I spent just short of five years as a toll collector on the western end of New York State. Ask me anything, but please don't pay me in pennies.
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I've had a lot of rude things done to me over the years. Dirty money, insults, ridiculous amounts of change, etc. But I think the one thing that has stuck with me to this day happened on an overnight shift years ago. Guy pulled up, handed me his ticket and his money in silence. While making his change, he looked up at me and asked 'Is this what you're going to do for the rest of your life?' While I truly don't believe he was asking the question maliciously, it's a loaded question, and something I would never ever ask another human being who's just trying to get through their day.
Usually you don't go more than 2-3 hours without a break so it isn't as big of an issue as people think. However, if it's an emergency and it's not too busy you can usually turn your light red, put a cone in the lane, and run into the building off to the side. If it is busy, someone is usually freed up for a few minutes to give you a spell. However, at some of our smaller stations, there are long stretches covered by a single collector, including the overnight (11p-7a) where I have heard of the bottle method being employed. Pure rumor there, though.
Full-timers work eight hour shifts. Part-timers work anywhere between 4-8 hours depending on the shift. They also often jump between a few different lanes during their shift. We are provided stools and some of us do sit the whole time, but I never thought they were particularly comfortable so I usually stood for the majority of my shifts.
This is when it pays to have sharp eyes. In our booths, we have an intercom that opens us to a dispatcher, state police units, and maintenance. If we can catch a plate number and a description of the vehicle, a unit can be rapidly dispatched if in the area. Regardless of the outcome, we must note as much information as we can on our Tour of Duty, and notify dispatch of the incident. We are audited every shift via money total and axle count so every axle that rolls over the treadles(sp?) in our lanes must be accounted for. Also, I used to hang out of my booth and wave my arms like a crazy person trying to get them to stop.
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We weren't given formal training but we would see bulletins issued by the state police highlighting known counterfeit serial numbers. We were also required to take down the license plate of any customer paying with a 50 or 100 dollar bill, along with the corresponding serial number of the bill. So it wasn't necessarily our job to root out counterfeit money, but more to provide the information attached to large bills in case an issue arose at the time of bank deposit. Funny story though- I once took three singles from a guy and threw then down onto the counter in front of me (I never put money into my drawer until the transaction was complete) . Staring back up at me, on an otherwise perfectly legitimate bill was a very presidential looking Santa Claus. Stupidly, I didn't take a picture, but we shared a laugh about it and I gave it back to the guy for a real dollar. I am absolutely certain this one had been passed around for a while so check your bills everybody!
In New York we have 'unpaid toll' forms. The collector takes the driver's license, copies down all relevant information of the driver, takes the plate number of the vehicle and returns the license and a bill to the driver with an address to mail payment to within seven days. Additionally, if you're back on the road within that seven day span, you can pay your unpaid toll at the same time that you pay your regular toll. If the driver doesn't have their license on them, we ask them to pull off to the side and we call for a state trooper to come and verify information. It can take a few minutes, and people behind you will be displeased, but it happens and we try to make it as painless as possible.
It really does. I think the fact a lot of systems have different vehicle classification systems might have something to do with it. I'm not familiar with the specific technological barriers but I remember a period of time where Illinois drivers would come through our lines with their tags (IPass), which looked pretty much identical to our EZ-Pass tags and they wouldn't work at all. Not sure if getting different systems to talk to each other is as easily remedied as proverbially 'flipping the switch'. Florida is the only state that I've been to that has a radically different system that doesn't seem compatible to the EZ-Pass system. It will be interesting to see if they have to migrate over to EZ-Pass as it has basically cornered the market on automated toll collection here in the US.
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