Telling it

printStories from the Front Lines

Up Front and Personal
Conversations—In Passing


Writing recently in the Trentonian, writer Jon Blackwell posited that there might be some problems with personal interaction on today's Turnpike. "Remember the Pikettes? They’re gone now. Instead, drivers get surly toll collectors." Blackwell's negative stereotype has floated around for years, but how much truth is there to it?

While it's easy to believe there are occasional run-ins, that's only one side of the story. Richard Green, a toll collector at Interchange 8 as well as a reporter for the Pike Interchange, took things in hand when he wrote this poem for the employee publication. Published in the October 1960 issue, the view from the “other side” captures perfectly the challenges of being a toll collector.


 

"Collector’s Pet Peeves"
By Richard Green, Collector and Reporter Interchange 8

How many toll collectors have been known to say:
"I was talking to my friend just the other day,
And he wanted to know how I acquired my job,
Saying you sure are lucky not to have to work very hard.
What else do you do besides hand out tickets all day?
That's not too much work, it sounds more like play."
Then you think of some of the things that have happened
Like when the patron came up to the tollbooth laughing,
Saying "I lost my ticket somewhere in the car"
Or "How do I get to Timbuctu, is it very far?"
It doesn't take much time to count the change for his ten bucks,
Or give him directions and wish him luck.
While you're getting information for the lost ticket form
The next one in line is blowing his horn.
Now horn blowing speedy has quite a lot to say
Like "Give me a map and get me on the way."
People get on the Turnpike to make up time,
But when they get to the tollbooth they leave it all behind.
"Oh can you tell me how to get to Highwayville?"
"Yes sir, bear to your left and then over the hill."
"Here take the toll out of this twenty
You can change it, the Turnpike has plenty."
Then there's the poor old lady and how many others
Come up to the tollbooth calling you everything but her brother.
Saying "That collector sent me the wrong way."
This is a familiar quote you hear every day.
After you become a psychiatrist and calm her down,
You change into a college professor and get her turned around.
Then how about the patron who hands you a handful of pennies
With a smile of course saying "There’s not too many,
But you had better count them to see if I'm right."
And before you can turn around, the patron's out of sight.
Now all toll collectors have their pet peeves and gripes.
And the most interesting kind come from little tykes
Like "Hi, Mr. Mailman how do you feel?"
And with each toll ticket you get a full course meal.
There's bubble gum and lollipops and jelly flavored pickles,
And something to wash it down from a repeating water pistol.
I know it's enough to make you start fretting and pining,
But the cheerful greetings make up for the whining and dining.
These things usually happen when you're very busy,
Working a double door, spinning around and getting dizzy.
There are questions to answer besides being mechanically inclined
To do the job right you must have a quick mind
Now with all these things going through your mind,
You try to keep friendly and gay
When you answer the question asked by your friend,
"How did you ever get a job handing out tickets all day?"

 

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