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.