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There’s not much fun with E-ZPass

Nashua Telegraph | March 23, 2005
By Mike Morin

I’m going to miss my New Hampshire turnpike tokens.

No more buzzer-beater free throws from my driver’s side window. No more alley-oop passes into the Bedford toll baskets. Big Brother has found yet another way to take a little bit of fun out of my commuter ritual.

It gets worse. Not only are the games gone, but the cost of having less fun may be going up. What’s with that?

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If our state legislators get their way, your 37.5-cent ride may soon cost you the full 75 cents.

Electronic toll payments, known as E-ZPass, will arrive later this spring. You’ll buy a transponder that, affixed to your windshield, will be read by a tollbooth scanner. An appropriate amount of money will be electronically deducted from your revolving account. No more dirty dollar bills or grimy tokens changing hands. No more fun playing token basketball.

By taking my games away and getting rid of the half-price token discount, the state adds an extra 5 million big ones to its coffers every year. Looks like I’ll actually have to spend my Fun Spot tokens at Fun Spot from now on.

Yes, I had my own token toss games and point system. Three points for a shot from 18 feet from the basket. Ten points for a toss through my open sunroof into the receptacle. Two extra points for dropping the tokens in and driving past the red light before the green “thank you” light comes on.

I know I’m not the only person who had such games. I hear Merrimack residents have their own extreme token-tossing leagues.

For that reason, I issue the following apology: “I, Mike Morin, being of sound body and questionable mind, am sorry for the many tokens that have missed their mark, causing hard-working toll employees to put themselves in harm’s way to pick up my errant token air balls.” After this spring, it will never happen again.

I actually asked a Bedford toll employee a few years ago how many of the little brass coins they pick up on a daily basis. Somewhere between 700 and 1,200 was her reply. Oops.

What I’m not going to miss are the drivers who pull up to the toll plaza, stop their vehicles, put the car in park, check their hair in the mirror, fish through their pocketbook and, 10 minutes later, locate some loose change. And don’t you just love those dorks who, when realizing they have no change, attempt to back up and bust through the other lanes to get to a manned booth to pay that way?

I suppose this is going to be looked at as “progress.” Faster passage through rush hour bottlenecks. No more three-mile rolling backups at Hampton on Sunday afternoons. No more yahoos stuffing dollar bills in the baskets causing even longer delays. Technology has found a way to make life faster but less fun.

I think I’ll speak with my priest to see if our church could install E-ZPass on the confessionals.

 

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