Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Life's Tolls

As mentioned in earlier writings Florida has an exhaustive amount of toll roads, roads that are the most direct way to travel to the more popular places in the state but, as the word toll means, you pay for the usage of those roads by stopping periodically at tollbooths to pay a pre-set amount of money before continuing on your way. If you run one of these booths a camera mounted somewhere on the building photographs the rear tag of your car and a few days later you’ll receive a notice in the mail concerning your wrongdoing.

Well, because I use the toll roads in my daily commute to work and because I hate waiting in those incessantly long tollbooth lines I opened what is known as a SunPass Account, and upon doing so I received a transponder that suction cups to my windshield. This allows me to travel through a “SunPass Only” tollbooth whereupon some gizmo reads my transponder and the amount of the toll is deducted from my account.

Both my car and motorcycle are registered to use my SunPass account and this can cause serious problems especially when premature senility sets in and I forget to transfer the pass from one vehicle to the other. When this happens, if I don’t have any cash on my person, I take the less direct way to work costing me a lot of time.

One morning I’d forgotten to transfer my pass from my bike to the car but didn’t realize it until I ran the first toll booth. BUUUZZZ! The alarm loudly sounded making me feel like I’d just committed a felony and at any moment I’d be sounded by cops on the ground and the air.

“No problem,” I said to myself. “I’ll just take the next exit [the next exit being one of a few no-charge exits—like any endangered species one has to know where to look if one wishes to just catch a glimpse of, let alone actually use, a no-charge exit when traveling toll roads] and hopefully the turnpike folks will take what I owe them out of my account.” Such was my thinking.

A few days later I received an envelope from the friendly folks who run the turnpike system in Florida. In this envelope were four, and this is important to the story, things. First, there was a letter informing me of my misconduct and if I didn’t send them the money I owed from running the booth my driver’s license would be suspended. Then there was a page with an actual picture of the butt end of my car, the tag clearly readable, followed by a third page explaining the various ways I could pay the toll. Lastly, there was a self addressed envelope for me to mail them their money if I so chose to pay via the U.S. Postal Service.

Naturally I called the friendly people who’d sent me the letter to explain it was an accident and to ask if they could just take the money out of my SunPass account.

“Certainly,” said the cheery young voice on the other end. “Can you hold for just a second while I do that?”

“No problem,” I replied.

To my surprise, in less than 20 seconds the cheery young voice came back on the line to tell me it was done. My transgression had been wiped clean.

“Anything else I can help you with today, sir?” cheery young voice asked.

“No I think that’s it,” I said.

What I really wanted to say to her, but I bit my tongue, was in the form of a question: Why couldn’t they have done this in the first place instead of buying a 50 cent stamp, two envelopes and three sheets of paper, not to mention the wages of cheery young voice and the other employees who put the mailing packet together, all for a dang 25 cent toll?!

Oh yeah, now that I think of it I also should’ve asked her how to go about getting a job there. Getting paid to be illogical seems like a something right up my alley