For the true Floridian, no two words are more grating than these:
Unless, of course, you count these two:
What generally follows is a soliloquy about how the sewer system works better in Massachusetts, or the taxes are lower in Ohio, or the roads have fewer potholes in upstate New York.
Those thoughts, intended as not-so-subtle suggestions for how we should fix our state, usually come from people who haven't lived here long enough to help mess it up.
Today, I'm embarrassed to say, you can count me among them.
Last month in Citrus County, a driver unfamiliar with low-lying Homosassa turned down a street that ends in a county boat ramp, which disappears into the Homosassa River. That night, as rain pounded her windshield, the woman steered her 1990 Buick LeSabre down the ramp and into the river.
One of her passengers, unable to free himself from his seat belt and the car, died there.
Minutes later, a reporter for the Citrus County Chronicle arrived to cover the accident and took a similar path, down the ramp, over the top of the woman's Buick, and into the river. He, like the other driver and two of her three passengers, was rescued.
The night the two motorists drove into the water, only one sign marked the street that led to the boat ramp. It read: "Dead end, 250 feet."
Less than 48 hours after the accidents, the county added new signs at the spot where S Cherokee Way ends and the public boat ramp begins. Those say: "Road ends."
Locals say they have seen other cars drive off the ramp perhaps a half-dozen times in the past 30 years. In the months to come, county officials and Homosassa residents, not to mention representatives from the county's lawsuit-wary insurance carrier, will have a lot to say about what should be done to warn motorists of the danger ahead.
Folks will throw out a litany of suggestions for preventing future tragedies: Flashing lights. Speed bumps. Warning signs.
To what I'm sure will be a long list, I add one, compliments of Mount Etna, Ind.:
"Road ends in water."
Let me just hold my breath and get this over with. Where I'm From, which is both Up North and Back Home, we don't have as much water as we do in Florida. But one small town in the northeast corner of Indiana does a decent job of warning people about it.
When the state of Indiana built the Salamonie Reservoir in 1965, it funneled the water right over the northern quarter of my hometown, Mount Etna. The reservoir is designed to control flooding along the upper Wabash River Basin, where Mount Etna sits, and even helps relieve flooding along the lower Wabash and Ohio rivers in the southern part of the state.
Mount Etna wasn't as unlucky as nearby Monument City, which is now an underwater ghost town.
Still, in Mount Etna, people lost homes. Perhaps most heartbreakingly, the little Mount Etna Cemetery had to be uprooted (yep, that means what you think it means) and relocated.
The reservoir washed out Mount Etna's direct route to the county seat. What was once an anomaly of a little town, settled by German immigrants yet named after a Sicilian volcano, now had a waterfront and some draw as a destination for hunters and fishermen.
The town also had something else that was new: a road that, because of the state action, led directly into the Salamonie Reservoir.
Mount Etna is known for two kinds of unusual street signs. The first is its welcome sign, which features a man fishing from a canoe and reads: "Welcome to Mount Etna: Indiana's Smallest Town."
No word on whether Mount Etna was the smallest even before the state put one-fourth of it underwater.
We have three welcome signs, one each on the east, south and west sides of town. No sense welcoming people from the north; that's where the reservoir is.
It's on that side of town that we post the most important sign. Its message, I think, is as clear as it gets:
"Road ends in water."
It's been almost 40 years since the state blocked off the road with a reservoir.
Last week I placed a call to Thais Wilhelm, longtime sheriff of my hometown county. She was an unusual figure in her law enforcement years: a "lady sheriff," as a lot of the people who elected her called her.
I remember her best for appearing in the middle of the basketball court at the Indianapolis Pacers' old Market Square Arena, where our county's only high school had just won the 1990 girls state basketball championship.
She announced that two hours to the north, where we all lived, a snowstorm had closed all the roads. She directed thousands of Huntington Countians to stay right where we were and sleep in our hard seats at Market Square Arena. We did.
Thais Wilhelm, now 73, hasn't held office in a few years, but when she answered the phone, I still addressed her as Sheriff.
I wanted to know if she had ever heard of a similar accident in Mount Etna or any of the other reservoir-ravaged communities in our area. Wilhelm said she thinks Mount Etna's sign went up when the reservoir did, and as far as she knows, the Mount Etna road that is swallowed by water never experienced a tragedy like the one in Homosassa.
"To me, that's an important sign, really," she said. "Especially if you're new to an area in a situation like that."
Her final thought on how we do road signs in Florida: "Tell them they're just way outdated."
Those are strong words from a place where people like to be called "Hoosiers." We're also known for taking perfectly fine cuts of pork tenderloin, slathering them in egg and white flour and tossing them in a Fry Daddy. Add a bun, mustard and pickle, and you have a breaded tenderloin, the State Sandwich of Indiana.
My friend Mike Perkins, the editor of Huntington's Herald-Press, once wrote that Hoosiers often rank near the bottom when it comes to SAT scores and trim waistlines. But "we know auto racing, we know basketball, we know soybeans, we know popcorn, and we know tenderloins. We really know tenderloins."
Apparently, at least in Mount Etna, they also know road signs.