The Man in the Toll Office Trailer

I rarely carry cash. It seems like such a nuisance when compared to the convenience of carrying one piece of plastic. And driving around Florida, I had one of those wireless passes that took care of tolls. These two facts make me severely underprepared for toll booths outside my home state. A realization I had seconds before pulling into one.

But the nice thing about being completely useless is that everyone quickly realizes you’re completely useless. I had the following conversation with the toll booth man.

“Five dollars.”

“Ah. I only have two dollars cash.”

“Oh.. Do you have three fifty?”

(Slow blink) “…I only have two.”

“Any spare change? Coins are cash, too.” (I accept this potentially deserving declaration of my stupidity).

“Um.. fifteen cents”

“Oook.. pull over to the curb and someone will come figure it out.”

So I cross four lanes of traffic to the curb, car-apologizing the whole time. You know, where you exaggeratedly enunciate the word “sorry” over and over while the other driver exaggeratedly enunciates their favorite swear word over and over.

Then I sit and wait.. And wait..

Ok, no one is coming and that sign says Toll Office – oh wait, it says Toll Office Moved To Trailer with an arrow pointing at a trailer which surely only contains crushed life expectations and maybe a half-eaten meatball sub. Well, let’s find out. I walk up the rickety metal stairs and knock on the door. The large man inside beckons through the tiny window for me to enter.

He looks like he’s eaten three meatball subs every day for a year and both of his hands are completely full of giant stacks of cash.

The trailer can barely hold the old steel desk between him and me. Behind him is a safe big enough for me to sit in and it’s half full of cash. Clearly I have caught him in the middle of stocking or destocking the safe and now he looks very nervous about a stranger being in his Scrooge McDuck money trailer. I explain to him what happened and his response is a small gesture with one cash-laden hand towards a lonely paper on his desk, “Yea, I already got your information.” I look down and see my license plate and state written on a spreadsheet. “Oh ok. ..So what happens now?” He stares at me for a beat. “Uh I’m.. just gonna mark you as paid.” “Oh! ..Ok cool. Uh, thanks. And sorry.” He looks genuinely disappointed in me when he says “Yea, it’s ok.” Then I leave.

..What the what!

So many questions! Do all toll booths have such antiquated and unsafe money storing systems? Is someone else paying my toll or do they have leniencies in the policies for these things? Can I get away with this at every toll booth? Did someone super glue that cash into his hands or did he just want to know what that much cash felt like on his fingers?

And then, of course, what would he have done if I had instead ended our conversation with “Ok cool.. Can I have some of that?”

Posted August 17, 2015 in Travel, updated June 5, 2016.

© 2018 Taylor Gorman