THREE TRUE TALES OF DANGER FROM THE SCHOOLYARD (1989 – 1996)
TALE THREE: The Peril of Speedbumps (1996)
In 11th grade, I drove in a much more cavalier fashion than I do today. At the time, I was not of the mindset that slowing down was necessary except in very rare circumstances. For example, I took speedbumps as obstacles to barrel through, rather than ones to gently traverse. After a particularly unpleasant encounter with a speedbump that concluded with an enormous amount of turbulence and the scraping of metal on concrete, my friend Kyle who was sitting shotgun sat up and cleared his throat. You know, he said, his aunt Kathy had a really close friend in high school who, like me, did not view speed bumps with the requisite level of seriousness that one should afford disruptive traffic control measures. One day this nameless friend, who lived “somewhere in Colorado” blasted through a speedbump so fast that the sudden jolt caused her to be decapitated on the spot. I rolled my eyes and took a moment to let the idiocy penetrate the air. “Kyle,” I said finally, “I doubt that what you just told me is even physically possible.” There was a second moment of silence, and after a while, he responded by asserting that Aunt Kathy was most certainly not the type of person to make up such a story.
I said nothing and kept driving. Several regrettable 90’s songs later, I saw a distant speedbump appear over the horizon. Pregnant with callous defiance, I impulsively decided to floor it. The hum of the motor grew loud and the red needle on the dashboard climbed past 55. In my peripheral vision, I saw Kyle’s eyes widen and jaw go slack while he braced himself, his hands clawing uselessly into the sides of his seat. Upon contact with the speedbump, time slowed, our bodies were thrown like confetti into the air. A horrible metallic noise that I could only describe as ‘wrong’ emanated from the floor beneath us, and sparks flew out in all directions from the car’s underbelly. As we crossed the threshold, I screamed maniacally and laughed hard into the air, proud of my act of reckless bravado. I reached to Kyle to playfully punch him in the arm– but what I felt in that moment was not a brotherly bond; it was something else– something warmer, wetter, and more viscous. Disoriented, I looked and saw that my hand had returned to me soiled and crimson. It was only then that I noticed the unusual heaviness in my lap, and saw Kyle’s vacant hazel eyes staring up at mine, his bloody innards spilling out from his disengaged head into my lap.
It took a lot of courage to explain to Kyle’s mom what had happened, but I learned a valuable lesson and I started taking speedbumps more seriously after that.