Chapter 7 - Shorting a Tollboth

It’s not to say that Californians aren’t nice, it’s just that so far, Mainers are extra super nice! Here are 3 short stories to prove my point and brighten your day.


SHORTING A TOLLBOOTH

It was my very first solo errand outing to Portland, in our 4 door rental truck. With my iPhone GPS reading off every turn, I passed over bridges and craned my neck in awe at the beautiful scenery. I zoomed down the freeway, maybe it’s called a turnpike in these parts, and my shoulders relaxed a little more with each successful driving transition. I exited the main thoroughfare for another and then the giant, dreaded sign loomed in bold type. “Toll Road. 1 Mile Ahead.”

My heartbeat picked up a bit. The sign announced it was $1, so I steadied my left hand on the steering wheel as my right hand fished through my open purse on the seat next to me. You see we don’t have toll roads in California so this system has always sounded big and scary to me. Will it be a manned booth? Will it be the kind you have to throw change into the chute?

With clearly marked signs, the lanes noted for anyone with an electronic pass to stay to the left, anyone with cash (hopefully because I’m still fishing) stay to the right. The two lanes then split again, both with green arrows and I happily took the lane that was empty. I pulled up to the kiosk with my one dollar bill clutched in my fist and feeling very proud!

The kiosk was empty!!! What??!

I glanced with panicked eyes in my rear view mirror. No one behind me - phew. I looked at the other kiosk with the attendant happily taking money from each prepared driver. Where is my attendant?? I sat there perplexed for nearly a minute, drilling my confused eye beams into the back of the head of the attendant in the other booth. He would not turn around! So with no other option, I just drove through the toll unpaid and tried to make a sweet innocent face for the security camera.

With my errand finished, I headed north up the same highway, aiming for home. As I approached the nearly identical toll situation, I realized my earlier mistake was that I chose an electronic payment lane. So when I happily got to the correct booth (with an attendant) and with absolutely not one car visible behind me, I explained my earlier near felony infraction.

The sweet old attendant didn’t share in any of my concerns. He just said in his slow, calm and slightly tired voice, “Well that’s ok. Just don’t make it a habit and they’ll leave you alone.”


THE POSTAL WORKER

Our Hillside Farm has always been a summer home, so from what we can gather, the house has never had a mailbox on the road. As irony would have it, part of our Amazon mailbox order was delivered USPS. The small package was stamped “undeliverable” and placed on some back shelf at the downtown post office. Mike kindly explained to the postal worker on the phone that we were doing our best to get the box installed, just as soon as we could get that package.

So I hopped on down there the next day and walked inside with a little bit of trepidition. Let me just say this, me and postal workers have not had the most friendly of exchanges in years past. I began explaining who I was to the postal woman and before I could even finish my sentence she burst into the biggest smile and said, “Oh hi!!! Oh I talked to your husband on the phone and he was so nice and here let me get your package!” It was if I was talking to my long lost Aunt and I was her favorite niece.

I was just another customer and it was just another day for her, but I was still in the midst of feeling really far from home, even though this would soon be our home, and her welcoming attitude absolutely lifted my spirits and made me feel “at home”.


THE PORTLAND TSA LINE

There are a few situations in life, where I find that I stand a little taller and brace myself for the upcoming situation. Merging from the calm California i505 to the fast and aggressive i80 is just one of them. The other is getting prepared to be yelled at, jostled and humiliated in the TSA line.

As Mike and I approached the entrance to the TSA line, a very sweet grandma-type welcomed us. Imagine a Walmart greeter, with coifed grey hair, in a purple fleece vest with the Portland airport logo neatly embroidered in the corner, wearing a smile so friendly that you just want to adopt her into your family. “Hi folks and welcome. Just want to make sure; no water bottles or any liquids in your bag? Can I answer any questions? Ok, well great! Have a wonderful trip!”

And that my friends is Maine so far.


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