Over the years, I have had occasion to pick up one or another of my three sons at the local airport. I would park in the short-term lot, meet my son in the arrival lobby, and escort him and his carry-on to my car. I would ask my son, who would be riding shotgun, to hold the ticket and a bill, usually a $5 or a $10, until we got to the toll booth. There was rarely a line, T.F. Green being a small airport. The toll taker would take my ticket and the bill and, after a moment or two, hand me my change. I would take the bills into hand and offer one or two back. The toll taker would typically freeze, as if from confusion, then his face would light up. Merry Christmas,” I would say, even though, more likely than not, the time of year was totally wrong. My son, of course, would be taking all this in, which, of course, was the point.
Sad to say, most of those man-based toll booths are gone, having been replaced by credit-card-based self-checkouts. I can still see, though, in mind’s eye, the lit-up faces on those toll takers.
I come from a long line of skilled working people. My grandfather was a telegrapher, my mom was a bank teller. I’m currently unemployed, and dreading a lean holiday season. When I was a toll-taker, I loved meeting and greeting people.
I have applied to be a letter-carrier, because that’s a job they can’t automate.
– via email
It can be a challenge finding opportunities to interact with a real person these days, but I think it’s such a basic human need that I think it will make a comeback!
I remember! It always made me feel good about you when you did it.