April 11th, 2013

Here’s something you might want advance warning on if you’re making plans for any Bay Area road tripping: From now on you can no longer pay the toll to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on site. This is not to say that there is no longer a toll to cross the bridge, there’s just not going to be anyone there to take your money anymore. Instead, you have to either open an account that automatically charges your credit card whenever you cross a Bay Area bridge, or go online and make a one-time payment with each crossing. As I write this, it doesn’t seem so bad. Going online to make the payment is easy; I’m already really appreciative whenever I can do it at a parking meter. No one will have to worry about whether they can scrounge enough change to make it through anymore, which was getting increasingly problematic as we have less and less reason to carry any cash at all.

Plus, I had always heard that taking tolls on a bridge is the worst job there is. They say people will use cigarette lighters to heat coins, so that the coins scald the operators’ hands. There’re stories of bills smeared in feces before being handed over. Whether those are true or not, for sure the people working on bridges marinate in exhaust fumes all day and receive money that people are not pleased to be handing over, none of which sounds great.

Still, though, I can’t help but feel a little sad to hear of yet another segment of the working population being replaced by machines. I hate talking to machines on the phone. I hate checking my own self out at the grocery store. Call me a Luddite, but I miss people, and the way their idiosyncrasies can bounce off of mine and make the details of a day a little more interesting. I guess I’ll find it more convenient, but hollowing out life for the sake of convenience is also a little depressing.

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