I thought it couldn’t get any worse than yesterday.
Our first toll of the day was €4.10. Take a ticket; drive until a toll booth appears; pay for the kilometers traveled.
Of the dozen or so booths, some had a red X over them and some were for the prepaid Telepass. Others only take a carte – never a good option as you can’t be sure what your credit card will be charged and receipts are unpredictable. That leaves cash only, denoted by a picture of coins and notes – 12 lanes of traffic – quick make a choice!
“Look for an arm,” I pleaded with himself, meaning I wouldn’t have to deal with the automated toll horror. I pushed a €5 note towards a human and received my change.
I felt pleased with myself, but we’d only been on the road 15 minutes.
Several miles later we drove to a barrier to pick up the next ticket. Except the barrier was up and there was no ticket. I pressed a red button. Still no ticket. I pressed the assistance button but was secretly pleased no one answered. No parlo italiano was all I could say. What good would that do?
Traffic was piling up behind us so himself pulled off the road the other side of the barrier and stopped.
“We have to have a ticket,” I said unhelpfully.
Himself stared stoically ahead.
“If we don’t have a ticket we’ll be charged the maximum amount.” My hand twitched towards the door handle. The next booth over was dispensing tickets and I contemplated sprinting across two lanes of traffic and assaulting that machine.
Trucks flew out from a blind bend and barreled through the booth we’d just come through. I thought better of offering up my life for a toll ticket. “One of us has to go and get a ticket,” I said, meaning not me. Both lanes had a solid stream of traffic.
Himself was looking over his shoulder by now. His hand moved towards the gear stick. He put the car into reverse and began backing up.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
“Stop yelling at me!”
“I’M NOT YELLING AT YOU!” I yelled at him.
I dared look behind only once to see that the lane was clear before himself began a tenuous reverse chicane maneuver around some superfluous barriers on the wrong side of the lane.
He rounded the first barrier and snugged up between the two for a moment’s shelter from the fear of the trucks appearing and ramming us. He began to reverse around the second barrier and I remember thinking, pathetically, I hope he doesn’t take my wing mirror off by driving too close to the barrier. I mean, really, a) I know he’s a better driver than that, and b) with our lives at risk, who cares?
Miraculously, he reversed far enough to go through the booth spitting out tickets and I grabbed one and slunk down in my seat.
I’m not an alcoholic. I’m really not. I don’t drink in the mornings. I rarely have a glass of wine at lunchtime. I don’t even have a drink every evening. But I’m having one tonight!