We live on a dusty red dirt road about 3 kilometers off of the main tarmac road. In the rainy season (December – March) it’s a four-wheel-drive slipper-slide. My awesome Michigan snow and ice-driving skills come in handy. The rest of the year, especially August through November, it’s a cloudy dustbowl. Though the rumor is that city bulldozers will come and grade the roads after each rainy season, it hasn’t been done the past two years on our roads.
As a result, there is a lot of vigilante road improvements going on. Some people dump fairly large rocks and rubble into the pot holes, confident that once 1000 cars drive over them they’ll make the road smoother. Surprisingly, this kind of works (emphasis on kind of).
The worst kind of vigilantism is when people think that other cars are driving too fast on the dirt roads, thereby stirring up too much dust, so they go out and make speed bumps in an attempt to reduce the dust that floats into their homes. There’s kind of an unwritten rule that modest speedbumps spaced fairly far apart are okay. But you know, there’s always got to be the one jerky person in the neighborhood.
Mr. Selfish Man (SM) has put in about five very high speed bumps on the road adjacent to his property (usually people will do one or two). Mr. SM doesn’t use this road but for some reason he thinks it’s okay to destroy the shocks and undercarriage of cars for the 25-30 households that use it, all in a futile attempt to reduce dust that might drift into his house.
Mind you, a construction road runs adjacent to our property too and spews up boatloads of dust but we haven’t put in a single speed bump (because we’re thoughtful midwesteners and don’t like conflict).
One time Thom and our neighbor got together and sent out our gardeners to lower the speed bumps, but Mr. SM came out and said, no, you need to stop, I talked with your bosses and they said it was okay to stop. So, the gardeners came back. Of course, this was a total lie. The gardeners had succeeded in lowering two of the bumps so we let it go.
Well, earlier this week Mr. SM went even further, added even more speed bumps (so they’re like every ten feet now), and made them about a foot high. I was furious! What gives this one guy the right to go out and make unreasonably high speed bumps on a public road? I called the neighbor and she was upset too — she now was unable to drive her VW sedan on the road (and remember, this is the only way out to the main road) because it not only scraped bottom, but had the potential of getting lodged there. She didn’t want to have to use their four-wheel-drive because it was a gas guzzler yet Mr. SM had made the road impassable for her sedan, and others who drive cars instead of trucks or SUVs.
I’ve watched the road and even when cars crawl along it there are dust clouds. Even when the road is empty there are little eddies that spin up and float north into his property. It’s just part of living out here. Below is a photo of a construction vehicle on this stretch of road and despite the fact that he was crawling along at a few miles per hour, he’s creating a cloud of dust around him.
Fact: If you live in an area of red dirt roads you’re going to have dust.
Yesterday it really got to me and I thought, this is ridiculous! I have just as much right to do road improvements as he does, maybe more because I use the road. I got Danny (our gardener), the pick, and called the neighbor, who sent over her gardener too. It was time for our own vigilante road improvements. (Okay, though I’ve lived in the midwest where all the nice people live for 18 years, I’m really from the West and sometimes those rogue pioneer take-action-and-do-what-needs-to-be-done-to-hell-with-the-consequences genes emerge again.)
We met at the corner and talked about how we were going to flatten out the speed bumps so they were nice and gradual, and, we decided it would be a stealth operation so as not to draw attention and that we would be as quiet and swift as possible.
Here’s the photo of the first bit of our handiwork. You can see the hole at the top where Mr. SM’s people had dug the dirt to make the speed bumps. Before it was only about 15 inches wide; we just flattened it out to about three feet across.
As we were digging other neighbors we had never met were driving by giving us the thumbs up sign and one lady even stopped and thanked us and said that she hadn’t been able to drive her car anymore because of these “blocking” speed bumps.
The whole mission took us about 20 minutes. I can now add road grading specialist to my long list of skills acquired in Africa!