In the state of Indiana, automated toll machines stand in place of live operators. Makes sense. More profit. No need for on-site restrooms.
During a recent road trip with my mom, I experienced this marvel of technology. Entering the toll way worked out fine—even though the wind tried to call dibs on my ticket as it spit out of the machine.
Exiting proved more difficult. Desperate for a restroom break, I took the off-ramp and waited behind a red pick-up. Never having used an automated machine, I rolled down my window and read the instructions.
Insert ticket according to picture.
Not too hard. I leaned out the window and popped in my ticket according to the diagram. The slot spit the ticket out. I studied the picture and tried again. This time the breeze caught it before I did.
I threw the shifter in park and rushed out to grab the ticket from underneath my front tire. By now, twelve cars waited behind me. Reinserting the ticket ten additional times did nothing for my emotional distress, the disposition of the other drivers, or my chances for finding a restroom anytime soon.
Decoding diagrams and maps isn’t my thing. What happened to throwing change into a basket? My hands shook and a trickle of sweat ran down my back as I slid in the car and looked at my mom. Even though I am a mom, letting someone else be the mom for a moment can sometimes take the pressure off. “Any ideas?” I asked her.
“Let’s just go through it and pay later.”
I nodded and put the car in drive. Her mom wisdom would have been great, had a long wooden arm not blocked our way. I took a deep breath and begged my bladder to hang on.
My wise mom pointed to the machine. “There’s a help button.”
Help. That’s exactly what I needed.
After I pushed the button, a scratchy voice prompted, “What’s your problem?”
I yelled over the honking behind me. “You mean besides the fifteen cars of aggravated people behind me?”
“Where did you get on the toll road, Ma’am?”
I gave my entrance point and seconds later, the correct exit fee popped up on the Pay This Amount screen. Ever helpful, my mom passed me a cupful of change. The woman in the Hummer inches from my bumper got out of her car. “It’s good,” I held up the change. “Be out of here in just a sec.”
She raised her eyebrows, punctuated her irritation with a sigh, and slid back into her car.
With shaky hands, I force fed the machine. It spit out every other coin. $3.25 and many coin feeds later, the arm raised. I escaped before it fell back down.
Whose idea was it to get rid of the live operators—the people who knew what to do and acted before one stuck traveler multiplied into many?
Not too long after my harrowing ticket booth debacle my oldest son, Kyle, returned from youth camp pumped-up on a vital message—Get a mentor. Be a mentor. People need people.
The message stuck. My tollbooth fiasco would have been a non-event had an attendant been there to help me. I need a mentor to steer me in the right direction when I’m stuck. I need to be a mentor and share the wisdom I’ve learned from others who have taken time to guide me.
“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (I Thessalonians 5:12-14 NIV).
Visit my website at L.A.Freeland
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