I am so grateful that people enjoy my column. Folks of all ages have approached me, asked me questions, given me unsolicited future column ideas — and yet I am not really clear on the actual demographic of my readership. So when I decided to write about this week’s topic, I had to explain the history behind my story. If you are aware of this history, I apologize for the redundancy. It seems that every few years there is new technology, some sort of upgrade, people replaced with machines, and for those youngsters, there was no life before smart phones. When I get to go back in time, it makes me feel like a youngster. Things were simpler then.
But I digress from this week’s topic. And here we go.
Once upon a time there were toll booth collectors in almost all of the lanes for all of the bridges and tunnels and parkways and turnpikes. These nice men and women would take your money, give you change, wish you a pleasant day (unless they just gave you a dirty look and “accidentally” dropped some of your change on the pavement), and sent you on your way. I have fond memories, from when I visited a “friend” in Hillside, slowing up to the tollbooths on the Garden State Parkway and tossing 35 cents into the basket. It was both exhilarating and thrilling (maybe that was more about my parents not knowing that I was going to Hillside to visit said “friend.”) But in any case, making the coins land in the basket and not on the ground was awesome. Especially because it was all on you. If you missed the shot, you had to get out of the car and retrieve your wayward change. Good times.
I clearly remember my dad giving me a book of coupons to pay for the George Washington Bridge. I think it was $4 a coupon. Four dollars. I think it is $16 now. Wowza. I would take a coupon from the book and hand it to the toll collector. I felt extremely grown up. Of course, with EZ Pass, it feels like it is free. Which I know that it is not. But doesn’t it feel free? (Unless you are the one who looks over the bill. Poor Husband #1. At least he knows it isn’t me using the EZ Pass.)
This brings us to our fairy tale. Husband #1 and I decided to give my leased car to Son #1. It’s a long story, and not really important, but we did. Leases, for some reason that I do not understand, having to do something with a “chip,” are really high right now. We took over someone else’s lease so I would have a car. (Turns out, it is my 7-year-old BFF’s parents’ lease. Doesn’t matter, just wanted to give them a shoutout.) The car, which is “new to me,” doesn’t have an EZ Pass. I tell Husband #1 that he hasn’t gotten me one yet because he is controlling, but that is just my attempt at humor. But I don’t really know why I don’t have one.
This brings us to the day I drove to Elizabeth to get FDIL #2 a shower gift. As I am driving merrily along on the turnpike, I realize that I only have a few dollars in quarters. Because, once again, I forgot that I didn’t have an EZ Pass. I was able to pay for my lovely trip to Elizabeth. But when I got in the car, I realized that I only had $4 in quarters left. I turned to Jeeves, my trusted Waze voice, and asked for directions without tolls. There. Easy peasy. So as Jeeves is guiding me along the side streets of Newark, I glanced at all of the cars that were taking the exit to the Turnpike, with an EZ Pass on their dashboards and without a care in the world. I felt a stab of jealousy as I realized that I could no longer take the easy way home. I was on the long and winding road to I didn’t know where.
A few minutes later, my friend Jeeves betrayed me and sent me back to the turnpike. What did I do wrong??? I didn’t have the $6.95 to get home. Was I going to have to park the car on the side of the road and walk? Turn to a life of crime and carjack someone for $2.95? I needed to return to my safe space!
Husband #1 was yelling and me, my boys were making fun of me — my world was closing in around me — but then I got off a few exits early, met Bob, a lovely tollbooth collector who ended up dropping most of my paltry change on the floor and giving me directions home.
“Don’t worry sweetie,” he said. “It happens to everyone.”
Words to live by. And they lived happily ever after.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck knows that you probably had to be there to fully appreciate the scenario, but was happy that FDIL #2 liked her gift. She hopes….