The Amateur Parker Ö

Why I Love/Hate Speed Bumps

February, 2011

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

Speed bumps hurt my car, and my backside. Theyíre called speed ďhumpsĒ in some places, but that just makes me laugh like a sixth grader, so I will refer to them as bumps from here on.
I hate slowing down for them. I hate trying to get over them without damaging my carís suspension or knocking my teeth together. Speed bumps are irritating and inconvenient.
My father is the reason I love speed bumps. This might sound like the beginning of a sweet little story, but it is not. More than 20 years ago, I was a teenager with a learnerís permit, driving around with my parents, practicing my skills behind the wheel, and counting down to my birthday.
Back then, California offered Driverís Education to all sophomores, and it was my instructor that I nearly killed on that bridge, not my parents. Mr. Comitas took the edge off my inexperience and the rest was typical.
There were a few tough moments, such as the day my mother shouted at me for swerving and then realized I was staring at the road 10 feet in front of the car. She calmed down and suggested I look ahead about 20 yards farther.
There also was the time I asked to practice driving in my motherís new sports car, and my dad told me heíd ďrather give me a loaded gun to play withĒ than let me drive that car, so I knew he felt strongly about it.
While I had my permit, my parents let me drive often, and that is how I learned to signal, check my mirrors, park, keep to the speed limit, and perform other driving essentials with reliability.
In a way, my parents had been teaching me how to handle a vehicle all my life. As an observant passenger in both their cars, I had a good idea what driving was supposed to look like. I drove most often with my mother, who blamed one of her children anytime she hit a curb while parking.
We thought that was a great joke. I occasionally drove with my dad, who, though secretly tenderhearted, swerved to hit squirrels on purpose, and made good on any threat to put his children out of the car for arguing.
I think they were both decent drivers, although my dad did have one of the earliest mobile phones designed Ė the antennae were built into his windshield and the phone itself mounted on the console. And my mom has a map-reading disorder Ė she canít read a map, period Ė that makes my dad supremely frustrated. Maybe they drove like maniacs when I was not in the car, but I doubt it.
After I went to college, then married and moved far away and back, there were many years during which I rarely drove with either of my parents. Lately, because they moved back to Orange County, CA, I have been a passenger in their vehicles more than I have since I was learning to drive myself, and I can tell you that things have drastically changed.
Now I am the conscientious parent, motoring around with my children strapped into their 20-point harness car seats, using my turn signals, making eye contact with my blind spots when changing lanes or going in reverse, and generally keeping most of the laws of the road.
My parentsí driving skills, specifically my fatherís, have taken a turn for the worse. Heís impatient and a bit of an opportunist. His natural tendency to do whatever the hell he wants has begun to affect his driving.
So the reason I love speed bumps is that maybe theyíll slow him down, because heís taken to cutting through parking lots to save time. He doesnít just cut through the way I occasionally do, with a quick look around and a guilty shrug, hoping thereís not a police officer watching with his ticket pad ready to go.
My dad drives through parking lots as if they were streets. He has them all mapped out in his head and can actually go from Point A to Point B without getting on the road. He speeds in, darts through the aisles and even crosses rows of empty stalls. Itís terrifying. Iím not so concerned for his safety, because heís not going to be the one who gets hurt. Itís all those poor pedestrians I worry about.
I recognize that there has been a shift in the generational dynamic. Iíve become the overcautious driver worried about my 60ish parentsí vehicular habits. In 9 years, my oldest will get her driverís license and then Iíll be up at night worrying about her safety, too.
What comforts me is knowing that once Iím a grandparent, the cycle, as it applies to driving, will work in my favor and the burden of worry will transfer to my children. Hopefully, I will still have enough sense to drive on the streets and park in parking lots, the way God and the law intend.
In the meantime, operators out there, beware of my dad and others like him, and put those speed bumps everywhere you can.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PTís proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.