Toll Plazas: Choose Your Lane Wisely

Stuck in line. Trapped behind a car whose driver kept sticking his arm out the window to the toll collector. I kept hoping he’d pay already so my E-ZPass® tag could be recognized, and I, too, could see the smiley face.

Seen also in yellow at some TZB E-ZPass® lanes/ Rob Jones

Seen also in yellow at some TZB E-ZPass® lanes/ Rob Jones

Not my luck. This was the longest transaction I’d ever seen. I was behind the car whose turn it was and realized the lane was for E-ZPass® AND cash receipts. I was stuck. The person in the car ahead of me either had no money or not enough money or maybe it was something else. I then witnessed the dance of the hands.

After talking with the driver (no money was exchanged), the toll collector wrote (difficult to see so this is a guess) something, leaned out of his booth and gave a piece of paper to the hand sticking out of the car’s window. The hand went back into its car, then emerged and gave the paper back to the toll collector’s waiting hand.

This continued a few more times. A simple toll booth transaction had become an event. I saw from my left-side mirror that four car shadows were behind me. Two drivers honked during the transactions, impatient as I was (I didn’t honk).

Then I empathized with the driver. Maybe he had an issue that needed resolving. Whatever the situation, the toll collector seemed helpful. And I did choose that lane.

One final time, he went into his booth to do something, and gave the hand — now waiting outside its car — another piece of paper. He and the driver said something to each other, and the hand went back into its car, which drove away.

Tappan-Zee-Bridge-toll-plazaIt was finally my turn! And no smiley face: the light turned from red to green, and I vowed next time to use an E-ZPass® only lane.

Construction began near Exit 10 yesterday for an electronic toll gantry, much like the one I’d been waiting to pass through, per a recent press release. Motorists who do not have E-ZPass® tags need not feel left out; cameras will take pictures of license plates and mail each driver a bill for the toll fee.

Here’s a shout out to toll collectors. They work outdoors for the most part in all weather, the ones I’ve met always have a smile and a hello, and they never know who pulls up to their booths. A few times I paid the fare (my car was in the shop, and I forgot to remove my E-ZPass® tag) and got to snap my fingers — or dance — to someone’s music. A 15-second exchange goes a long way.

I confess to delaying other cars at toll plazas: back in the day, I’d toss coins at the basket and miss. Then I’d turn off the car, open the door, collect money from the ground and put it into the basket. That was me in the aqua 1978 Mustang II.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

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