Pressure

Throughout life, one faces pressure. At different points in the chronology, the pressure takes different forms. People write songs and have hit records about it, after all.

Viewed dispassionately, most of what seems like pressure is little more than a minor blip. But who cares about dismissing such things as blips when one can focus on the really insignificant. That’s what Blogs are for.

Turnpike and Thruway tolls are one significant source of pressure. Though the reason for that isn’t always intuitive or clear.

On the Maine Turnpike, the toll is announced in really big letters on very large signs well in advance of the place at which one has to pay it. The signs says: “Toll/$1.00” Seems pretty straight forward, no?

On the New York State Thruway, the toll amount is printed on an itty-bity card with print in a font size so small as to demand magnification. Still, the amount due is understandable and unambiguous even if it requires an assisting device to read.

Possession of E-Z Pass makes all of this interpretative business irrelevant as the device takes care of everything. Except making breakfast.

On the Massachusetts Turnpike, the state eliminated tolls altogether. One still pays them, so don’t get excited. But one no longer needs to stop at a toll booth for the interaction – with a human or a machine. The state has taken care of that for us. No E-Z Pass? No problem. The license plate reader records the vehicle’s information and the plate owner received an invoice in the mail.

Dinosaurs, though, insist upon paying tolls in person and with cash. And that’s where the pressure begins.

Queuing-up at the toll station, one should have ready toll ticket and money. One can hand both items simultaneously to the toll-taker or successively: first the toll card then the cash.

Not everyone, though, has mastered this. Some seem taken by surprise at the toll both. You want what? What for? How much? That’s outrageous!

Toll booth are good places at which to initiate debates and arguments. Drivers know they have a receptive and captive audience.

Beyond the shocking surprise that toll booths demand money (as do, by the way, restaurants, movie theaters and bowling alleys), there’s something else. There must be. Because people (or at least the ones ahead of me) seem to spend an inordinate amount of time while at the toll booth.

Cocktail conversation, one supposes. Without the cocktails. How’s the family? Are the children off to college? What’s new?

While patiently waiting in the queue to pay the toll, I confess to folding under pressure. It’s worse than being in high school and around girls. I find I have no “small talk” prepared and am vacant when it is my turn to engage.

I just want to pay the toll. And leave.

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