It’s no secret that I am a southern girl (a “belle” if you will). And it probably won’t come as any surprise that I strongly dislike cities. Also by cities I mean Charlotte, Atlanta, and Charleston. I feel like the country mouse come to town. Heaven forbid I ever end up in a really big city.
I visited NYC once for a week and I kid you not I had vertigo the entire week because the buildings were too tall. I have to go to Philadelphia often for work and I still can’t break myself of the habit of speaking to random strangers and striking up conversations. Needless to say these usually remain one-sided conversations as I guess people “don’t do that up there”.
So last week I found myself driving up to DC by myself to visit a dear friend. I got to her condo with no episodes at all and was feeling pretty confident about my ability to blend in to the big city. That is until the next morning when I had to leave and continue on to Pennsylvania.
Let me start by saying we don’t really have these things called “toll booths” where I live. I mean I know what they are and I have obviously been through 2 or 3 in my life (seriously ya’ll it’s definitely less than 10). As soon as I saw the “TOLL” sign pop up my entire tensed with anxiety. I’m not sure why- maybe it’s just the “unknown.”
Of course the anxiety heightened when I realized I had absolutely zero cash. I started to panic wondering if I could use a debit card and what would happen if they wouldn’t let me through. Should I pull over and walk up to the booth? No that would probably scare them. Maybe I should park and go into the office. But I didn’t see anywhere to park.
I neared the booth as my throat began to close up. “CASH ONLY” stated the signs at 4 of the lanes. “I don’t have cash!!!!” And then I saw it. A lane on the far left with a sign stating “NO CASH/ EZ PASS”. Well I don’t know what EZ Pass means but this lane is clearly mine because of course I have no cash. You see my logic here right? Maybe a little?
I think you can see where this is going…
I pulled into the lane and stopped my car waiting for the attendant to take my debit card. But of course she didn’t open the window (or even look at me for that matter). It was about this time the car behind me blared his horn. I glanced in the rearview to see cars beginning to pile up behind me. The drivers all had scowls on their faces and a few of them were waving to me….with their middle fingers.
This really didn’t do my panic much good. I didn’t know what to do. I unbuckled my seatbelt, cracked my car door, leaned all the way out the window, and banged on the window of the booth. Mind you there is a cacophony of horns and curse words being flung at me at this point. I’m praying they will see my South Carolina plates and take pity on me (Ha! yeah right).
After an eternity the woman opened the window.
“You’re in an EZ Pass lane,” she says flatly.
“I don’t know what that is and I have no cash!” I blurted out almost on the verge of tears. I mean would they detain me? What happens to someone who doesn’t pay at the toll booth?
“Well just go on through and they’ll send you a bill,” she says.
“Really?” I asked as the man behind me started up again.
I had no choice but to trust her and I eased onto my gas sure at every second spikes would come up and slash my tires. But I made it through with no incident.
I was shaking and couldn’t figure out how they were going to send me a bill. How do they even know who I am? I’m from out of state? My thoughts were broken by a string of cars whipping around me everyone of them laying on their horns, shaking their fists, their faces twisted in anger. But finally they passed.
I was afraid to pull over for some miles as I didn’t want any of them to be on the same exit and confront me. Finally the toll road gave way to a two lane highway that began to twist and turn up into the mountains. Farms lined the road and the traffic became minimal. I finally exhaled and felt more at home.
When I recounted the story to the hubs that night he could NOT stop laughing at my stupidity. And sure looking back I realize what the sign actually meant. And that I had actually stopped right in the middle of the express line. I guess it’s kind of like those jerks that get in the 10 items or less lane with a full buggy (yeah I said buggy).
Either way I have learned my lesson. And I don’t think I’ll be driving up north anytime soon.