Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Can't Get Enough of You

I just can’t seem to get enough
of your flavor and texture and stuff.
When I have too much, I’m in a daze.
But not enough, and I begin to crave.
Dark, white, milk—
You go down smooth as silk.
Whenever I am lonely,
You are always there to keep me company.
I can have you almost every day,
if only you didn’t cause tooth decay.
Believe me when I say this:
Chocolate always puts me in bliss.

-Christine Chew

I'm sure you've had enough toll tales, so I hope you enjoyed this short and simple poem!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

An Epiphany in My Booth

The view of Tobin Bridge from afar.

Lately, I've been working at the Tobin Bridge. If you've ever driven on it, you know it's a very high bridge that has a great view of Boston. High places also mean another thing...jumpers. Every month, there are at least three jumpers at this bridge. These attempted suicides, some of them successful, don't make it to the news because they don't want to encourage copycats.

More than one coworker have told me, "When somebody pulls over and gets out of the car to get their money in the trunk, I get worried that they're going to jump." As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago, there was a 26-year-old woman who jumped and killed herself. My coworker told me, "It's an image burned into your memory. You just replay it over and over again in your head."

Since I'm there sparingly, I've been fortunate enough not to witness such a horrific sight. Just yesterday, though, a few patrons reported to me that there was a man walking on the bridge towards the booths. I reported it to the senior and he immediately called the state police. After about ten minutes, two state police vehicles sped through the fast lane with their sirens on.

At first, I thought they were trying to get off the bridge because the man had jumped. But then the senior updated us and informed us that the state troopers arrested the man because he was intoxicated and carried a gun. I was a little shocked, especially with the shooting massacre that happened recently in Colorado, but was glad the situation was handled quickly.

I never thought I'd have a life-awakening epiphany at the tolls, but I realized that life is short and oftentimes taken for granted. In the words of Albert Einstein, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." (Hint: go with the latter!)

The view from my booth. Too bad they're doing construction!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Toll Celebrities

Working at the tolls exiting the airport, we get some celebrities who pass through to film movies in Boston. While it’s exciting to see them, they’re still required to pay the toll. Here’s a compilation of recent celebrities my fellow toll collectors and I have met. Can you guess who are the nice folks and who aren’t?

Adam Sandler—filming for “That’s My Boy” in 2010. Driving right past the booth, Sandler claimed to have had the fast pass (which doesn’t work in the Cash Only lane). After a few curse words, he backed up to pay the toll followed with some more curse words.

Donnie Wahlberg—visiting home in 2010. When asked if he was the guy from New Kids On The Block, Wahlberg simply said yes and sang a short tune before driving away.

Ryan Reynolds—filming for “R.I.P.D.” in 2011. With a very warm smile, Reynolds paid the toll and made small talk. Apparently, he’s single and still looking for the right woman!

Kevin Bacon—filming for “R.I.P.D.” in 2011. Using his credentials, Bacon tried to get a free pass. After informing him everyone is required to pay, he reluctantly handed the money and drove off without saying a word.

James Hong—filming for “R.I.P.D.” in 2011. Very politely, Hong paid the toll and commended Boston to being a fine city.

President Obama—having lunch with Mitt Romney in 2012. While none of us could see him because he was in one of the two bulletproof black Lincolns, he made his presence known considering we had to shut down the whole tunnel for him. Not only did ten firetrucks, ten state troopers, ten white unmarked vans, and ten ambulances follow him, the bomb squad checked the tunnel for explosives and snipers stayed on the roof keeping watch. We toll collectors were instructed to stay in our booths at all times as they all went through the fast lane.

So there you have it. Celebrities are people just like the rest of us and do not get special treatment (except for the President, of course). Next time, we’ll try to hold up the paparazzi for them.

Monday, July 30, 2012

No Cash? No problem.

At approximately 1:30AM at the Ted Williams Tunnel, a middle-aged woman comes to my lane. I can tell she is very irate, so I try to be as sincere and helpful as I can. I have a lot of patience but this patron was really testing it.

PATRON: The signs are so f***ing s***ty! I went the wrong way! Can I turn around?
ME: Sorry, m’am, you have to go through the tunnel from here. Where are you trying to go?
PATRON: I’m trying to get on 93-North but I don’t want to go through the f***ing tunnel!
ME: You’re going the right way. Exit 24 on the right will bring you onto 93-North. It’s $3.50 for the tunnel.
PATRON: I don’t have any damn money!
ME: That’s okay, I can issue you a bill for the toll and you can pay it later.

In the past, people with no money used to be able to fill out an Unpaid Toll Invoice and then mail in the amount of the toll within two weeks. However, two months ago, that policy changed. Because it was based on the honor system and people weren’t returning their I.O.U’s, the new policy is issuing a No Cash Violation, which is a bill of the toll plus a $5 processing fee mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

PATRON: Can’t you call a state trooper to escort me off the tunnel?! They do that in New Jersey.
ME: I’m sorry, we don’t do that here in Massachusetts. Just give me one moment, please.

It takes about 40 seconds for me to write out the bill. The whole time, the woman was going on and on about how she had a long day, barely any sleep, and a meeting in a couple of hours. I give sympathetic responses as I’m writing out the bill but I do not say much because there is nothing I can do to help her with her personal problems. I must not have been sympathetic enough because she starts cursing at me, but I’m used to tuning this part out.

ME: Here’s a copy of the bill. Instructions are on the bottom. You’re all set. Thank you.
PATRON: What the f*** is this? I don’t want a bill!

Just when I thought she would drive away and take her life story with her, she proceeds to read the instructions out loud to me. Luckily, the senior toll collector entered my booth to give me more quarters and he could tell I needed assistance. He asked the woman what the problem was and the same conversation I had with her earlier took place again.

This time, the senior toll collector took the bill out of her hand and ripped it up in front of her. After informing her she wouldn’t be billed the toll anymore, she drove away. I asked him why he let her go for free and he told me, “She’s not getting a bill anymore, but she’s getting a $50 fine for toll evasion. There's no reasoning with unreasonable people.” Lesson learned.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Hi there,

Welcome to my blog, "Cordial Etiquette*: How to be a Civilized Human Being."

cordial: (adj.) courteous and gracious; friendly; warm
etiquette: (n.) customary code of behavior within a particular group

*cordial etiquette: standards on how to be a civilized human being

Being a toll collector in Boston, I face so many crazy 10-second encounters. The customers can be extremely happy to see me when I give them directions after they've been lost for hours, or extremely irate for having to pay their third toll by the time they've entered Boston. Either way, I want to share interesting experiences with you that show people who know cordial etiquette and those who clearly do not.

Although most of my posts will probably be based upon my daily encounters that come through my tiny toll booth, I will also write about details of my life. This includes my roller-coaster relationship with my mother, adventures at the bar or club with my friends, and any other interesting etiquette I experience at certain places.

After all, cordial etiquette ought to be practiced in our daily routine!