Tuesday, July 17, 2012

FasTrack Madness

Last night, just after finishing my blog post, I started a classroom discussion and snuck out while they were arguing.

Suckers!  Good luck finding out what the homework is for next week.

I got in my car and started the long drive home. 

The school I teach at is right next to the Dumbarton Bridge, which has a toll going westbound.  Instead of shelling out my hard-earned cash for tolls, like most suckers, I got a FasTrack thingy.  FasTrack is this plastic box that beeps every time you go through a toll.  When it beeps, it sends out a signal that confuses toll workers so they wave you through instead of taking your money.  I guess the signal is a bunch of positive statements about your character, because the signs at the tollbooth say “VALID ETC” when it beeps.

I like to read that sign in the voice from Yul Brynner in The King And I.

Wait, what?  Oh, I’m told they don’t let you through for free; they bill your credit card.  Oops.

So, I’m rushing home, and I drive up to a cash/FasTrack lane.  Holding up my plastic box, I drive straight through, waving at the woman in the booth.

My FasTrack was silent.  No sign showing my validity.  I had driven through a toll booth without paying.  The police would be after me soon.  My only chance to avoid jail time and the regular sodomy that went with it was to change my identity and start a new life as a migrant coffee picker.  I would rename myself Juan Kaldez.
I only pick the richest, and least expensive coffee in the world.

Suddenly, I noticed a sign off the side of the road, pointing the way to the “Toll Sergeant.”  Figuring there would be some kind of drive-through service (maybe with a Starbucks!), I drove up the little ramp and to the parking lot behind a dark building.

There was nothing there.  No drive-through.  No coffee.  Just a creepy, dark parking lot.
Yes, it was as scary as this.
I drove through an open gate near the back.  As I drove, the road wound up a hill into a starless night.  There were no street lights.  The road twisted and turned and then, just as I thought my car might fall suddenly into a ravine, and I’d be swept away, never to be seen again…. That’s exactly what happened.  They found my corpse the next day, swollen and waterlogged and…

Oh, fine, I’ll stick to the truth.  I found myself suddenly back at the road in front of the school.  I turned and went back to the tollbooth.

“Hi,” I said, to the woman at the booth.  “I was just here a minute ago.  My Fastrack didn’t go off.”

“BEEP!” my FasTrack said.  The VALID ETC light came on and, somewhere, a computer was deducting money from my account.

“I just wanted to make sure I didn’t get in trouble.  I know they take a picture of your license plate and-“

“BEEP!” my FasTrack said again.  This was becoming an expensive conversation.

“We don’t have anything to do with that,” she said with a scowl on her face that looked permanent.

“Well, okay, thanks.  I guess I’ll just call in.”

“BEEP!” FasTrack said.

I drove away.  I haven’t called FasTrack yet.  I’m kinda scared of what they’ll say.

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