I hate toll roads. It’s probably because I was born in Miami, and I remember my parents feeding the toll booths with nickels that I could have used to far better ends.
Anyway, I don’t like paying a toll to drive on a road. I’d much rather be robbed at tax time. At least I can pretend my taxes are paying for fire service, or a new playground, or some program to better educate our future burger flippers.
I know my taxes are buying new roads, but it’s more innocuous this way. So, seeing as how I hate toll roads, let me tell you about toll sidewalks.
Walk the sidewalks of any major US city. If you do, you’ll learn about the sidewalk toll. You’ll get no more than ten yards before you’ll hit a toll booth.
“Say, friend. Can you help me out with a little change? See, I’ve got to get down to my sister’s and I need some bus fare.”
There’s a dollar toll, right there. Keep walking. “Sir? Sir? SIR? Can you help me out? You see... I lost my job and broke my toe and my wife’s in jail and...”
There’s another dollar. The way I see it, the sidewalk toll in most big cities is about $2.50 a block. The sidewalk toll is the rule in Baltimore — “Oh, please Mister! I need some money to get to the shelter tonight...” It’s the rule in San Francisco — “Hey, gimme some money so I can get something to eat.” It’s the rule worldwide. The only things that change are the fees and the ferocity.
Back in 1993, I paid a pretty steep Atlanta sidewalk toll when I gave a guy some cash so he could “shave and get cleaned up to look for a job.” Yeah, I’m a sucker, but he seemed different, and I watched to see what he would do with the money.
He went into a drug store and bought something. Then he went into Wendy’s and entered the bathroom. I went into Wendy’s too, and a few minutes later, he came out clean shaven.
Iapproached him, thanked him and gave him enough cash to get a new shirt. I think we dined together. He was a new man. And so was I. So, I don’t mind paying the sidewalk toll. Most of it is wasted, but every now and then, a real miracle happens.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Covington and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org