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When “CASH” Doesn’t Mean Cash

August 2, 2017

My wife and I traveled out of state a few months ago. Our visit with family went well and we enjoyed our trip until we reached a toll road in Pennsylvania. This is when things began to unravel.

As we approached the toll both there were two lanes clearly marked “CASH” as opposed to other lanes labeled “E-ZPASS.” Since we don’t have E-ZPASS, I navigated the car to one of the cash lanes on the left. After waiting in line for a few cars to pass through, it was finally our turn to pay the toll and continue on our way home.

It was at this moment that I quickly realized a few things. First of all there was no tollbooth worker in the booth. Secondly there was no way to insert dollar bills into the toll machine. On top of that a car had just pulled up behind us blocking us in the lane. And lastly we had no change.

Awesome. Normally this wouldn’t have been an issue as I believe the toll was only 95 cents or thereabouts and we could normally scrounge around the car for some loose change but we had just cleaned out the car before setting out on our mini-vacation and this included cleaning out the loose change from the consoles that we normally acquire over the course of our daily driving lives.We did have plenty of cash on us, just no change.

“This is fucking ridiculous! Why in the world would it say ‘CASH’ if it doesn’t take dollar bills?” I exclaimed as I turned on my hazard lights. Soon afterwards I see the gentleman behind me exiting his vehicle. “Oh great.” I thought to myself.

“So what seems to be the problem?” he asks through my open window as he casually leans an arm on my car.

“Well although the sign said ‘CASH’, apparently it means that you have to have change in order to get through.”

“Don’t you have any change?”

“Not really.” I said. What I was thinking however was more like “Yes sir, we do have the change, but I just decided to see how long I could hold up a line of traffic on a major thoroughfare.”

“Hey wifey, can you double check all the compartments and your purse again and see if we have any change whatsoever?”

“Sure.” she replies as she starts looking one more time in all the consoles and compartments up to and including the crevices of the seats. After searching them all and emptying out the entire contents of her purse, we came up with exactly 55 cents- still 40 cents short of the toll.

“I mean, do you have any change we could buy from you?” I ask the stranger standing at my window. “We have plenty of $20’s.”

“You don’t have any smaller bills?” he asks.

“No, unfortunately not.”

“Let me see what I can do.” he replies and then turns and heads back to his car. I can see him in my rear view mirror saying something to what I assume was his significant other. Then I see her take out some change from her own purse.

After a few seconds, the stranger returned to our window and gave us 50 cents in quarters. “You sure you don’t want any money?”

“No. Thanks though. Just throw your money in the basket and then we can both be on our way.”

So I did. I threw the money in the basket and the barricade went up and we were on our way. In retrospect, I don’t know if the stranger was simply being kind in helping us out or if he really just wanted to get through the tollbooth himself and didn’t want to be stuck behind some stupid Ohioans on their way back home. Probably his motivations were a little bit of both. Either way, I am grateful he took pity on us and helped us out.

I am not grateful to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Take it from a frustrated driver, when you label an entire lane “CASH” you should expect people will assume that means you can pay with CASH. Over and out.


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