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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First and foremost, I too, am a huge fan of Fridays, FridayLover. We don't really have a procedure for handling rude and confused tourists. We're out there to collect tolls, and that's about it. Confusion is one thing. When I had wide-eyed drivers pull up with literally no idea what was happening, I just had to exercise as much patience with them as I could and get them onto the same page. Even getting people to open their windows and reach out to take the toll ticket from me when they were entering was sometimes a challenge. I had some comical stare downs with drivers who didn't speak English. It was interesting because I was doing something completely mundane, while they were doing something completely new. Even getting them to pull away after paying their toll was a challenge sometimes. That being said, being a confused tourist with a smile on your face will get you a whole lot farther than the alternative. Being confused shouldn't give you a license to be rude though. If you don't like that we aren't a currency exchange, or that our collectors don't know if certain malls have certain stores, or that we can't give you a satisfactory answer as to why there is a toll road here at all, that's fine. But there's really no need to berate a toll collector. And if you do, Canadian or not, don't be surprised when you don't get a very nice response. And I totally get that you don't want to take American change back to Canada, but if you guys could cool it on the 315 pennies for a 3.15 toll, my brethren would appreciate it.
Next time you go through, look for a small building on either side of the toll plaza. There should be a parking a lot attached to it, or very close by. Often, it's only accessible by way of the highway itself so collectors will have to go through toll lanes and pull in that way. That building is where a manger is (at some stations), where we eat, take our breaks, and generally try to forget that we are toll collectors.
It's going to vary from agency to agency. In my case, I took the civil service test in January and was called in for an interview in July. If they are hiring a class of collectors from a test, they run down the list based on test scores, so in theory the better you score, the sooner you might be able to expect an interview. Once I was hired, I spent one day getting my fingerprints taken, background checked and going through classroom training at headquarters and two days training in the field with another collector. After that, I was a bona-fide part-time toll collector.
That being said, some of my co-workers were hired without taking the test because it wasn't being offered at the time. They were allowed to start working immediately and were required to take the test when it was next offered.
I never lied to anyone about what I did for a living. I actually enjoyed talking about it because the eyes of whoever I was talking to almost always lit up out of curiosity when I mentioned that I collected tolls. I can’t tell you how many times people countered with ‘Oh my god, I’ve always wanted to ask...’ Toll collecting is kind of a depressing profession though. There’s just no way around it. I don’t know if anyone out there would readily say that they were proud of what they or the organization did day to day. But I would say there is a certain satisfaction in going out there, being dependable, and doing a good job in any profession. Personally, I tried to inject as much levity into the whole situation as I could and document all the ridiculous things that happened out there so I could have some good party stories. The two things that helped me the most was the high likelihood of not being being a lifer and the fact that I had anywhere between 1-3 jobs during most of this time period. I never felt that toll collecting defined me as a person. Rather, it was just a ridiculous thing that I did to live like any other person. I am proud to have met and worked with the people that I did, and contrary to what you might believe, I worked alongside a lot of intelligent, strong, thoughtful individuals. And a fair share of idiots.
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To answer this fully, I'll back up a little here. I got the job when I was 18 years old, living at home, and starting college full-time. I became a toll collector (and a grocery store clerk) because my parents made it clear that I needed to get a job. (In my opinion, they had been more than generous in allowing me to be jobless up until that point.) For some reason, I became enamored with the idea of being a toll collector, and through a connection and a conveniently timed civil service test, I got the job. I never thought that this was going to be a career for me and during college other jobs came and went but the one constant for me was toll collecting. It provided a steady source of income, allowed me to move out of my parents house, and *ahem* enjoy college. From day one, I was just riding this out until I got the big boy job. Well, as it turns out, 2009 wasn't a great time to graduate college. Nearly five years after I started, the big boy job seemed as far away as it did on that first day but eventually I did get the call to the big leagues. So, to simply answer your question, I got another job. I am very thankful that I did though, because I'm just not sure how long I would have lasted. The unfortunate truth is that there are a lot of jobs out there that just aren't that fulfilling, and toll collecting is absolutely one of those jobs. The year after I graduated was one of the hardest years of my life. I remember breaking down to my father on the phone one night outside of a bar near the end of my time as a toll collector because I just didn't feel like my life had any purpose at the time. My hat is off to everyone that is still out there, because it's not an easy life.
I get the premise, but I don't think this one works in practice. You might have a collector that just waves you though without counting, and even if they count every single penny I don't know if you'd be buying the kind of time you need. One thing that we can all agree on is that the Westboro Baptists are insane.
It's pretty easy to do. Just take a look at the side of any vehicle and count the number of wheels rolling on the ground. Here's a chart from the U.S. DOT that shows some examples of truck combinations: http://i.imgur.com/r6hpwt9.gif We did not have cash registers in our booths. The ticket machines that we used could do a number of functions, but all cash transactions were done manually. If you needed to, you could bring a calculator of your own out to the lane with you, but during my job interview I was asked if i could make change without the use of a cash register. When I replied that I could, the interviewer tested me on the spot.
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