Is there a difference between a “speed bump” and a “speed hump”?
Apparently there is. I just answered my own question here.
I got to thinking about speed bumps (for brevity’s we’ll just call them all “bumps”) because I nailed one the other day and it knocked me right back to Belize.
There are thousands of speed bumps in Belize.
OK, maybe scores of them. Or many hundreds.
Put it this way: As you approach any town of any size in Belize, its entrance is demarcated by a speed bump. Possibly two. Sometimes three speed bumps, of which one is usually called a pedestrian crossing. You’ll know when you are exiting the town because your head will hit the car roof three more times.
There are speed bumps just before schools, just before bus stops, just before entering traffic circles. Here’s a hard-earned tip: there’s a speed bump upon exiting traffic circles, bus stops and schools, too.
Beside every speed bump there are women and little children selling fresh fruits, vegetables and spices. They will hold up their wares as you slow down. And you know what? It works. Lots of people pull over – “hell, I’m almost stopped anyway …” – and buy stuff.
A native Belizean told me she once saw little kids, no more than six years old, walking out in front of cars slowing for speed bumps, their little hands filled with bags of fresh spices. That’s putting a lot of faith in drivers who often can barely distinguish the speed bumps from the road surface.
She pulled over, all right. And marched the kids right over to the nearby house where the mother sat and gave her a dressing down and threatened to call authorities if she ever put those kids to work on the road again.
“I drove by the same spot a week later,” she recalled, “there were no kids walking in front of cars. So I stopped and thanked the mother for being more careful. And I bought a little something from her.”
You know the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child”? I sometimes feel it was coined in Belize.
Once, after spending nearly an hour bouncing down a treacherous road filled with potholes, water traps and rocks, we came upon a 30-yard stretch of paved road leading right into a town. I’d no sooner accelerated – just for the sheer joy of going 20 mph again — when I slammed right into a speed bump.
Yup: Even the potholes have speed bumps in Belize.
You begin to appreciate the roadside commerce because often times there are no longer any posted signs warning of speed bumps and the once yellow-and-black-striped bumps themselves have been burnished to a dull gray, identical to the road surface. A cluster of people on the side of the road can mean one of two things – there’s a speed bump or there’s a speed bump and bus stop.
Either way, you slow down. Yeah?
On the other hand, there seem to be hardly any stoplights outside of the city of Belize. Between the potholes and the speed bumps, stoplights are a needlessly costly expenditure. And where we did encounter stoplights, Orange Walk for example, I’m pretty sure there were speed bumps leading up to them.
One curious sight as were were leaving San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye: town workers with jackhammers were removing concrete speed bumps from one of the town’s three paved streets.
Didn’t see that one coming.
You might think that Belizeans love their speed bumps. But no. No more than you or I do. In fact, they have a nickname for speed bumps that betrays a local disdain and wry sense of humor.
They call them “sleeping policemen.”