Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mid-Summer Minuet, In Which We Pay Tribute to the Anonymous Civil Servant Who Helped Us Along Life’s Tollway

We were handing our payment over to the Beltway toll taker the other morning when most of the $1.25 in coins of various denominations somehow eluded our grasp and plummeted to the concrete beside our car. As we opened the door to retrieve our toll (while inwardly cussing our self and wondering if we’d ever again enjoy a morning free from some spillage or another), the lady in the booth smiled soothingly and said, “Don’t worry---I’ll get it.” Although her cheeriness at that hour of the morning was confounding, we gratefully thanked her and drove on when she lifted the arm.

It then occurred to us that in all our years of plying the toll roads of Harris County we had never crossed paths with a surly toll taker. Most, in fact, seem to be unfailingly pleasant if not jovial, or at least to possess a natural’s ability for faking these facades (we’ll take it)---making change with a smile or politely asking if we’d like a receipt or wishing us a blessed day as we shove off into the either (we’ll take that, too). Surely this is an anomaly, a bizarre quirk of chance, and there are plenty of teeth-grinding sourballs manning the toll booths hereabouts, for toll taking would seem to be the most mind-numbing of professions, its practitioners prone to not only Carpal Tunnel of the wrist but Carpal Tunnel of the mind. But, as we said, we’ve never transacted with one.

For all we know the toll taker was only following the policy of the Harris County Toll Road Authority, yet we were so moved by her kindness that we resolved to refrain from being a churlish prick for the rest of the day. The resolution was not kept, but we tried.

This is all we wish to report today. We will return shortly with another bellowing narcissistic shriek.

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