Tolls

Alone in my toll booth, I saw many people pass through on the course of their lives. I saw cars, I saw trucks, and bikes but mostly, I saw people in a rush. In the mornings, they dropped their coins and bills into my hands in a hurry and drove past to work. I would have to hear the occasional complaint about long lines and traffic jams but after a while, I couldn’t get myself to care too much. I sometimes offered apologies but usually, I stared blankly until the drivers would grunt or growl and drive through.

I didn’t know where they were going but they were headed somewhere over into the western part of the state. I never saw the same face twice, even though many of the cars going through were identical. During the rush hours, the impatient faces would look down the packed rows in anticipation of getting through. I always felt as if they saw me as a sort of gatekeeper and extortionist getting in the way of their lives. I was the unnecessary outpost between their lattes and their work, their families and their nights, wherever they happened to go to in the city.

At night, I was usually alone, and the cars were fewer, speeding through the regulated toll lanes in a fury. I would serve the occasional car and hand over a receipt but most of the vehicles were fitted with access passes allowing for a faster crossing. Sometimes, tourists would ask for directions. I would help them if I could but I would usually refer them to the gas station a mile down the road. I always knew where they were going but sometimes, there just wasn’t enough time to get the message across. The cars behind were always in a hurry to get through to the other side.

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