Speed Bumps and Traffic Circles
Updated: Jul 12, 2022
All those years of watching Dukes of Hazard finally paid off.
Up until very recently, I haven't driven at all in Central America. When not walking wherever I can, I have used mostly the metro, shuttles, "collectivos", a few taxis, a rare Uber now and then, and buses (so many buses) to get from one place to the next. So, when my girlfriend and I rented a car for a week to move through the Yucatan, it felt both great to drive again and also, humbling, to realize that there is always something waiting to remind me that I'm never really in charge.
The main roads through the Yucatan towns were outlined by buildings absent of life, with the exception of a rare Coca Cola sign, almost reminiscent of a Hollywood studio set for a western, only missing the transient tumbleweed, working it's way down the dirt path. Despite the sporadic nature of these towns that look long ago abandoned, as we moved from Tulum on the Caribbean through Valladolid and eventually, Merida, on the Gulf, there were no shortage of speed bumps, as the shock absorbers on our rented Toyota could attest to if it had a voice.
It took more than my fair share of misses, more than I am willing to admit, to start to proactively look out for them or their accompanying warning signs. The purpose of these road irritants was not clear to me. To what extent was there really a need to calm down nonexistent traffic so nonexistent pedestrians could cross what seems to be a long forgotten road?
Similarly, where New Jersey has embraced, and dare I say "owns" the jug handle turn in only a way they could (don't even think about taking a left turn otherwise), the traffic circle was a prominent protagonist in the story of Mexico's roadways in a way that was both unexpected and also not embraced by one American in particular. The Yucatan's love for traffic circles in particular was only matched to it's apparent disdain for anything other than a tree available for miles and miles to alleviate one's bladder.
As for it's equally annoying cousin, the traffic circle, despite my attempts to stay in the correct lane to exit where Google Maps directed me too, I was not a stranger for lapping around a few times to get to the right exit like a scene out of National Lampoon's Vacation with Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold; (“Hey look kids, there's Big Ben, and there's Parliament... again.”)
Now, it's clear. The speed bump is simply a reminder to look out for those things along your way (and in your way) despite whether you want them there or not; (I don't). The traffic circle is a warning to remember that it's not about you. It's a communal manifesto to finding compromise for what is easiest for the collective, not you; those with different exits but the need to pass through the same point as you.
When not walking (or as I have come to know it: "being lost again"), I get to be passive in my travels, subject to the times, delays and schedules of the metro, the bus and even a tuk tuk (rickshaw) every now and then. I have, reluctantly at first and willingly now, embraced the concept of "letting it go" or in the case of transport, have "Jesus take the wheel", as some may refer to it.
I did, however, learn an important lesson. When I am directing my own schedule and path, it's still not about me. There are speed bumps and traffic circles waiting there and how I approach them can make the ride really smooth or long and bumpy. I just have to remember what to look out for.
Until next time,
I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and any comments you might have. If you'd like to see more inspirational photos than speed bumps, you can follow me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/marckayetoday/. Thanks!