Tag Archives: driving

Toll Booth Terror

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!

'Aloha' from Lake Geneva
‘Aloha’ from Lake Geneva. We made it through the Alps!

Road Terror

Numana Italy

My toes are cramping from curling them, my teeth are aching from clamping them and my stomach is in knots. I’ve given up with faux braking and am assuming the fetal position.

There is no need to seek out a theme park for a thrill ride. Any Italian road will do, whether on foot or in a car.

Boldly striped pedestrian crossings meant to give one the right of way appear to be optional for the motorist.

Once across the busy north/south road along the promenade in the seaside town it was tempting to let one’s guard down only to be taken out by a cyclist on the cycle path.

The promenade was no sanctuary for the unwary as cyclists sought their thrills weaving in and out of pedestrians or taking a high speed direct line to watch unsuspecting pedestrians leap left and right like a bowling ball down the middle of the pins for a strike.

We fared no better in my (new!) car. Himself braked for a cyclist who cut in front of him then he swerved as she proceeded in front of him completely oblivious while talking on her phone. When he swerved left to avoid her, a car came out from a side road on the left and having avoided that a whole family stepped out onto a pedestrian crossing in front of us.

Numana Italy

I assumed the autostrade – being wider with no pedestrians and limited access – would be less nerve-wracking.

We watched a car full of young lads tailgate a motorcycle to within a meter of him. The motorcycle was boxed in with nowhere to go. As we were all doing 80 mph, we willed the motorcyclist to hold his nerve and not fall off.

The style of driving here is to stay as close as possible to the motor in front whether traveling at 15 mph or 80 mph. A 15 mph rear-ender would be annoying. At 80 mph it would be deadly.

The tailgaters on the autostrade – predominately BMWs, Mercedes and Audis – given an open road are easily motoring at 120 mph.

I’m going to close my eyes now and pretend I’m not in the car.

*****

Okay. Awake now. We survived. Toll to be paid. Himself pulled up to an automated toll booth. Great. Cash only. Oh wonderful.

I inserted the ticket I’d taken at the start of the day (remember we are in a right-hand drive car in a country of left-hand drive cars so tackling tolls is my job – lucky me). The digital readout was €28.50. A ten and a twenty. That should be easy.

I tried to insert the ten. It wouldn’t go in. I turned it over. Nope. I turned it around. Nope. And over. Success!

The machine sucked in the bill, spat it out again and it blew away! I couldn’t open the door as himself had thoughtfully pulled up to the toll gubbins as close as he could so I could reach. He pulled forward at an angle so I could squeeze out of the door in my bare feet (no time to find flip-flops). In my panic I hit my head, knocking off my sunglasses (****!) then chased the bill down the road.

Back in the car:

“Back up!”

“I can’t!”

“You have to! I can’t reach!”

“There’s a car behind me!”

“The barrier’s still down!”

“I know!”

He did back up. Now what?

We certainly didn’t have €28.50 in coins. I tried the ten again. The machine sucked it up and I slapped my hand over the slot. It didn’t reappear. I tried the twenty and slapped the machine again with more than necessary vigor. It disappeared too and change tinkled out.

I think the toll machine is related to our SatNav – another long tale of woe to follow.

The same three cars were still at the toll booth in the next lane as our barrier went up and we drew away.

So it’s not just me.

Or is it?

Where’s my sofa? I want to go home.

Numana Italy

The photos in this post, taken in Numana, Italy, are completely irrelevant to the subject matter here and are purely to keep me in a calm frame of mind as I read and proofread the post.