Our short fraud series is over, and we hope you learned at least one helpful tidbit. We’re moving on to a short story about tolls; you probably won’t learn anything, but you might laugh out loud. Tolls can practically feel like fraud, especially when they get you on both sides or every few miles in some cities. What exactly is my other option – to breaststroke across the ocean? To climb the bridge and swing across Tarzan-style? Unfortunately, if you want to get into the city, you must pay the toll. Unless you’re our Assistant Manager, Gera… enjoy her story below:
Yup! You read the title right; it was me and I admit it. I crossed the Bay Bridge without paying the toll. And as much as I thought I was going to get away with it, it eventually caught up with me. A few months ago, I traveled to the Bay Area to go to my uncle’s retirement party. On the way home, we crossed the toll bridge. I was in a lane that they called the “FasTrak Lane”. That sounded familiar – I had previously learned that you can travel that lane as long as you have a total of 2 or more people in the vehicle. Now I may be exaggerating a little, but the highway I was traveling on was like a 6-lane highway that was labeled “FasTrak” , “Credit Card Only”, and “Cash Only”. My parents, who were in the car with me, kept telling me to merge over to the “Cash Only” lane to pay the toll. I am stubborn. Plus, I knew what I was doing! I stayed in the “FasTrak” lane thinking that I was so special because I had 2 or more people in my vehicle. As I approached the window, there was nobody there to assist me. There where cars coming up behind me, I was already at the window, and there was no way for me to merge over to the right or left. What was I supposed to do? Reverse out and merge over 6 lanes to the “Cash Only” lane!? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! So my next thought was to keep driving and hope that a cop didn’t pull me over. So now my parents are having joint heart attacks in the back and I’m trying to calm them down all the while praying to GOD that I wouldn’t get a ticket for what just happened.
I kept driving for five miles… ten miles – no cop in sight. I began to celebrate my “fast getaway” telling my parents that because we were in “FasTrak” we didn’t have to pay and now it was all behind us. We stopped in Auburn, CA for some lunch and laughed about what had happened at the toll bridge the whole time. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I checked my mail that I thought about the bridge again. I received an envelope labeled “FasTrak”. As soon as I saw that, thoughts were flashing through my mind. How much do I owe?! Wait, are they going to congratulate me for using the special lane for the first time? Oh geez, this is a bill, huh. I immediately opened the envelope. The letter was labeled “Toll Evasion” with a picture of my car and license plate. I couldn’t believe it. The letter stated in detail the date, time, and place of when I didn’t pay the toll. It said I had 10 days to pay the $5.00 toll and to also include a $25.00 penalty fee. I called my parents, told my husband, and let my co-workers know what happened. And what did they do? They all laughed! I called the 1-800 number on the letter hoping they would have mercy on me. The representative I spoke to told me I could write a letter of explanation and at least include the $5.00 toll that I “should have paid” the day I crossed the bridge. I wrote my pathetic plea letter and included my $5.00 toll.
Lesson learned. Now I know what NOT to do the next time I’m in the bay area. Go ahead, laugh it up. But now, you know what not to do too. FasTrak is not as classy as I thought. Nor is it the same thing as the carpool lane. So the next time you are traveling to the bay area, pay the toll OR ELSE! Or else you’ll get laughed at like me and possibly be $25 poorer.