Thursday, July 11, 2013

Toll Booth Attendants and making a difference...


Traveling on a motorcycle can be quite an adventure.

My wife and I, recently made a ten-day road trip to the Carolinas and then down into Florida. Leaving from Ohio, we were just a few miles into West Virgina on I-77 when I was reminded by the prominent green highway signs that we would soon be paying $2.00 tolls for the privilege of crossing through their scenic state. Three of them on the way down, and three of them on the return trip. Great. Twelve bucks isn't usually a big deal, but it's the principle of the thing. I don't understand the politics about how they are able to do that, considering none of the other states along the same highway system charge a toll.

Since I had forgotten about the toll booths, we did not have the bills readily available like we usually do. It's not real easy to hold up a loaded bike, wrestle for your wallet, and keep the bike from rolling away while impatient cars are waiting behind you.  With all of the recent rain we were driving in, I wasn't in a good mood when the toll booth attendant gave me "the look" for holding up his line. I profusely apologized, handed him a large bill and received my change. No "thank you", no "have a nice day", no "thanks for visiting West Virginia." Just push the button and turn the light green.

I don't know of any other racket where you can just throw up a little shack and every single person who comes by throws money at you for no apparent reason. You don't even have to thank them, call them by name, or care whether you ever seem them again. Just collect the money and push the button.

As I pulled away and remembered that there would soon be another one coming up, I began to calculate how much money they must be collecting. $2.00 per vehicle, X number of cars per hour, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week....my brain couldn't calculate the number so I just rounded it off to like a gazillion dollars. For that much money, they should at least pretend to like me as they take my money. Next toll, same thing. Take my money, push the green button. No words. Last toll booth, not much different although I did get a slight nod of the head as acknowledgement.

Maybe it's their job. People come, people go. No time to make a difference?

On the return trip, I decided to have a little fun with them. So, at the first one, I made it a point to take my time paying and I asked the attendant if they worked at the same booth every day? He gave me a surprised look like "Omg, this guy is actually asking me a question and I need to answer him."  I found out that toll  attendants actually rotate booths. Hmm, maybe I was onto something here.

At the second booth, I again took my time paying and joked to the attendant that the guy at the last booth said to tell him hi and that he could go home an hour early. That one got a laugh and a "have a nice day!" Okay, this was working.

Maybe they just needed to be treated like people instead of a road sign.

And then we pulled up to our final toll booth.  My wife had the exact change ready in hand, I had the timing in the correct line judged perfectly where we could have just coasted to an "almost stop", exchanged the money and not even put my feet down. If I wanted, we wouldn't even have to look at each other or say a word. The perfect toll booth system working flawlessly and efficient.

Except for one unexpected turn of events....this final toll booth attendant decided to make a difference. When my wife tried to hand him the bills, he smiled, waved her off and told us that our toll had been paid. Have a nice day, thank you, come again!

Another life lesson learned. There is always time to make a difference.