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David Royko Psy.D


Blog

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It's My Way or the Skyway (Fun and Frolic on the way to Cleveland)

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 3:35 PM

UPDATE: I received a call from a friendly and apologetic person from the Skyway company on Monday, May 19 (seventeen days afterwards), who agreed that the situation was mishandled, and assured me that it would be discussed with the employee.

---

“Do NOT back up!”


Some version of this warning is visible on many highway toll booths, no explanation necessary. At least not for those with a functional brain cell or two.


The employers at the companies that acquired Chicago’s Skyway toll bridge may wish to double check the brain cell quota used for their hires. It seems to be less than their quota for nastiness.


Heading out of town Friday afternoon, May 2, at 3:30PM (I happened to glance at the clock as we approached the toll booth) we pulled behind two other cars heading into an open I-Pass lane.


An I-Pass, for the toll road deprived, is a little plastic box called a transponder attached to the windshield that triggers the toll gate to go up as the car approaches (assuming your account has cash in it), allowing you to keep slowly rolling through, no stopping required. In theory anyway. From time to time, things don’t work right, and the gate stays down. No biggie – you open your window, push the “call” button, explain the problem, a voice asks for the transponder’s serial number, the gate opens, and off you go.


In this case, the car ahead of the car in front of us stopped, the gate down. An arm emerged and pressed the call button, and after what seemed like too long, the gate finally opened. Next car, same story – gate stays down, button is pressed, a minute passes, gate goes up, car pulls away. Our turn. Gate stays down, we push the button. We wait. We push it again. Nothing. “Hello?” I say. Nothing. Button pushed. Wait. “HELLO,” this time hollered over the car and truck noise. Nothing. I push the button again. Nothing. I try a fifth time, with the same (no) result. By now, I am annoyed, and get out of the car (not optimal in this location), look toward the staffed (cash) toll booths and wave my arms over my head, shouting “Hey!”


Nothing.


Back in the car, I push the button for one prolonged buzz before a voice finally emerges. “Can I help you?” “Yes! The gate’s not working! Please open the gate!” I say, no doubt my irritation obvious. Nothing. Uh oh, don’t piss off the toll attendant. I push the button again and holler, “We’ve been stuck here for five minutes!”


“Yeah?” said the dismissive voice, “Then it’ll be another five minutes.”


The gate stays down. Now I am pissed. Really pissed. Rush hour traffic is moving past us, the Skyway is crowded, and I am trapped unless I want to do exactly what I shouldn’t, what their own signs advise me not to do – risk life, limb, wife, and car to roll back, way back, out of this lane, across three lanes of cars, and into another lane. As I start do this, I see that the light above our lane has been switched from green to a red X, which is why nobody is behind us any longer. We make it over to a staffed lane.


Of course, that gate immediately goes up because there is nothing wrong with our transponder. We quickly explain to the attendant what happened and ask where we can go to see a supervisor.


It turns out, of course, that those answering the buzzers are not even at that toll location, but in “the tower," which we could see, but is not accessible from the Skyway. We asked the name of that person. “It may be Shantay.” We are told to pull up and over (still not out of the direct path of traffic), and soon the attendant left her booth and gave us a phone number. So, at 3:44 PM (according to our on-line I-Pass account), after 14 minutes, and $4.03 (the toll), we are on our way, again.


We call the number, explain what just happened, that their employee just caused, not only frustration, but a seriously dangerous situation. Of course, this wasn’t somebody who could help us, but we would get a call back from someone else in 24-48 hours, we are told.


As I write, it is now lunchtime on Monday, seventy hours later. No call yet from the private company (or companies) which hold a lease to the toll bridge for 99 years, the “Skyway Concession Company” combining the Australian “Macquarie Infrastructure Group” and the Spanish “Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte S.A.,” whoever those entities are on the other sides of two oceans.


There are 92 years left on their lease. We hope to hear back by then.

---

[Also sent to the Skyway via their website.]

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