Don’t Stop, Don’t Ask

It’s been a beautiful thing working here… You see the sun set and the sun rise. It never gets old. For it to end this way is emotional for all of us. We are the ambassadors of the bridge. —Jacquie Dean, Toll Collector (as quoted in the Marin Independent Journal, March 7, 2013)

Photo Credit: Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District

Photo Credit: Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District

O n March 27, 2013 the Golden Gate Bridge will no longer have human toll collectors. All toll collections will be collected via electronic means.

What this means to you, dear Bridge Patron, is that you should: Keep moving, drive on through, don’t stop, don’t pull over, do not attempt to pay your toll in person at the Bridge.

It’s been nice to see you, and now you need to go.

Bub-bye now.

 

Here is the official announcement on March 7, 2013

I am not writing this post to debate whether the GGB should replace the people in the Toll Booths with Electronic Collection methods — that decision was made by the Board of Directors last year and it will happen in two weeks. My purpose in writing this is to pay tribute to the men and women who have made themselves available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out for over 75 years. They have braved earthquakes, floods, high winds and torrential rains to keep traffic moving and get you to your destination.

I started working Rotating Shifts at the GGB in April of 1999 and at that time there were people in all 11 lanes for the morning and afternoon commutes. Their ‘office’ is a space roughly the width of your bath tub and twice the length. From this spacious abode they collect the money that pays for the maintenance of the bridge and supplements the operation of the buses and ferries.

There were roughly 35 to 40 people collecting toll at that time and they welcomed me into their ‘family’. I have shared the joys of marriages and the births of children/grandchildren; I have also felt my co-workers’ grief and pain over the loss of their loved ones. Some of the hardest times for me have been over the deaths of members of my ‘family’ and the robbery/shooting of one while she worked in the lanes.

People have retired, quit, been let go and just moved on in the last 14 years, just like any other job at any other place. We used to joke that the GGB was the “Second Happiest Place on Earth”, Disneyland being #1, but that expression has acquired a sinister tone of late, if repeated at all.

The Toll Collectors are the “Ambassadors of the Bridge”. For many people they are the first person that they talk to in the morning when they get up and go to work. Always cheerful and professional, the collectors are the eyes and ears of the Bridge passing along motorist complaints, or real-time reports about road hazards and dangerous driving conditions.

When people find out that I work at the GGB they invariably ask, “Where do they get such happy, friendly people to collect the toll?” I don’t have an answer to that question, but I do have a personal observation:

Unlike the State of California bridges, where the Toll Collectors, back to the bridge, face a long line of cars waiting to cross, the GGB collectors are facing a World-class Icon that cars have just traversed. I think that crossing the bridge first has an effect on the drivers and looking at the bridge all day affects the Toll takers. 

I know from personal experience that stepping out and looking at the bridge, day or night, always makes me feel better.

View from the OfficePhoto © Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

The view from the Office
Photo © Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

I would like to thank my ‘family’ for all their help and extend my hopes and prayers for them in the future. Here is to : Jacquie, Dennis, Brenda, Barbara, Jaqi, Lloyd, Linnzie, Cesar, Luis, Ramon, Cindy, Erika, Tracy, Dawnette, Aija, Mo, Ben, Marilyn, Martha, Linda, Judith, Angela, Ana, Peter, Marsha, Toni, Shirley, and Jim.

A special thank-you is extended to Ron, who commemorates 28 years of service on the day he is being terminated. Blue skies, brother, you will get through this.

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  7 comments for “Don’t Stop, Don’t Ask

  1. March 14, 2013 at 6:19 AM

    Takes a special kind of person to sit in one of those boxes day-in day-out – Best Wishes for a happy “retirement” – they deserve it!

    Like

  2. March 14, 2013 at 4:20 AM

    I think it might be a bit sad you know. Progress is fine, but still having some humanity, well it just makes things better.

    Like

  3. March 12, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    A great tribute Allan, but I think the whole thing stinks. I like technology, but you gotta wonder where we’re going with all this.
    Very nice of you. Good luck to all of your “family”.

    Like

  4. March 12, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Ah, progress. What would we do without it?
    It’s the passing of an era. Too bad.
    Bill

    Like

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