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Tex, Sans Toll: Making Friends On The Road

March 29th, 2011 · Tags:Gadgets · Satire

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the tollbooth. Let me lay the foundation … For the last two months in Boston and the surrounding boroughs, i Have worked on about a dozen disaster jobs — large commercial to small residential job sites. In that time, I have driven or ridden in countless vehicles, sometimes several a day. A truck here, a mini-van there … ooh and most recently test-driving a little Subaru Outback. Ha … once I got over the stigma that they have enlarged their little station wagon to almost resemble a crossover vehicle … I rather like the little thing. It’s a cool little car, and when I am driving it way over the speed limit, I forget that I am in a station wagon for all the world to see — 4-wheel drive or not. (I am reminded that my brother, a star of the radio sales business, was an early adopter and drove a couple of Subarus way back when they were so vocal about the hum of their rotary engines.)

I digress …

So, about the tollbooth … After so many jobs and so many rides, it is easy to lose track. I have a leather glove in one truck, a GPS unit in a little Toyota, my project clipboard in a water extraction vehicle, a laptop in the Outback, etc., etc.

I hardly know who I am, where I am going or where in the world all my stuff is at any given moment.

So, knowing my feeble, confused state, add this thought. The other day someone asked me to drive back from a project unexpectedly from Connecticut to Boston. Man … sort of wished I had paid attention on the road to Conn. I hadn’t ..

Thank goodness for my Garmin Nuvi GPS. Ha … luck was on my side and me and the mind control GPS unit were in the same vehicle for once. I say mind control because i have noticed my already limited brainpower is turning to absolute mush with the increased use of GPS. I can’t leave the parking lot of the hotel without getting the wise counsel of my Garmin copilot. This is new behavior … total dependency … from a guy who did a road trip of 17,000 miles to 47 cities with only an Atlas.

So anyway, I was doing fine with the GPS telling me my every move — using the British accent setting on the toy — I might add. Until … I hit the dreaded toll booth.

i looked up in the window to make sure the electronic toll pass was in the open/activated mode. WHAT! This car had no toll tag. I rolled forward to the booth, hopping into the cash=only line with the other dinosaurs … and pulled out the wallet, already mad that I would have to fill out an expense report for the minor fee.

Rut-roh … No coin! No cash in wallet. No nada! Ah yes, i remembered how i had bragged about my willpower the day before and then given in and bought two Dunkin Donuts from one of the two zillion locations in the Boston area.

What could I do?

Back in Texas, I once wrote a check for a buck fifty for a similar bit of absentmindedness … and invested in a toll tag the next day.

So on this day T was for Texan and WT was for without toll. I pulled forward to the attendant and exaggerated an already thick Texas drawl.

“Sir-irrrrr,” I said, milking as many syllables as I could squeeze out of the three letters to sound even more pathetic than the reality. “Sir, I am from out of state, and didn’t expect to be driving, and just now realized I have no cash.”

He sighed and looked at me and I know he was thinking, “You didn’t expect to be driving? Did you think the car was going to fly by itself?”

It got more stupid.

I wouldn’t dream of asking for a freebie, or suggest that a Texan using a Massachusetts thoroughfare should not be taxed. My intent was to suggest perhaps that I could pay with my Visa.

“Would there be any other sort of payment accepted, since I don’t have any money?”

OMG … I am pretty sure by his demeanor — which was real jumpy and fidgety — something was lost in the translation. I am pretty sure he thought I had propositioned him!

“For two bucks!?!” he fired back, disgusted …

I wondered what price would have been acceptable in his mind … ewwww.

“‘Can I pay with a credit card?’ is what I meant.”

“Listen buddy,” he said, “The next time check before you get up to the toll booth … (By this time a line of cars had filled in behind me, offering up little sweet nothings with their car horns … to express warm feelings about waiting.)

“The next time, pull over in the toll plaza and there is an ATM.”

“Oh, okay. Good to know,” I said. “Tell these people to back up and quit waving at me with one digit, and I will go get some cash, complete with a tip for you.”

He knew I was pulling his chain and he didn’t appreciate it.

“Just go on!”

I was truly grateful. It was an honest mistake, and this kind gentleman, despite the rocky start had empathized with me. With the proper charity and hospitable kindness afforded to a visitor … he let it slide.

As I drove away I heard his last kind words to me.

“‘EFF-ing’ idiot!” he muttered at just the perfect time so that I could hear, but was blocked by his booth so that I couldn’t make eye contact.

As I reached for my iPhone to jot down a note about the experience, there in my pocket was a twenty, all wadded up …

Know what I saying?