A Courtesy Note

If you were a child in the 60s and 70s, or a parent, you likely have had contact with “Highlights” magazine and their feature, Goofus and Gallant. Goofus was an archetype of a boorish, self-centered child, and Gallant was just too nice to be an archetype of anything in this world. Though one would have to admit that meeting and interacting with people who occasionally lapsed into Gallant-like behavior would be generally more pleasant.

Today, I arrived in Florida at the Sanford-Orlando Airport and my mom met me there. I drove on the way home. We used the Florida Turnpike system of toll roads, with a brief bit on I-4. We exited I-4 for the Polk Parkway, just west of “Fantasy of Flight”. That first segment of the Polk Parkway is a two-lane road, and there’s a toll plaza of sorts a couple of miles south of I-4.

As we approached the toll plaza, we noticed about two dozen vehicles backed up and not moving much. I’m not sure exactly why there was a delay there, other than only having one attendant on duty for southbound traffic. In any case, we spent about fifteen minutes getting to within two vehicles of the toll booth.

At this point, we could see clearly over the little convertible just ahead to the pickup truck that had just arrived at the toll booth. Now recall that our hero in the pickup truck (license plate FL ‘E58 OCD’, “Window and Shutter Designs Corp.”, 727-523-8914) has himself just spent fifteen minutes awaiting this moment. One would expect the window to go down and the driver to hand over the $1 toll post-haste and be on his way.

One would be wrong.

The driver and passenger suddenly come out of whatever haze they were in until that point, rather like the final finger-snap of a hypnotist releasing a subject. We can see them checking various nooks and crannies in the truck. They take a bit over a minute, but they apparently came up with something for the toll at last. The driver hands something to the toll-taker. They start having a conversation. The toll-taker disappears into his booth. He’s out of sight for several more minutes. What can possibly be up? Did the driver request a receipt, and the printer’s jammed? Is our toll-taker suffering a sudden stroke or bout of narcolepsy? Maybe a small sinkhole has dropped the bottom out of the toll booth and taken our hapless toll-taker with it. (It’s Florida, that sort of stuff does happen from time to time, like the guy who bought a new Buick, parked it in front of his apartment, then comes out the next morning to find his car at the bottom of a curiously Buick-sized sinkhole.) The toll-taker reappears and talks to the driver, then disappears back into the booth. More time passes. I notice somewhere in there that the LCD display has changed from “$1 Toll Due” to “Change Due: $99”.

Our hero the truck driver, taking into account the long wait of everyone behind him in line, has decided that now is the time to break that $100 bill he’s been carrying around. If he’d have popped out and asked for someone to contribute a buck, I’d have done it. As it was, there was still more time needed for the toll-taker to apparently locate enough change to do the job and count it out to the driver. And, finally, one more pause for the toll-taker to take down the license plate number on the vehicle.

Between the original wait and the one enforced by Goofus from “Window and Shutter Designs Corp.”, we spent somewhere between 25 and 30 minutes waiting to get past that one toll booth. Goofus, may I suggest that you not plan to do much driving in Texas. “Don’t mess with Texas” drivers was pretty much standard procedure long before the litter-control people hit upon that slogan.

By the way, we were using EPass, and our actual transit through the toll booth was under twenty seconds. I hear Gallant uses EPass, too.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “A Courtesy Note

  • 2008/04/11 at 12:21 am

    Wes, only you could describe such a frustrating scene with such reserve and politeness. Are you sure Gallant wasn’t your archetype?

  • 2008/04/12 at 11:03 am

    did you swear a little bit on the inside?

    reminds me of the way my wife gets ready to go somewhere. someday. someday i shall be more patient.

Comments are closed.