Howard, Akie and I discussed the EZ Pass System in Thursday’s Perpetual Post. Find the other angry sides of the impassioned debate here.
Those who stand by EZ Pass will defend it to the death, and I appreciate their ardor; but they’re wrong. Just so they know that. I am a fierce opponent of this destructive, elitist system. I won’t stand for any kind of toll booth that won’t accept money. If you’ve ever squinted into the darkness while hurtling toward a toll plaza and searching desperately for that little green arrow above a booth which means that it takes actual currency, well then you feel my pain.
EZ Pass ownership is the worst kind of snobby supper club. Sure, anyone can become a member, but in order for it to be worthwhile you have to have an actual need to pass, in an EZ fashion, through certain tolls in a very specific geographical location in the Northeast.
Now if they wanted to make EZ Pass a nationally accepted method of toll payment; if buying into the EZ Pass system virtually guaranteed that in your travels, you would have an occasion to use it, it would make a lot of sense. After all, it would result in the simplification of an otherwise convoluted and inconvenient toll system—doing for American transport what the Euro did for European commerce. Instead it’s more like Disney Dollars. As a former New Yorker who now lives in North Carolina, I find myself paying tolls in New Jersey and New York when I visit family approximately every six months or so. Is it worthwhile to convert my currency into EZ Pass to ensure a quicker trip during those two times (which are usually during the heavy-traffic holidays anyway)? Not likely. Given the choice between purchasing EZ Pass points (or whatever they’re called) and having Money, I’ll choose Money any day. Because with money, I can buy other things. Virtually anything in the world that money can buy—including, remarkably, passage through a tollbooth in New Jersey.
That leads to my main issue with the whole concept behind EZ Pass. At a certain point in our history, currency became standardized to give us the ability to purchase goods and services in an easily measured way. It worked out well—apparently until now. EZ Pass represents a branching out into a specific type of currency for a specific type of service, which goes against the whole point of having uniform currency to begin with. Why can’t tolls just accept money? And if they’ll accept either money or EZ Pass, then where does it end? Why can’t I pay my toll with an old sweater or a bag of chips? I always have those in my car! Who decides what kind of payment a toll can accept, anyway? It is a slippery slope. There is nothing EZ about it.
I do understand that it’s inconvenient for tolls to take cash only, since in our modern society most people pay for things with plastic and don’t tend to carry much cash around. But instead of creating an alternate form of currency, why not simply make it possible for tolls to accept credit or debit cards? There are already gas stations where you can simply wave your debit card in front of a reader to pay for a Big Gulp. Why not extend the courtesy to toll-paying? What are we waiting for?! The future is now!
Lastly, those who love EZ Pass adore complaining about those who don’t understand how to use it. “Why do they slow down and stop in confusion?” EZ Passers howl indignantly. “Why do they scratch their heads stupidly and back out of toll booths while everyone honks at them?” Why indeed. I’ll tell you why: Because EZ Pass is too complicated for us. It’s the scourge of the common man. EZ Pass, while perfectly EZ for smart people to operate, is beyond the majority of the population. And yes, we’re the ones gumming up the works by switching lanes nine times as we approach a toll plaza and losing our tickets and injuring ourselves on our own side-view mirrors. But that is the point, and that is what you EZtists don’t understand: Each time one of us drops a handful of pennies on the ground while trying to toss them into a toll basket, we are taking a stand against you. We are fighting the good fight to make sure that your fancy technology doesn’t get the best of us and give you the upper hand. Enjoy your EZ Passing while you can, you hoity-toity top-hat-wearing monopoly-man lookalikes driving with a cup of tea in one hand and a diamond-tipped cane between your knees. The revolution is coming. And it’s going to involve a whole lot of waiting in line.