How to Get Along Working in the Toll Booth

The most important thing you need to know about the toll booth is that everybody else moves, but you stay right there.

So then, the first thing you need to do is make yourself comfortable. Organize the shelves the way you like them and maybe bring in a picture of your dog or one that you found in a magazine. Decorate any way you want as long as you keep your window clear and don’t offend motorists with crude bumper sticker slogans or pictures of naked ladies. You can steal ideas from the cars you see every day. For example, a plastic, wiggly Hula girl looks just as charming on your windowsill as she does on any dashboard. She will dance whenever a car comes by to jiggle her.

You should clean your booth regularly, or else the smell of you will build up without you even noticing yourself. It might take your new girl friend (the one who lives in Elmira and works in Angola so she visits every day), getting out of her car and sticking her head right up inside your booth, before you know that the air in there is your own personal musk times a hundred.

The way you get away with smoking is stick your hand and as much of your head as you can maneuver out of the window and ash on the ground. You can’t let your boss see you do this either.

When your boss takes a vacation or you otherwise know he won’t be coming around, you can invite your girlfriend to spend her day off with you in your booth. But you should only do this if your girlfriend is the right kind of easy-going-doesn’t-mind-sitting-on-the-floor kind of girlfriend. The kind like Kelly who knows how to be quiet when you’re with the kind of customer who might tattle on you, but who also knows how to have a little bit of fun with the kind of customer who won’t. You might find she’ll imitate your Hula girl, or tickle your feet as you give someone change, or make “oooohing” noises like the toll booth is haunted when no one can see her. It is a tight space, however, so your girlfriend must also be very flexible, her back on the floor and her legs sticking up the walls and out the window, for you two to have a particular kind of fun.

To get on well in the toll booth business, you must always be cheerful and have a smile for every motorist. You must not be too angry or surprised when your girlfriend takes a job in Toledo, which is not that far away but puts you out of her path and you must not take it out on any other drivers if she won’t come see you, because sometimes you can still see her if you borrow your cousin’s truck and drive on up there on your day off.

You might have a radio in the booth or you might not and then you might listen to the little snippets of different pieces of music from the cars that stop and then move on. Sometimes they come together to make their own song in your head.

And if your girlfriend moves all the way to Cleveland and says maybe you and her should make a clean break, you shouldn’t let it get to you. Because like I told you in the first place, the thing to remember about the toll booth is that everyone else moves, but you stay right here.  

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