wisdom to create a formula to help others evolve from victim to victorious. Over the last 25 years, I have been active in the personal development world and interviewed literally thousands of participants. The questions asked were deep and the insights gained are priceless.”
Gary’s 48 signs are all over St. Petersburg, including two at the 10News WTSP studios.
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., southbound side of 59th