More on One of My Pet Peeves: El Tope

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.

10 thoughts on “More on One of My Pet Peeves: El Tope

  1. I am so much “de acuerdo” with this post, I hardly know how to respond! Really touches a nerve. Everybody’s got their nightmare “tope” stories, but you explain it best. I wouldn’t say that we, to the North, have any better discipline about obeying the speed limit in residential neighborhoods. We just kill/injure more kids and pets.

  2. Well, we do not want to live in gated community anymore. We lived almost 15 yrs Virginia 18 golf course, club house etc, but Walter never played but all my Korean families we are the crazy about golf. When we looked for house for retirement down merida I could not believe that pay 50,000 for membership for golf club, I am not crazy enough to pay Mexican for that also weather is so limit & driving I am so glad you build house Monteo. It is just pretty historic area. We lived in Germany 4 yr, traved all of the europe, merida to cheaper version of my French but cannot find real French bread, now costco has a smilar version. I wish Walter will run playing golf but he wants sailing & motocycles. We have couples house merida & Houston one thing I have to be one place at one time. I keep telling him we get older we need to simplify life style but it is very hard for my husband. Me, no problems, I rather have travel all of the world than house poor like most American, no saving, cannot travel. Me, money is not issues, time is problems. I am 50 so maybe 5 more years. We will see & maybe bill, you canbe a our private driver, just kidding, we had our house almost 10 yrs in merida so I visited 2 or 3 times a year for 10 yrs. We traveled all the way Belize, BMW motocycle all of the most popular place, this is maybe fly to Chiapas to see planque. Hope good weekend. I bet hot there.

  3. Are you sure ‘topes’ are male? Hmmm, seems they should be female. . .la tope. There, now doesn’t that make more sense? Curvaceous as we are.

    Bottom line: they work. Stop signs don’t.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Jody; I think up North we also drive irresponsibly at times, but the reasoning is different for most. Here, I know several irresponsible drivers who think it is their god given right to drive as fast as they please, not participate in upkeep of the neighborhood by paying their dues, etc. etc. It’s a kind of entitlement that they have that pisses me right off.

    Hola Suk; sorry to keep your comments on the back burner for so long! Welcome to my crazy world.

  5. I used to work for a public transit agency, and I even trained drivers for awhile. I would like to add that, sure–the speed is a “thing” here, but as far as “defensive driving” principles are concerned, I believe the countries of Mexico and the USA are about the same (with the possible exception of the “Motos” here.) But let me add one thing I have NOT seen here that is so very prevalent in the USA–Road Rage. And that is a most dangerous trait–for it stimulates the worst possible kind of driving.

  6. Very true Aline, not so much road rage here, although as I write this I am thinking, wait a minute. Sure there is. Many a peaceful, friendly neighbor turns into another species altogether! I’ve seen it myself and I can’t be the only one!

  7. Well, thankfully I have not seen peaceful neighbors change. I remember Hurricane Mitch, after which a tree fell onto my iron gates, and I was wondering how I’d ever get out. One of my neighbors, whom I’d never met, rallied a bunch of men in the neighborhood, and they all joined in and hacked away at the tree, so that I could leave my house.

    Sure, not everyone here, or anywhere, is “peaceful” all the time. But I haven’t seen my neighbors “change up on me” in all these years. There is an occasional loud party, but that’s all.

  8. So if you want to hear a lot of expositions that begin with So…, listen to Talk of the Nation’s Science Friday. It seems that scientists and engineers can not begin an explanation unless it is prefaced by So… I guess it is the new Well…. They are meaningless, but give the speaker a little moment to build up some steam before plunging into a jungle of tangled thoughts. You are the first person I’ve encountered who has commented on it.

  9. So, what I would like to say about that is – thanks! For writing I mean. I thought it was kind of funny, all these educated types, beginning their explanations with the word ‘so’. So I think it may also have to do with the fact that they know they are on a different level of expertise in their field and the ‘so’ is a way of making it (in their minds) more accessible to the regular folks they are talking to? Just a thought.

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