Friday, June 10, 2011

All the Civilization We Can Pay For, Thank You Very Much

Had an interesting time at the Good to Go office the other day.  They've been having some problems lately; the state had changed the equipment that reads the little transponders that we all have on our windshields that automatically charges tolls, and they didn't send out traffic infractions for several weeks, so if you crossed the bridge frequently during that time and the system didn't read your transponder correctly, you suddenly got 20 tickets all at once.  Most of us would get one, log into our account, and figure out what the problem was. But when you get a handful on the same day.... well, let's just say that the employees at the Good to Go office had been faced with irate, upset drivers for a couple of weeks.

I'm standing in this line of about 12 people and, as people will, we all got to chatting to pass the time.  The conversation immediately around me quickly turned to how slow the employees were and why weren't there more stations to help (all five windows were open and busy), and how much they hated paying the toll and how expensive it was..... and then rapidly slid into how high and unfair taxes are (with one gentleman going on at length about how it was so wrong that the state taxes food [which it does not, except for a few convenience items]).

At this point, I considered chiming in with one of my favorite quotes (Oliver Wendell Holmes: "I don't mind paying taxes; they buy me civilization" [paraphrase]), but decided that checking myself out of the conversation was my best option.  So I stood there for a while, quietly amused to think of the ruckus that would be caused if I pointed out that their positions were completely contradictory.  Which is it - taxes are too high, or there aren't enough state employees for your convenience?  Can't have employees without taxes, so which would you rather cut?

When I finally reached the head of the line, the WSDOT employee couldn't have been more helpful.  I left thinking that he didn't get paid nearly enough to put up with the everyday nonsense, let alone time when the state actually does screw something up.

On a side note, a gentleman ahead of me asked the clerk about the toll equipment (which takes a photo of your license plate if it can't read the transponder) being used by law enforcement.  She explained that it was illegal for them to do so, and he was horrified to learn that if his car was stolen, the police could not use the toll cameras to see if his car had been driven over the bridge.  I wanted to ask him if he was okay with the police using the cameras to follow HIS movements if they thought he was doing something illegal..... but once again I took the path of cowardice and kept my thoughts to myself.