Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Traveling Through Time

So on the way back from Providence yesterday I whiled away a bit of the hour and a half ride by musing on some of the changes we’ve seen on the road over recent years.

          Here in Massachusetts, all the toll booths – and their nepotistic (today’s word for the day) toll takers – have disappeared. Literally. The actual little brick buildings were torn apart, the lanes paved over, and all you’ll see now is an extension of the off-ramp. Big metal gantries have sprouted over sections of the turnpike to read the transponders in the cars. Yes, there are scads and scads of out-of-staters who aren’t outfitted with transponders and who theoretically are being billed after their license plates are photographed. In reality, a lot slip through the system but I’ll bet the state has rationalized that the loss in revenue is still much less than paying $80,000 for that cousin of the water commissioner or state rep to extend an arm out a window to take our ticket.

          And thank God. I have many memories of mercy missions bringing a spare dresser or care packages to and from Boston while our daughter was at Northeastern. It was usually after I’d left work, which meant a return in the dark and therefore fumbling at 65 miles an hour for that tiny ticket, then the spare change to pay it.

      What about radar detectors? They were all the rage not that long ago and yet they seem to have faded into the ether. As a technical sort of thing, I would have expected someone by now to have perfected better and better versions, ones that were undetectable themselves.

          Also, I wonder if anyone remembers the fine art of passing someone on a two-lane road. It’s a good thing most highways are now at least four lanes wide. With today’s impatient drivers, can you imagine someone waiting behind an overloaded pickup until he’s past the curve or over the hill, and the line in the road is on the correct side?

          And lastly, when was the last time you were on the road and saw a romantic couple in the car in front of you, his arm on the seat in back of her, his other hand on the wheel while her head lay on his shoulder? The demise of bench seats and the arrival of buckets put an end to that.


  1. Curious. We don't have toll roads here. We hear talk about it once in a while.

  2. We still have quite a lot of two lane roads. Some of them very twisty indeed. Safe overtaking zones are few and far between.

  3. I'd say it's more likely the law that seat belts must be worn is what put an end to the romantic couple style of driving.

  4. Yes to all. Time waits for no man and more and more jobs (some tedious and boring) are disappearing. Did they really pay 80K? As I get older I do find the pace a little frightening and the communication with technology more frustrating than with humans.

  5. We live where the 4 lanes become 2 lanes for most of the next 200km/125miles. The speed limit is 80kph/50mph, but if I drive at 80 angry cars line up behind me eager to pass. So for safety sake I go 90-95kph but many are still anxious to pass.

  6. Not to mention the advent of seat belts. When I was young, we didn't buckle up, or even HAVE them in the car. It's been a long time since I've seen anybody schmoozing in the front seat of a car when it was moving. I'm sort of glad. Now we worry about texting while driving. Sigh.

  7. we take the back roads whenever possible to get where we're going and so yes, I still have the knowledge and courage to pass a slow moving vehicle.

  8. The toll joke! I feel guilty about all the toll bills I never received. Now I don't.

  9. Toll-taking doesn't sound like a very desirable nepotistic job. If I had a cousin who was a water commissioner and the best he could do for me was find me work as a toll-taker, I'd be annoyed! Although, yeah, 80K would definitely go a long way toward ameliorating the boredom of the job.

    I haven't seen a snuggling couple like that in ages. My dad and stepmother used to sit like that -- she'd be right up against him and we kids always thought it was both cute and ridiculous.

  10. oh my yes, I do remember those console-free front seats, no seat belts, and that long arm reaching over, "what you doing way over there...".

    We live on back roads that lead to less back roads, and the only way we even SEE a toll booth is if we decide to 'take the pike' to get somewhere faster.

    Still have toll takers, though. I used to have a neighbor was was a booth operator, and he said you would not BELIEVE what would pull through his booth some nights...
    Not a job for the faint of heart, nope.

  11. We still have two lane roads here in Minnesota...you must be patient...we have dirt roads too and two track roads...you know two tracks going down a road with grass growing up between the tracks.
    Minnesota doesn't have Toll Roads:)


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