Often I wonder if I am the one that “doesn’t get it”. I mean, in the course of what I think is a sane and direct conversation, I’m often addressed with responses that could baffle a Rhodes scholar. Is it because I speak the King’s English (most of the time) or because I stare intently and don’t offer the idiot an outlet for their stupidity? Seriously ya’ll. When I walk/drive away or hang up from these encounters, are they calling up their friends, saying, “Oh my god, let me tell about this lady!”?
Let me tell you about an encounter that I recently had with a toll both clerk at the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. A little background – I live outside Washington, D.C. in Prince Georges County and I commute to Baltimore, Maryland for work. I’ve been making this blissful commute (minus the idiot drivers who don’t know how to drive on a 2 lane parkway) for over 4 years. Every day, I travel through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, which is a toll tunnel. The normal toll is $2.00 per trip, but to speed you along and offer you a reduced, commuter’s rate of $0.40 per trip, you are encouraged to sign up for EZ Pass. Great – shorter lines and cheaper trips! Love it!
Ok, so things have been swell for over 4 years, until last week. On my way to work, I zipped through the EZ Pass lane and instead of seeing the words, “PAID” or “PAID LOW BALANCE”, I saw the phrase, “INVALID TAG”. Huh? I kept on driving thinking that it must be the message from the car in front of me or that something is wrong with the system. That evening, the lines in the manned booths weren’t very long, so I decided to roll through one of those, just in case the message was for me.
I zipped in and the same message appeared. I came to stop in front of a toll booth attendant (aka TBA) who was about 10 years old and one of Dundalk’s finest. Unfamiliar with Dundalk’s finest? Check out Season 2 of HBO’s, “The Wire” and then you’ll understand. Thinking that I would receive a simple explanation for the message was my mistake. This is how our conversation went:
Me: Excuse me ma’am, but what does “invalid tag” mean?
TBA: It mean’s your tag is invalid.
Me: Um, yes, I can see that is the message. But what exactly does that indicate? Is something wrong with my transponder?
TBA: Your what? I don’t know about no trans nothing, but you got an invalid tag.
Me: My transponder. You know, this thing that gets scanned when you go through the toll lane. (I point at the small, white box that is velcroed to my windshield)
TBA: I don’t know. I just know your tag is invalid, so you gotta pay $2.
Me: Pay $2? No ma’am. I’m on the commuter plan so my trips are only $0.40. Are you sure that this trip wasn’t deducted?
TBA: If the green light don’t come on, then you ain’t pay. So, I’mma need $2 from you to pass.
Me: I have an Ezpass Account but obviously there is some kind of problem. It worked fine yesterday when I drove through.
TBA: I wasn’t working yesterday.
**crickets**what in the sam h*ll does her being at work have to do with my ezpass working.**Ok, TDJ, this conversation is going nowhere. Let’s try for someone else**
Me: Ma’am, can you please get a supervisor or someone else that can explain this to me?
TBA: I am the supervisor and I did explain. (Pointing her finger at me). Your. Tag. Is. Invalid!
Sure enough, below her name, “Randy”, were the letters, “SUPV.” What a scary thought? And no she didn’t just get nasty with me and repeat the same damn sentence again. A statement is NOT an explanation.
Me: Ok, if I give you the $2 can I get a receipt so that I can get credited or refunded the difference?
TBA: Look, everything that you saying has to deal wit’ the toll people on the phone. This here is different. You gotta pay and I don’t have nothing to do with no refunds.
Me: Have a good day ma’am.
And do ya’ll know what I did next? Can you guess? No? Well, I drove my laughing tail away and never looked back. Thank goodness I was in a good mood and Randy was simply able to amuse me, cause it could have gotten ugly out there. Is it too much to ask that customer service people on the front line be able to communicate with customers? I’m obviously not the first EZ Pass subscriber to ever get the message, “Invalid Tag”. The damn phrase wouldn’t be programmed to flash if I was. Would it be so hard to educate the workers as to what it meant? Geez! BTW, it means that somehow my transponder got demagnetized. Apparently it’s common and a new one is one the way in the mail. Until it gets here, I’ve been instructed to keep driving through the ezpass lane and to not worry about the message. Uh huh, don’t worry huh? I’m sure there will be a part two to this story.