November 20, 2012

November 20, 2012

The Phantom Tollbooth

A new set of “express lanes” has just opened on part of our notorious Beltway. The fact that I live in an area with either of these things is quite the change. In Wisconsin, you see, we didn’t have tolls. Whenever we’d go to Chicago, part of the novelty was paying the tolls. (Back when I was too young to be annoyed by the concept, and instead thrilled at the act of flinging coins at what appeared to be a bucket made of whiffleball material.) Perhaps my home state has since introduced toll roads, but it was certainly a foreign concept during my time there. We took our roads potholed, torn up, and/or covered in construction equipment, and WE LIKED IT.

(And in Milwaukee, you can’t really have a beltway, because hello Lake Michigan. Plus you don’t need a beltway because everything in Milwaukee is less crowded and quicker and cheaper and friendlier and SIGH. But that’s a rant for another day.)

But as with Star Wars and all advanced forms of cookery, perhaps my lack of experience with tolls and beltways puts me in the minority. According to TheBoy, both are common in Texas. I’m pretty sure the entire state of Delaware is a giant scam to extort East Coast drivers. (Hey Delaware, what have you done for me LATELY?)

And E-Z Pass? No. Give me a cheery old man in a bellhop-esque uniform, sitting in a booth, ready to collect my tuppence. Or perhaps give me a time machine so I can go to 1904 England. If you’re going to make me pay to use a road, I’d like a little something in return. They’re taken away the fun road signs (RIP Burma-Shave) and the ability to drive at unlimited speeds (possible exception: Texas), so this is one of the few things left to us. And by “us,” I mean, “people who drive really far distances.” And by “us,” I mean “them,” because I drive so little I ruin the battery of every car I own.

On curves ahead
Remember, sonny
That rabbit's foot
Didn't save
The bunny
Burma-Shave

He tried
To cross
As fast train neared
Death didn't draft him
He volunteered 
Burma-Shave

Altho insured
Remember, kiddo
They don't pay you
They pay
Your widow 
Burma-Shave

(I read the titular novel after a hearty recommendation by Peter Sagal, the host of NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me." I found annoyingly full of cloying puns and wordplay. Ick.)

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