So (I have been listening to interviews on NPR and am surprised by the number of times people answering Terry Gross’ questions start with the word ‘so’) I live in this neighborhood – let’s call it La Ceiba, just for fun – that one could consider ‘upscale’ for Mérida; it’s on a golf course, the lots are large and there are a fair number of BMW’s and Audis driving around which seems to indicate a certain level of socioeconomic prosperity. What I am doing there sometimes baffles me, but we got in at a good time and I anxiously look forward to the day when golf will become appealing to me.
The roads within this fraccionamiento were all repaved with actual asphalt a few years back and the smooth surface seems to be irresistible to the frustrated Fitipaldis and Schumachers that inhabit the luxurious homes, and so, topes were introduced. First at occasionally conflicting intersections, then curves, then any straight stretch lasting for more than 500 meters.
Originally, yellow ‘boyas‘ also known as turtles in some quarters were used. These required a full stop and then gentle acceleration as you eased your vehicle over the obstacle; not doing so would result in severe damage to your cars’ suspension system. Interestingly, I observed that the drivers who would come to full stop were mostly men, while the women and offspring thumped over them with little concern. I attribute this to the fact that the men are paying the costs of their vehicle repairs, while the other drivers are oblivious to the damage they were causing.
After the stop and accelerate process became unbearable – do this eleven times on your way to and eleven times on your way from your home and you will slowly go insane – these nasty bumps were replaced by large concrete ramps that had an incline, a top and a decline, if that is the right word. Imagine a kind of wedge. These new topes are much easier to roll over; a high speed traverse will throw the whole car into an Evel Knievel fit, so they were also more effective at slowing down all drivers.
The tope project however, has meant an ongoing maintenance program in which thousands and thousands of pesos are spent sanding, smoothing and then painting these obstacles a bright yellow. I cannot think that there must be a more effective use of time and money than to spend it on these aberrations!
And yet, we can’t live without them, it seems. It’s a sad reflection of reality: Mexicans want the smooth streets they see on TV or have experienced on trips abroad, and yet, they can’t be bothered to drive responsibly on those same smooth roads, thereby requiring the almost medieval solution of physically placing barriers on those smooth roads to make them horribly bumpy again, thereby defeating the purpose of having a paved road in the first place. Because the undisciplined lot that we are cannot be trusted to obey a speed limit, even with the threat of injuring or killing a neighbors’ pet or child.