Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For Whom the Bells Have Tolled

Reckoning for Merchants (1489)
If the BQE were to become a toll road, it is highly unlikely that we would get those fairytale toll houses of Merritt Parkway memory. In fact, the trend is to toll-taking structures that communicate with your EZ-Pass transponder without you ever needing to even slow down. And, just like that, you're $9.80 poorer.

This means we not only have lost the toll houses, but we are losing the honorable profession of toll taker. The woman in the photo below is Juliet Jones, pictured on her first day as a toll booth attendant at the Queens Plaza entrance to the Midtown Tunnel. It was April 1944, and the policemen who had previously performed the job had been "taken into armed forces or specialized war industries."
Schlesinger Library on the
History of Women in America

It's been a long time since I handed over my toll to an actual human being. When I did, I was kicking myself for not having had my EZ-Pass. But there was time when this exchange was so frequent that it gave rise to the great Thank You Debate. In brief, some held that it was appropriate for the toll taker to thank the driver, since the driver is giving him or her the money. Others that the driver should courteously thank the toll taker for performing a necessary service. Who says, "Thank you" and who "You're welcome"? I maintained that the reciprocal "Thank you" <--> "Thank you" exchange was the only way out of this conundrum.

Wherever you came down on this question, let's take a moment to thank Juliet Jones and all the men and women who ever put on the uniform and stepped into the booth. Keep the change!

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