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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Oh God, this could go on for a while but I suppose there were a few that stood above the rest. In our system, the ticket you're issued at your point of entry has your toll printed on it. During my last few years, the toll due (along with my collector number) was even displayed on the EZ-Pass 'Christmas Tree' light stand just beyond the booth. But two general rules apply- people don't look at signs and they definitely don't read things handed to them unless absolutely necessary. So as the hours pile up and each car pulls up with a 'how much is it?' we start to get a little worn down. Now people are fully within their rights to ask us how much it is, but our main objectives are to move traffic quickly and collect tolls accurately. If people were just a little proactive before they reach the booth, everybody wins. It's like the guys who stare out into space while they're twenty cars deep. get to the booth, can't find their ticket, need to undo their seatbelt as they get their wallet out of their back pocket, etc. We're all here, we're paying tolls, no one is happy about it, and absolutely no one is happy about waiting to pay tolls. So if we were a little more prepared, we could keep this line moving. Another big pet peeve is directions. If you have twenty cars behind you, this is not a good time to ask for directions. And if you do ask for directions, please don't start to pull away as I'm explaining the route to you. I used to play a game with people when they started to creep by just stopping mid-sentence and staring. If they stopped, I continued. If they kept moving forward, oh well. Dirty change was another one. We all understand that money is money, and we will accept your money, but this is a grimy job as is, without pennies coated in fast food grease, dirt, and other unidentifiable substances. Those are just some of the big ones.
I actually can't speak to this directly because we didn't have exact change lanes in my area. I guess the best advice I can give is to not end up there! I suppose if the lane is unmanned and has a bucket or something like that you might just have to try and back up out of that lane, much to the dismay of everyone behind you. If there is a person staffing that line, I'm almost certain they will have some sort of change. Still, I wouldn't recommend trying to find out.
At the time he asked I think it was around 2-3 in the morning and I wasn't particularly interested in getting into it with him. I think I muttered a 'yup', gave him his change and turned away. It stung. People find themselves in places for a myriad of reasons and to have that guy bring my entire life to judgement at that moment hurt.
Those were unpleasant days, for sure. We had one three-year stretch where the tolls increased three times. During the first hike, local radio stations were organizing a mass 'pay your toll in pennies' protest. Seemed kind of counter-productive to me since the only people being hurt were collectors and toll-paying patrons, but whatever. People would constantly ask about why the tolls were going up but we never had an official reason to give them. I guess we could have cited ' Capital Improvements' but I don't think anyone really did. Our bosses put up signs on the booth about a week in advance that said 'New Toll Rates in Effect' and that was about it. The only instance I can recall in which we had a specific response was when Native Americans didn't want to pay their toll, but I never encountered a situation that I needed to cite it. (Not that i would have remembered it anyway)
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Thankfully, no. I occasionally had people get out of their cars and approach the booth to see what the heck was going on, though. Some even offered to pay the toll of the person holding up the line.
Unfortunately I don't know of anything that is done to combat the exhaust that is present. I have no ill health effects to speak of, but it would be interesting study to take on in respect to the lifers. Coincidentally, a majority of my co-workers were smokers.
Yep! There are usually a few portable stereos hanging around the stations for those that want to listen to the radio. More enterprising collectors brought iPod docks. Electronics were a bit of a gray area and all collectors are supposed to be monitoring the intercom that is in every booth, so it's really important to not drown everything out.
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