On the highway of life, you pay twice (or in Florida, four times).
Tonight I’d like to use my bully pulpit, of three readers, to air the daddest (my mom says that’s not a word) of complaints. The Florida Department of Transportation had the most nonsensical toll arrangement I have ever encountered.
As way of background, my family and I traveled to Destin, Florida for Thanksgiving this year. Coming from west Alabama the route I use leads to a toll road in the north Florida panhandle. This toll road seemingly saves a little time at a point in the trip with two kids where I’d gladly give a small appendage or two to shave a couple minutes. So I approach it welcomingly. The toll booth is one of those “pay by tag” booths where you get to zoom on through, and get a bill in the mail 30 or so days later.
I don’t mind paying a little for a convenience, but it’s always annoying when the paying comes so far removed from the convenience. I’d happily toss in a fiver going through the toll booth, but $4.50 and a stamp a month later sure seems steep. It seems even steeper when you see $2.50 is an “administrative fee” for the convenience of not being able to pay when you go through the toll booth.
What really irritates me about their setup though, is a few miles later you encounter a second toll booth. This second toll booth requires you to actually stop and pay a toll, with cash. The Florida Department of Transportation has somehow managed to set up a system that offers both a speedy trip through a toll booth and instant convenience mitigated by later delayed inconvenience along with instant inconvenience of stopping mid-trip and searching around for $2.00.
So you can imagine my frustration when I went to the mailbox today and got another bill from FDOT. I opened it up and, sure enough, they wanted $4.50. I thought to myself, “I paid that already!” and started searching back through my bank app. When I found where the check had cleared I felt the kind of fatherly righteous indignation that can make a bad situation feel well worth it. Pleased with myself I began looking for a phone number and examining the details and dates of the bill so I’d be ready with my piercing argument for whatever poor FDOT operator was ill-fated enough to answer my call.
Then I realized. This was a second bill. For our return trip through the toll booth gauntlet. Dammit. So now for $4.00 in tolls, I’m going to be out $5.00 in “administrative fees” and $1.00 in stamps. I could get a pretty good six-pack of beer for $10….
I don’t want to leave you feeling frustrated and trapped in a bureaucratic hell, so I offer this terrific, and dad relevant, piece by Smithsonian Magazine examining the amount of time it takes for a LEGO mini-figure head to pass through the human digestive system.