WFME’s Bad Job Wednesday: Tollbooth Taker

Welcome to the premiere edition of WFME’s Bad Job Wednesday.

Were you aware that over 55% of people in the United States hate their jobs? Were you aware that they wake up in the morning and think to themselves, “Good god, not another day of this crap!”? Were you aware that when they’re at their job during the day, they often think about things other than their crappy jobs which just makes them even more hateful about their current job situations?

Were you aware that, today, we’re going to join in on the fun?

Now the last time I criticized a profession, actual readers with that profession chimed in. And while I’m not sure if any of the WFME readers happen to be tollbooth takers or parking structure booth peeps, I encourage them to chime in on a job that I consider to be one of the worst jobs in the continental United States.

Yes, the job of a tollbooth taker.

Tollbooths aren’t only on interstates and freeways. I’m talking about any booth, anywhere, where someone’s got to sit all day long as people in cars pull up to them, give them tickets, complain that they really weren’t in the structure as long as the machine says they were, cause backups of multiple cars while they complain about not wanting to pay for the fee, or even dig in their purses for checkbooks, credit-cards or scrap pieces of paper so they can write out an I.O.U. to the powers that be. Tollbooth takers are not only forced to deal with idiots all day long who are skilled in the art of arguing about 75 cents…but they are stuck in an airless box of plexiglass as the most annoying people on the face of the Earth literally line up for their turn at chaos.

And there’s no good conversations, either.

At least working at a fast food place or a video store, the clerks get to have conversations with people. Some of the good ‘ol “hi, how are you”, “oh that’s a great movie you should check it out” or “oh, I don’t go a day without some of these tasty criss-cut fries.” But as a tollbooth taker, there’s really no time for pleasantries. My most verbose conversations with tollbooth takers can be summarized in the following conversation:

Me: “Hi.”
[Mechanical arm goes up.]
Me: “Thanks.”
[Tollbooth taker nods.]

The End.

Periodically, there might be a, have a nice day or something but the tollbooth taker is pretty much the closest job to being put in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. And when the weather starts getting warm, and they’ve got that makeshift mini-fan in the top corner of the booth attempting to keep them warm, and they’re having to wear their uniform and sit close-by to a humming metallic computer/cash register that’s getting warmer by the minute, and they’re not allowed to use their cell phone or watch TV and then you show up and fight with them about how it only should be $3.20 and not $3.40…

That’s what I call a bad job.

I imagine that the more “glass-half full” tollbooth takers try to find the positives of a job like that. Sometimes maybe they imagine they’re floating in a huge aquarium and they sort of float around inside and fool people approaching their booth into thinking they’re actual in a huge box of water. Or maybe, the more mischievous tollbooth takers hide underneath the window and then pop up to scare people as they’re putting their ticket into the machine. Some tollbooth takers might actually tell you that they love the job because it allows them to think.

Yeah, think about how much they hate their job.

Is there a silver lining to being a tollbooth taker? Possibly. Do I know what it is? Not really. Do I think you can enlighten me? Maybe. Will I retract the job of a tollbooth taker as a “bad job” if you convince me substantially? Probably not. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so. Am I living in a fantasy world where my words cannot be subjected to extreme examination? Yes. Does that make me the kind of person with a huge ego who believes the universe revolves around him? No comment.

But is being a tollbooth taker a pretty damn bad job?

You know it.

26 comments on “WFME’s Bad Job Wednesday: Tollbooth Taker

  1. Susan - April 26, 2006 at 8:06 am -

    Ways to make a toll booth worker’s day better:
    Show concern – “Bet your hands get cold in this bitter winter weather”
    Compliment “You gave me terrific directions last time I went through here!”
    Bring Drama – By crashing through the gate, or flashing your “headlights”!

  2. H.F. Peterman - April 26, 2006 at 8:31 am -

    Hey, how do you think I can read your blog and comment on a semi-daily-regular basis. That’s right. From confines of my plexi-glass sanctuary.

  3. ms. sizzle - April 26, 2006 at 9:15 am -

    they don’t have computers to surf blogs in there. i would gouge my own eyes out.

    oh wait- maybe i could listen to books on tape or something?

    no, i still wouldn’t do that job. i’d rather hook.

  4. Daniel Nicolas - April 26, 2006 at 9:17 am -

    I used to work Parking Passes at Legoland California. Utter Hell. I went crazy. From 8 to 12 – insane chaos with all sorts of angry people who don’t want to pay $8 to park, all sorts of people that don’t speak engrish, all sorts of jerks that give you fake money and speed off.

    from 12 to 6, – not a soul. you see no one. you hear no one. you are trapped in insanity. I started plotting how to steal things, like construction backhoes, and talking with a fake brittish accent – to the imaginary people.

    lucky for me, the summer ended and I was able to go back to school being a poor starving college student.

  5. Pauly D - April 26, 2006 at 9:19 am -

    H.F. – How did I know that you worked and commented on blogs from a tollbooth? I so knew it.

    Sizzle – Is hooking really all that bad?

    DN – “Trapped in insanity.” Love it.

  6. Karl - April 26, 2006 at 9:53 am -

    I believe the job title you’re describing is “tollbooth attendant.” Because, you know, “tollbooth takers” are prowling America’s toll roads stealing tollbooths.

  7. Nicola - April 26, 2006 at 10:38 am -

    What would you rather though?

    1. have bucket loads of cars coming through your toll or
    2. being in a booth where there’s no traffic because they’re all throwing their money in the automated basket thingys….

    On holiday in Canada we had a blast at the tolls, instead of the drivers putting the money in the basket, the passengers would throw their coins out the window, over the roof and try to get it in the basket thing. Caused a few dirty looks and a quite a few queues… was great fun though!

  8. ANocsanamun - April 26, 2006 at 11:29 am -

    I am at my hateful job – with my boss not 3 feet from me – doing Something OTHER than my job.

    Toll booth clerks however – are cabin-fevered, hateful wenches. Who were rubber gloves and had you your money like you extended your leper hand and offered a free coupon for 1/2 of the PLAGUE!

  9. Jacquie - April 26, 2006 at 11:30 am -

    Being a glass is half full type of person, I think one advantage is that they can get a lot of reading done. Besides that, I agree, it would pretty much suck. I wonder how much it pays.

  10. Bre - April 26, 2006 at 11:35 am -

    I believe they get paid very well based on very little skills, so I guess it’s not all bad. I haven’t actually interacted with a toll person since ez-pass though

  11. Jerry - April 26, 2006 at 12:08 pm -

    These guys are unionized so don’t think their life is utter hell. They are well compensated for their services and well protected, too. They can pretty much treat you like dirt or hold up your commute when they know you are late and not worry about getting fired. I actually had a sweet-looking older woman call me a Motha F-r once when I tried to pay her the toll.

    Hey, Bre. The whole world should be EZ Pass.

  12. Dean - April 26, 2006 at 12:12 pm -

    Are you kidding?

    Have you ever worked at a video store?

    I have and I would gladly have traded places with a toll taker just to avoid conversation with our customers.

    The number of people who actually want to hear the video store guy’s opinion of the movies they are renting is smaller than you might imagine.

    Instead the typical conversation went like this:

    Customer: I’m looking for a movie.

    Me: OK, do you know the title or who stars in it?

    Customer: There’s a woman in it.

    Me: Well sir, I’m not sure I can help you if you don’t have anything else to go on.

    Customer: Is that because you’re retarded ?

    Me: No, Sir. I’m not retarded.

    Customer: Sure seem like it.

    Me: Is there anything else I can do for you sir?

    Customer: If I can’t get the movie I want, I want my money back.

    Me: You haven’t given us any money, sir.

    Customer: What do you know, retard?

    Me: Sir, I told you, I’m not retarded. And you haven’t given us in any money.

    Customer: I want to talk to a manager.

    Manager comes over. Customer berates manager for hiring retarded employee. Manager apologizes to customer. She gives him money. She gives me dirty looks for the rest of the day.

    Yea, my guess is even a bad day in a toll booth would be better than a good day at Blockbuster.

  13. dgm - April 26, 2006 at 12:25 pm -

    hasn’t the technologicall revolution rendered tollbooth people obsolete yet? what the hell is taking so long?

  14. Nicole - April 26, 2006 at 2:50 pm -

    If all the tollbooth attendants across the country go on strike tomorrow, I think we know who to blame.

  15. mikey - April 26, 2006 at 3:20 pm -

    One way to make a tollbooth takers job better. Sneek a psp tp work. I ‘ve seen these people have mini Tv’s in their booths in Baltimore. Like dean I too worked at “Blockbuster.”

  16. sandra - April 26, 2006 at 3:36 pm -

    Did you ever see the episode of The Simpsons where Homer is a button-pusher, and gets so lazy that he has the mechanical bird do it for him (I think it’s the same one where he gets so fat that he can’t dial the phone)? At the beginning of that episode, I thought, “button-pusher…now there’s a job I’d like for a while — no pressure”…and then Homer nearly caused the nuclear plant to explode.

    Where was I going with that?

  17. Pauly D - April 26, 2006 at 5:24 pm -

    All this talk of working in a video store being a horrible job? God, I loved working at a video store. It was the most awesome experience in the world.

    Maybe because I got to tell people what I thought about movies and they couldn’t shut me up if they wanted me to scan out their movie for the night.

    Maybe.

  18. Nicole - April 26, 2006 at 6:39 pm -

    I’m going to second that motion. I also loved working in a video store. It helps that I love movies and was really great at helping people find what they were looking for. Plus free movie rentals were a great perk!

  19. Karl - April 26, 2006 at 7:37 pm -

    And I’ll, um, third it. I worked in a combination book/music/video store, the best of all worlds at the time. That was in the eaaaarly stages of video rental. We had VHS and Betamax. I loved it, and because I got free rentals I watched so many movies that customers loved asking me for recommendations. Sure, there were the occasional jerks, but I just lured them onto the trapdoor and they mysteriously disappeared. Problem solved.

  20. Boogie's Mom - April 26, 2006 at 10:57 pm -

    I remember my first encounter with a tollbooth taker (is it really a tollbooth taker … are they really taking the tollbooth?). It was a few months after I got my driver’s license, and I had driven up to the tollbooth. I didn’t drive close enough … being a fairly new driver I still hadn’t mastered the art of gauging the distance between my car and other objects, like drive-thru windows and tollbooths. The woman held out her hand, but didn’t stretch out her arm. If she had just moved it to a 70-degree angle, instead of the 90-degrees that she held out her arm, I wouldn’t have had to open my car door, step outside and hand her the money. God, how I hated her.

  21. Dean - April 27, 2006 at 5:20 am -

    I wonder if the difference is between working at a corporate video rental chain and privately owned one.

    Sure, the best part of working a the video store was being able to help people find movies, recommending movies etc.

    But, that was only the tiniest part of the job. The bulk of the job was putting up with the corporate blather about how wonderful a thing it is to up-sell. “Push this program, push that program,” was all we heard.

    Now, I spent more of my adolescence than I should have sifting through the shelves at mom and pop video stores. I have some great memories from those places and can’t imagine working there would have been nearly the same experience working for the corporate behemoth was.

  22. T. Malone - April 27, 2006 at 11:12 pm -

    Back to the tollbooth takers for a minute: Do you think they are FORCED to listen to that Adult Contemporary music (Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Gloria Estefan) or do they listen to it by choice? Is that crappy, WAY TOO LOUD, AM radio part of the torture or part of the release? If its part of the release then yes, that is a bad job indeed.

  23. […] Click into the post on the front page, WFME’s Bad Job Wednesday, go down to the tenth commenter who happens to be Bre, and go to her site “firefighter’s daughter.” […]

  24. Inspired by a True Story - April 30, 2006 at 2:31 pm -

    It Could Be Worse. Believe Me.

    Last week Paul had a post about the world’s worst jobs. He chose to focus on the plight of the brave men and women who make change for strangers zooming by on the freeway. He wrote all about the

  25. […] Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about what has to be the worst job next to being a tollbooth taker. A job that requires zero passion, very little eye-hand coordination and absolutely zero people skills whatsoever. A job that most of us don’t even think of a job because, well, it’s a pretty damn bad job. […]

  26. Jessica Biggs - October 7, 2006 at 3:45 pm -

    I’d like to be a toll booth taker. Can anyone let me know how to become one?? I live in Massachusetts

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