Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Toll


Hey, American worker. It was the machine that took your job.

Marilyn Alvarado was the last toll collector on the bridge early Wednesday morning. After more than 29 years of service, she plans to retire. She said her last day of work was an amazing one filled with mixed feelings of sadness and happiness.

"I want to thank the public for all their kind words and generosity," Alvarado said. "We've had so much generous support."

Alvarado took her last toll from Jim Eddie, bridge district president from Mendocino County, and his passenger Brian Sobel, district board member from Sonoma County. Eddie drove a maroon 1937 Packard through Alvarado's lane, an act he said is historically significant.

"It actually was the first car to cross the bridge when they opened it in 1937," Eddie said.

The second-to-last last car through the toll booth was driven by San Francisco resident Peter Lavezzoli, who said he loves the toll-takers and will miss interacting with them.

"I think it means that we're more interested in conveniences as opposed to human interaction," Lavezzoli said. "It's another step toward the de-humanization of our society."

Yup. Why pay for employees when you can have a computer do all the work?

This is my one shot of the toll booths at the Golden Gate, remarkable only because it was during the Super Bowl and there was no one going into the city. Usually those right-hand lanes are filled with cars. Going north out is toll-free, and that's the only way I've driven across that bridge. So, I didn't have an occasion to pay a toll there - but I certainly have on the Bay Bridge and others in the area.

Soon, those jobs will be gone too, as talk of expanding electronic tolls across the area starts to happen... and another era quietly slips into history.