The Toll Collector


Image Source: NY Times

Yeah, I seen it all. Or if I ain’t seen it all, I seen a lot. You wouldn’t believe it if I tole’ ya half the stuff that I been witness to in my booth. It gets pretty crazy sometimes.

I been on evenings for twelve years now, so there ain’t much I ain’t seen. Guys dressed like dames, I see them a lot. You figure most of them are goin’ to try to get into one’a them hot new nightclubs, an’ most of them are gonna be comin’ back the same way they came in. Some of ‘em are better lookin’ than my own wife! I gotta give ‘em credit for that!

I seen guys come through getting’, shall we say, serviced. An’ I also seen one too many guys come through while servicing themselves. That ain’t exactly the time you wanna be takin’ a dollar bill from a guy, if you know what I’m sayin’!

I see guys come thru wanna be all tough guy an’ put on a show of talkin’ to their wives or kids, or sometimes smackin’ ‘em around. I don’t like that, not at all. I see that, I do my best to get a plate number an’ let some of my buddies in blue know what’s comin’. Figure it can’t hurt, an’ maybe it’ll help.

Craziest thing ever happened? Probably a woman givin’ birth soons’ she cleared my booth. She was in a cab, an’ I guess they was tryin’ to make it over the GW to the Upper West Side, but you could tell she wasn’t gonna make it. I swear, just after they got through my booth, the cab pulled over. Good thing there was a cop there! He blocked traffic, an’ I happened to have a coupla clean blankets in my booth, so I run over and give ‘em to the cop, see? An’ the baby was born on one’a my blankets! How ya like that?

I seen the mayor come through a buncha times. I seen the governor a few times. An’ plenty of celebrities. But mostly it’s just regular folks, like me, see? The guy that goes to work for ConEd all night diggin’ ditches an’ fixin’ lights, an’ the gal that makes our bagels, an’ the bus driver headin’ for the Port Authority an’ all like that. I give directions, I talk about the ballgame that day, or the horses at Ozone, I make change an’ I go home. It’s an honest day for honest pay, ya know? But I have seen a lot up there. Maybe not everything, but you wouldn’t believe half of it anyway.

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34 comments
  1. In the end, I think the volume of cars that weren’t interesting would make me want to kill myself. I guess you have to focus on the memorable bits to get through a gig like that…

    • On the bright side, sucking in all that CO2 probably causes plenty of hallucinations, thus making a shift infinitely more interesting…

  2. Wonderful. Love your writing! :)

    • Perfect! I love your being a fan!

  3. I always wonder about the life of a toll collector… You really fleshed him out, Brian. I guess it’s okay to only believe half of it?

    • I can only imagine…

  4. Another day in the life of a regular person. I can’t tell you how many times those exact things have happened to me.

    Okay, so maybe not, but it is fun to think about.

    • As long as you’re not on the ..ahem.. performer side either…

      • Not most of the time. ;)

  5. This makes me wish I was a toll collector.

    • My work is done, then.

  6. love this one!

    • Yeah, I tried to channel your work on this one.

      Check Meredith’s work, all of y’all! It’s GREAT!

      http://kleibography.com/

      • haha, thanks brian :) much appreciated.

  7. writerwendyreid said:

    Love the accent…I’m thinking New York? It didn’t make me want to be a toll taker, but I would enjoy listening to some of their stories.

    Nice job, as usual Brian. :-)

    • This could be anywhere…this could be everywhere… ;)

  8. free penny press said:

    Love this.. I have often wanted to pull over and chat up these people but there is always a Hot-Rod Eddie on my bumper…

    nicely written!!

    • I know, those bastards wanting to get through while we want to tarry! The nerve!

      • free penny press said:

        haha..the audacity of some folks..geesh!

  9. Very nice! I vote this to be Freshly Pressed! :)

    • THANK YOU!!!

  10. Barb said:

    Well said. You made the regular, irregular.

    • Hah! There’s another memoir title. ;)

  11. The picture grabbed me right away. fine choice.
    Then, through your words and appropriate accent added, I was transported back to NYC. Dear god you captured the sights, noise, smell and everything else about traffic (and the inhabitants of said vehicles) in a big metropolitan city. Still smiling.
    Great piece!

    • *blush* Aww, shucksies. Thankya, ma’am.

  12. Good use of voice.

    • Why, thankya, sir! Great to have you here.

      • Looking forward to reading your other work.

  13. Barb said:

    Somehow, the very last paragraph struck home with me. I enjoyed the variety of everyday lives passing through. Nice job.

    • Thanks, Barb!

  14. Found myself wanting more from this guy, but at the same time enjoyed the feeling that maybe I’d just sat next to him for a quick beer. His little moment of heroism with the blanket was a nice touch, and I loved the crack about transvestites looking better than his wife. Cheers.

    • You never know what will happen around here, Monday – Friday. Come on back. ;)

  15. Love love love the subject!

    • Hey, thanks! I’m so glad you stopped by.

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