NAPOWRIMO Day 12: The Evil Tope

NAPOWRIMO Day 12: The Evil Tope (pronounced toe-pay)

There are stop signs that don’t always mean stop, one-way streets that may or may not be one-way, and road signs that make little sense no matter how high your level of Spanish fluency. There are streets filled with slow-moving vehicles, sleeping street dogs, and banyan-type strangler figs enlarged aerial roots extending from the branches to the ground. But amid all of that, there is one aspect of driving in Mexico that must be mastered or all hope is lost: the tope. Failure to respect, and even fear, the tope can be disastrous. The tope is basically a speed bump. But any resemblance between a speed bump in the US and a tope in Mexico is purely coincidental. The US version is designed to slow traffic. It is usually well-marked, almost always painted a contrasting color to the road and located in places where drivers tend to expect them – in front of a school, and not in the middle of an expressway. In Mexico, the tope is intended not to slow traffic but to stop it. It takes on many forms: from a gently sloped bump to a miniature steel barrier designed to send cars hurtling through the air and backseat passengers into the roof. It is often unpainted, blending in perfectly with the road surface and, far too often, not accompanied by any signs.

Undercarriages
Carried by thousands of cars
Oil pans and axles

Covered in scars
Reminders of unintended unions
on their nether regions

Topes are, in a word, diabolical. One almost suspects they were installed, not by the roads department, but by car repair firms looking to stir up business.

~Just L (April 12, 2018)

Author’s Note: NaPoWriMo Prompt – Write a haibun that takes in the natural landscape of the place you live. It may be the high sierra, dusty plains, lush rainforest, or a suburbia of tiny, identical houses – but wherever you live, here’s your chance to bring it to life through the charming mix-and-match methodology of haibun.

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