The Toilet Toll

I tend to drift off into my own little world while I drive. I had to go up the “Toilet Toll” this morning. It’s known as the M6 Toll of course, but I live about a mile away from T6 and although I don’t really need to use it, it can be a life-saver to get me to work on time if I spend a little too long on the toilet in the morning. This is the reason I’ve called it the “Toilet Toll”. Those extra few minutes dropping the kids off at the pool end up costing me 3.50. Damn that curry!

The drive to work is fairly boring if I’m honest. The first few miles this morning were on the Toilet Toll doing the “made up speed limit” that everyone on that road does. Everyone on the Toilet Toll firmly believes that they should be allowed to drive faster because there’s (a) No trucks on it (b) Hardly any other cars on it (c) No holes in the tarmac and (d) They’ve paid 3.50 for the privilage !

We’re actually got an M6 Toll Tag. Once you’ve got one of these you just load your account up with cash and then it simply “bleeps” as you approach the booths. The barrier then opens up before you even get near it, so you shouldn’t have to even stop. Usually you’ll buy one of these if you use the Toilet Toll often, however that’s not my reason for getting one…. perhaps I should explain why..

When you use this wonderful (COUGH!..expensive..COUGH!) motorway and drive all the way to the end you’ll need to go through a “main toll plaza”. As you approach you’ll be told to slow to 50mph, which nobody does (everyone hurtles on at 70-80-90mph), then you’re supposed to slow down even more, which again nobody does. To sprice things up you’ve also got the fact that nearly everyone hurtling toward these booths with their hand firmly stuffed into their trouser / jacket pocket, trying to find some way of paying at the time. Some even do that “standing up driving” because they know that there’s a few pound coins in their back pocket..somewhere…

When you approach you’ll notice the worry “I’ve changed my mind” driving of other drivers. These drivers ideally should be taken off the road immediately, because they’ve driven at least 300 yards towards a lane saying, “TOLL TAG ONLY”… and only then have they realised that the sign really DOES say, “TOLL TAG ONLY”. These are the people who can’t see the HUGE signs until they’ve virtually gone underneath them. They’ve never really had an eye-test, because when they took their driving test 20-30 years ago it was perfectly fine, thank-you-very-much. At this point they usually decide to either change lanes (despite the traffic behind them) or reverse out of one into another. Yes, I’ve seen this happen. Even worse than that are the people who storm on regardless and ignore the 10-foot signs. They’re usually managers, and therefore they’re eager to pin the blame on anybody but themselves.

To illustrate my rant I’ll show you one of the signs…

Normally of course only one or two of these are lit, but these signs really don’t matter if you’re a PILLOCK who’s spent the last 5 miles sat in the outside lane even though every other lane on the motorway is CoMpLetEly empty. The other day I was behind said BMW driver when we entered this lane…

The large BMW 5-series man pay was in front of me sitting puzzled as he tried to pay with cash. I’m sitting behind with a toll tag wondering why the hell he’s knocking on the window of the obviously empty toll booth. After about a minute (a long time sitting waiting in a toll booth lane) I notice the guy lean out even further (I’ll try not to mention his god-awful parking) trying to shove a fiver between the window. It’s at this point I offered a friendly “pap” on the horn and a small piece of advice regarding the payment methods allowed. He didn’t seem to fazed by this, and rolled his window up, waiting for some magic to occur with his newly created “fiver rammed into window make barrier go up” method. It was at this point that he started to honk his horn, even though there’s a fat-ass button which says..

“Press this button if you’re too f***ing stupid to get in the right lane and pay with the right money.”

His idiotic behaviour seemed to get results though, and a girl in a bright green jacket ran over to discuss how utterly laughable he was.

At this point I moved forward, and it’s at this point that you enter what is know in the local pubs as the “M6 Toll Starting Grid”. Imagine if you will the start of a horse race, where all the gates open and the horses leg it round and try to squeeze together to get into the first corner. A similar thing happens here. The second that barrier goes up and we’re all off. You’ve never seen anything like it. Ideally there should be a guy with a gun shooting into the air and shouting “Go! Go! Go!” like Murray Walker used to in the Formula 1 Racing.

If you look around you’ll notice that absolutely everyone is nailing the hell out of their car. Each and every car coming out of the barriers has the back end wedged into the tarmac and is bouncing around as each gear is changed. It’s a race to get back into one of the three available lanes as the 12 tolls blend back into the main motorway. In theory there should be at least 20 crashes an hour because everyone bombs up to the toll-booths doing abour 80mph, then they race out of the booths and squeeze together like clothes through a mangle. It should be complete carnage, but somehow it works. After a bit though the large amount of “can I get into the “CASH ONLY” lane and pay with my credit card?” idiots slow you down too much. The people running the Toilet Toll have realised this and have allowed people with Tags to use the “wide load” lane at the side. You just drive in, slow down a bit, then the barrier opens and off you go. However, I fear that it may only be a matter of weeks before Mr. Fat Exec drives into here and tries to pay with a cheque ..

The tag sits behind your rear-view mirror and bleeps, it’s as simple as that. My journey to and from work after the Toilet Toll isn’t really amazing. I did however notice that this morning a bus pulled over to let me past. I didn’t think much of it until a lorry and a car did the same thing. I quickly noticed that I’d had my hand resting on the horn and never realised due to my car radio being turned up so loud. :)