Saturday, March 14, 2009


Working as a toll collector would appear to be a really brain dead job. One car after another only broken up by an occasional truck. Pure monotony ville. What made it a fun job were the people you met for brief encounters. Some became regulars, but usually you only had a moment to maybe brighten a persons day.
Now I am a dyed in the wool grinner and I blasted my customers with my almost pearly whites for 8 hours. First car got the same grin as the last. Side effect, good grief, do I have the wrinkles from all that grinning. Still it can't be helped, it is a reflex.

The regulars often became the bright spots to the collectors. A father picking up his son each weekend from his ex wife. College kids with cars full of dirty laundry going home for a holiday. Truckers on regular runs. Farm team baseball players going to an out of town game. Highway patrol officers. Party seekers heading for a larger town. Kids visiting parents regularly.

A couple in the latter group became some of my favorite patrons. They were a young couple that came through every Friday night to visit her family for the weekend. They were a darling couple who had a little nondescript Maltese. The dog was small, white, scruffy and a wee bit smelly.

The first time they came through, traffic was quite slow. The dog jumped up on the car door so I reached out to pet her. While chatting with the young couple, I held the dogs head in my hands and rubbed her ears.

The next Friday was a holiday so the lines were a bit long and I kept hearing a dog screaming a few cars back. It was my couple and when they pulled up, the little white dog cried and cried till I held her head once again. The couple told me that she started screaming as soon as they pulled off the turnpike. This was new behavior to them.

I forgot about it till next Friday when I once again heard the screaming. This was not barking, it was screaming like they were tearing the legs off the dog. Again, the dog quit when I touched her, though she did try to climb out of the car into my window. The couple said it was really embarrassing for people were looking at them while they were in line like they were abusing the little dog.

This routine went on for several months. The poor harried couple were unable to stop the screaming. Often the lines were 1/2 a mile long on busy nights, so it could on for 15 minutes or so. That is a huge assault on the ears. The other collectors would laugh and say, "Here comes Patti's dog." No one could miss her. We all felt the little dog knew me from a former life. Could think of no other explanation for the instant connection.

One day the couple told me that the parents had moved and they would no longer be coming through on Fridays. Swear to God, that day as we said good bye, the dog screamed as they pulled away. Again a new behavior.

No I never saw any of them again but I do still think about all three of them. Sometimes think the "parents moving" was just an excuse and that they were just taking another route to avoid the harrowing ritual. Wouldn't blame them.

Wonder who that little dog and I were to each other in her other life. Must have been special.


  1. How very sweet! You do have to wonder...if they could only talk. Surprised the poor couple didn't hand the pooch over to you - I have a feeling you would have taken her. : )

  2. What a lovely story, Patti. I think there are many times that animals bond with a particular individual. For that small dog, it was you.

  3. Isn't that sweet?! You must have known each other. I feel the same way about my friend's dog "Alfie". Too bad they didn't give you their dog!

  4. Jewels, Pat, Judy
    I know the little dog loved them and they definately loved her. It must have hurt them a bit though to have her go so bonkers over someone she only saw for minutes once a week. I guess it was best for all that they quit coming thru.