Wednesday, August 25, 2010


When Florida Turnpike redesigned its uniform shirts, they were met with jeers from the collectors.
Our first reaction was “too busy, Magnum PI'ish, and too Hawaiian. Since there was no choice in the matter and I will wear anything as long as everyone else has to, we climbed into the shirts. Though we were one of the smaller exits, our unusual name, Yeehaw Junction , allowed us front of shirt honors.

What none of us were ready for was the public's craving for those very shirts. The tourists went nuts for them. I was offered $50.00 for one of mine. Had I been wearing a decent bra that day and could have thought of a good cover story, I might have accommodated that tourist. There was such a clamor for the shirts that the state started selling them at the service plazas. Pretty soon, it was hard to tell a tourist from a collector. Go figure.

While working for the turnpike, I was nightly exposed to strange stuff. I believe people think when they are in their cars they have on a cloak of invisibility. The booths are higher than the cars so we pretty much saw everything. Here are some of the bizarre, sad, and sometimes illegal happenings.

Probably the grossest yet silliest were the masturbaters. The exhibitionist types did not try to hide what they were doing, and would just grin really big at our shocked expressions. Fortunately, all those I saw had Sun Passes so there was no exchange of money or tickets. Not sure how I would have managed if I had to make change. Yuck. We called them Wienie Wavers.

We had radio contact with FHP ( the Florida Highway Patrol) at all times. We would call in the "wavers" for indecent exposure. There was one lady cop that hated the WW boys and as soon as we reported one, she would come flying off the Turnpike in hot pursuit. Don't think she ever caught any but she sure tried.

One sad event was a young man in his twenties that I took off one really slow night. I was my usual "try to make everyone smile" self but he just had no expression. I thought he was probably just really tired when he asked where the nearest motel was. We were in the boondocks of Florida. I gave him directions to the only one in 30 miles, a rather old motel at the intersection. Half an hour later, every FHP in the area came flying off the pike.

It seems the man checked into the motel, the clerk heard a shot and called the police. The young man had just barely closed the door when he stuck a gun in his mouth and killed himself. He looked no different than any other customer that night, yet he carried a terrible burden, one he could not live with. I once heard that suicide was a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” I was consumed with "what ifs" but my rational mind knows nothing I could have done would have stopped him. I was haunted by that man for a long time.

Equally as sad and as haunting, one night as I was getting ready to leave, there was a ruckus in the lanes. My wild eyed boss came in and asked if anyone knew CPR. It seems a passenger in a car, had suffered an apparent heart attack about 3 miles out. I told him I knew CPR and hurried to the parking lot where 3 of his family stood outside the car in panic looking at a man slumped in the passenger seat.

I felt his neck for a pulse but his neck was so swollen, I could feel nothing. I asked the man in the group to help me put him on the ground so I could start CPR. Fortunately for me, the FHP pulled up. Two officers put him on the ground and started to work on him immediately.

The tourists were a middle aged, oriental foursome that had just come from Disney World. They said that he had just made a gurgling noise, then slumped over. He had no previous heart problems.

His wife grabbed my arm and hung on to the point of hurting. I will never forget her plaintive wail as she screamed into the night, ”Jackie, don't leave me.” As I write this, I can hear that desperate cry.

An EMT arrived who worked frantically while waiting for the chopper to transport him but to no avail. Jackie did leave her that night. I really had never nor have I since, seen such raw pain and fear in a person.

On a lighter note, well for me anyway, one really slow night, a teenage girl pulled into my lane. She was on her cell phone and crying. Shoving the cell phone at me, she sobbed, “It's for you.”

Well that will bring you up short. Who was she and who was she talking to that knew me?? Tentatively, I took the phone and said a soft, “Hello?”

A slightly panicked male voice answered. “You have my daughter in front of you. Can you tell me where she is and help me get her home? She has been going up and down the turnpike and doesn't have any idea where she is so I can't help her.”
God bless cell phones.

The poor child was in a full blown ugly cry. She had been trying to get to Orlando but when she stopped at a service plaza for gas near Orlando, she got turned around . Changing direction on the turnpike at a service plaza is not easy to do but possible. Now she was heading back where she had come from. Her dad and I figured if we could get her back to the same service plaza where she gotten confused, he could meet her there and lead her home.

I went over and over with her how to get back on the turnpike going the correct way. “Straight up over the hill” I pounded into her. Her tears were dry but son of a gun if she didn't turn left before the hill and headed back towards Miami. I got FHP on the radio and they were able to stop her, get her turned around and then lead her to the service plaza. God bless her, I hope she gave up driving forever that night.

I wrote about the
9/11 terrorist here so I'd say we just about saw it all.

Ninety nine point nine percent of the people we met were darlings and I really enjoyed them. The rest certainly kept us on our toes. You never knew what the next car would bring.

The next time you pay your toll--- smile, the collector has probably had a strange day.


  1. Well, I always do smile at them. I seldom have to pay tolls, except when I am going back to Charleston, WV. I got a shock this last trip when I discovered that the toll had gone from $3.75 to $6. It had been %3.75 for over 30+ years. It's not that it's that much of a raise, just unexpected.

    You have seen it all (as you say) and I suspect that the people on the WVTP have as well.

  2. It's always interestingly strange when you work with the public. I worked in an "up scale" second hand clothing store (sort of an oxymoron huh?) It was like I was standing inside their closets with them, the customers told me things I didn't want to know, made me feel unclean somehow. I will never understand the human animal. But I, like you and others, smile and say thank you and have a nice day, inspite of my sometimes better instincts. THe Olde Bagg

  3. In the Netherlands we don't have to pay tolls, on the other hand we have to pay tax for the use of our roads if we possess a car. Your story kept me captivated as always! I am glad you started blogging again.

  4. Great post, Patti... And to think that I used to think that that would be a 'boring' job... ha ha

    Funny story about the WW's....It would be hard to catch one I'm sure because he could zip up as the cop got out of the car... GADS!!!!!

    Sad story about the death.. That poor woman. AND--the story about the little teen was crazy... Glad you helped get her straightened out...

    I love your stories, Patti. Keep 'em coming!!!

  5. Bless you. The world needs sane people like you. Loved the Wienie Waver title.

  6. So glad I found your blog today. I can't resist reading anyone who's "a slave to curiosity"!

  7. I want one of those cute.
    Your story goes to prove that one never knows when we encounter "Angels Unaware".

  8. kenju,
    Way to go Judy. That does seem like a sharp increase till you spread it out. Bet the collectors caught the flack however.I know we did over rate increases.

    Linda in NM
    I have always liked working with the public. For sure they aren't boring. Isn't it funny what perfect strangers will tell you?

    Reader Wil,
    Thanks so much Wil. I guess we all pay one way or the other for our roads. We have both kinds of roads here.

    Legally if the collectors wanted to testify in court, they could be arrested for indecent exposure. We just wanted to put a good scare in the WW boys and that was what that lady FHP wanted to do.
    Thanks Betsy.

    We did get a giggle out of the WW boys once the initial shock wore off.

    Linda Myers,
    Welcome to TNS. Guess you are a slave also? Will pop over to your blog now.

    Miss Dazey,
    If you are ever in Florida, take the turnpike and they are for sale in the service plazas. We didn't like them but that might be because we had to wear them.

  9. My my, never thought of the excitement you folks endure. The stories you can tell!

  10. wow Patti, what a great story about "working" the turnpike. We never know what people in different jobs see on any given day or night.

  11. Oh my goodness, what an emotional rollercoaster!

    My husband always tries to make THEM smile. Had he gone through your toll booth, you all could have had a stand-up routine! :)

    I enjoyed this very much.

  12. Lakeviewer,
    Thanks. Having worked a variety of jobs, I have yet to find any boring, maybe not pleasant, but never boring.

    Thank you. I am guilty of thinking that every transaction a worker has with me is the norm, even though I know better. Anyone who works with the public, has tales to tell.

    I used to love when guys like your husband came through. It would be brief, fun banter and would take the tired right out of my back. Please keep encouraging him.

  13. Patti...your posts are soooo entertaining..I love them! Years ago, my daughter-in-law, once spent the better part of the day going in circles around a large area in Ky. and Ohio, trying to get home! We thought we had lost her forever!

  14. I never thought what could be seen from a toll booth, but often wondered the view of OTR truck drivers in their cabs which I would need an elevator to get into.

    Love the the WW which stands for something far more mundane in my list of acronyms.

    Doing well but very busy with my social medical appts which have a mixed diagnosis of aging but definitely the antibiotic has damaged something, too.

    Hope we get it all sorted out soon. Next month looks much more restful, butthen I thought August would be, too.

  15. That shirt is GREAT! I can see why people loved it...So much happening! And so much happening by your Toll Booth Patti....I laughed at the WW 'name'. But it's not a funny sight, that's for sure....You really have seen it all, my dear. I know that any job where you deal directly with the punlic holds all sorts of 'happenings', doesn't it?

    It's been so long since I had to pay a toll....I think it was a quarter back then. The Tru Boro Bridge in NYC....Now it is no doubt $4.00 or something.

    LOVED your comment about giving a cat a pill.....I knew Sweetie was better when he streaked past "Arlene" so fast she didn't even see him. I did, of course. He is such a smart little guy....!
    Last night he hid under the bed right in the center---(It's a Calif. King), where he knew she would have trouble reaching! She doesn't give up and he is basically a sweet sweet kitty....! And those meds are working...!!

  16. You certainly have lead an exciting life, with some of the jobs you have held. You must find it pretty boring at times with just you and your four legged friends. But also very relaxing. I'm telling you, you need to write a small book about your life, things you have seen and done.

  17. I left a message and it's out in cyberspace someplace. Unless it took it after all, message said something about server was down.

  18. Wanda,
    Thanks so much. Being lost is a terrifying thing. So glad GPS and cell phones have come into our lives.I'm sure that episode made your daughter-in-law a more cautious driver.

    I hate hearing that you still are having troubles. That friend with the Tularemia is still having troubles and I am pretty sure it is also from the high powered antibiotics. Hope you both get back to normal soon.

    One of my favorite authors was James Herriot who wrote the "All Creatures Great and Small" series. He was a veterinary and a quote I will never forget was."If you can't catch an animal to treat it, it isn't all that sick."
    Another sure sign Sweetie is on the mend.

    Both made it. My ISP is iffy at best.
    Actually I am enjoying the lack of drama. Kind of peaceful.
    Thanks but I guess the blog will have to do.

  19. absolutely brilliant!
    We have very few in the UK and I've only used them in France and Germany;
    It has never occurred to me that there are stories to be told by the collectors.
    The next time I come across a turnpike I am going to be extra nice to the collector!

  20. I just got back from a visit with my family in Florida. My sister has one of those things in her car that automatically pays the toll so she doesn't have to stop. A Sunpass? Anyway, they didn't have those things when I lived there and I drove the Florida Turnpike nearly every day. I looked forward to saying hi to the toll collectors and asking them if they were having a good day!

  21. Heeehehehe! This was great. Ridin' around the country in Hubby's semi we pretty much saw it all too. I would just laugh and say, cell phones are the least of our safety issues on the road.

    I can't imagine how the suicide driver has haunted you. That would be a hard face toe remove from your brain.

    God bless ya and have a fantastic Friday sweetie!!!

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  23. Friko,
    Thank you. By doing that, you will really make someone's day better.

    Rocky Mountain Woman,
    Yep those are Sunpasses. I still have mine. You are the kind we used to love to see.

    Truckers really do see it all don't they. A bird's eye seat.
    You know, I never thought about the safety factor. Talk about distracted driving. Instead of a DWI---I guess that would be a DWM:))

  24. Now your job sounds downright interesting. It is always such a pleasure when the person in the booth was a warm smile and welcoming voice.

    I really never stopped to consider what you guys have to put up with. Now, better educated, I will put on my friendliest smile when I pull through.

  25. You have to be the most interesting person I know across continents. I pledge to give my sweetest smile next time to the Toll collectors. Great post!!!!:):)When will you ever write a book? Or atleast get your posts published? :D

  26. WOW.... you write quite a story! I was intrigued by the name of your blog.... it just suggested something friendly. I saw it on Friko's comments and came on over. I'm now your follower. I was also intrigued by your age. Closest one to mine, that I've found, so far. I'm 80. Other day, I was saying, I wish I was 70 and the person laughed .... She said, most people would say they want to be 20 and you say 70. Yes. Those 10 years were very good. So I wish you the very best, too.
    wanna buy a duck

  27. Jerry,
    Thank you for stopping by and following. Always love to see a new gentleman caller.
    If you do that, you will both have a nicer day and will have each made a minute friend.
    Now I will be over to check your blog.

    You do say the nicest things young lady. You make my day. As for a book, I am doing good scrapping together a blog once or twice a week. Thank you for thinking so though. You're the best.

    Well thank you so much and I am glad you stopped by and are following.
    I know what you mean, that is why I hope 70 is the new sixty for sixty was pretty darn nice. Good to know that 70 is to be envied also.
    Will be over to check your blog out now.

  28. Sweet web site, I hadn't noticed earlier during my searches!
    Keep up the fantastic work!

  29. Hey I love those shirts too, many what a job and I thought the change takers job would be boring. You still have those stories to tell, what a life you have led, thanks for another laugh, cry, and restored faith in humanity.

  30. Anonymous,
    Thank you for stopping by and for the kind comments.

    Linda Starr,
    Thanks. You are not alone, those shirts were quite popular.
    I have worked a ton of jobs and can only think of one that was boring. The public keeps things interesting for me.