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People and Places

Tales from A trailing Wife - Shouting at a Toll Booth does help

By Angela Barletta

All over Europe we have different toll payment systems. Coming from Africa I do not mind paying these tolls in exchange for a pothole-free highway, clear directions and the advantage of being notified of dangers ahead. Although it can certainly add up. In France, across the border in the Côte d’Azur, payment is executed by throwing coins into a basket or by having the correct debit/credit card. On one of my many Nice Airport trips I was talking so much that I threw my coins with such force at the basket and missed it! Not a fun experience, especially when you have to find another set of coins just as a long queue of cars starts to build up behind you within seconds! In Switzerland you buy a sticker for your car which is valid for one year. In Italy you take a ticket as you enter the Autostrada and pay when you exit. I like this system best. No fumbling for cash/coins or non accepted credit cards. Germany is luckily still arguing about when and how to introduce a toll system.

One day an astonishing situation arose. As I was approaching the toll booth to retrieve my ticket from the ticket machine, a woman ran up and took my ticket! I should say stole it. She was so fast I hardly saw what happened. She grabbed it, jumped back into her car and drove off. The barrier had opened and I had no idea what to do next. I tried pressing a large red button to get another one, but nothing followed. I asked my HH who was visiting to please try to figure something out. "I don’t know what to do", he said immediately, "I don’t live here". "JUST DO SOMETHING" I shouted, noting the cars behind me piling up. Reluctantly he got out. The line of cars behind got longer and longer; more and more people were hooting and shouting. Don’t assume for a minute that someone would get out of their cars to assist. HH got back into the car without any solution. It was a Sunday and not an Official in sight. I got out determined to steal someone else’s ticket in another lane. As luck would have it, our lane was the only working one that delivered tickets. The lane next to us was the Telepass Lane which the woman obviously had used in error and therefore was impelled to steal my ticket. The furious Italian “mob” behind us was getting angrier and angrier. A sort of panic took hold and I drove off. Once I was on the Autostrada I realized how foolish that was. No Autostrada biglietto = huge fine. What was I going to do? HH was not going to be of any help and kept on saying "I don’t live here!" As if I did not know that. The more agitated I got, the less I could remember any Italian.

Our exit was only one stop away and I drove up to the Toll Payment Machine. Again no humans on duty as it was still Sunday. I pressed the big red HELP button, the same looking one that had not helped me before.

 A voice answered. Great –  a human –  I managed to reply with : "Pronto, me dispiace, ma niente bilgietto da Ventimiglia e Io vivo Sanremo.” "Che Cosa? WHAT?" shouted back the voice. I repeated the sentence again: "I am sorry, but no ticket from Ventimiglia and I live in Sanremo”. Everytime I repeated the Italian sentence I shouted a little louder, and louder, and in the end I was screaming at the machine. All of a sudden it responded by opening the coin payment container and I quickly threw the coins in and drove through the opened barrier.

I could not believe it. Did they understand me, or were they just so fed up with this loud screaming freaked out woman!? It must have been our lucky day!

As I said, sometimes loud shouting is beneficial. I have to add it comes naturally to me; regularly if someone does not understand me I just talk louder and louder. My girls remind me that the persons in front of me are not deaf, they just speak a different language. The one country that accepted my way of conversing was Nigeria. There it was commonplace to start shouting when something did not work out as one had wished, or expected. It is called making a Walhalla. This is Yoruba for trouble. I love that word and felt quite at home.

Friday, 1 April 2016    Section: People and Places
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