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Columnist muses about The Toll Collector’s Legacy

By Staff | Jun 19, 2009

It’s almost summer time and the living’ is easy. Sea shells are jumpin’ and the causeway is high. The snowbirds are in hibernation and the water is in short supply. Sanibel is down to its hard core residents and even they are heading elsewhere for the summer.

So am I suggesting that Sanibel is a ghost town? That no one is around? Indeed not. There’s lots of planning going on for the return of the snow birds, the day trippers, the tourists, the vacationers, the shoppers and the night lifers. (Did I say night lifers?)

You may wonder what the nature of the planning may be and I’m here to enlighten you. First of all, there’s the matter of the toll booth collectors. You may be surprised to learn that every summer each toll booth collector goes through a refresher course. They review the many questions that they’re likely to be asked by first time visitors and are prepped for accuracy, new information, the latest news and the like.

It’s not an easy job to be a Sanibel toll booth collector. There is constant change in Sanibel and political correctness requires a fresh set of responses periodically. I’ve obtained a secret copy of this summer’s toll booth collector accreditation exam with the correct answers. I am divulging this information in the public interest.

Question: Can you tell me how to get to Captiva?

Toll booth collector: Yes. Turn right around and go to 75 heading north. Captiva is just north of Tampa.

Question: What can I expect to see in “Ding” Darling?

TBC: Egrets, alligators, piano birds, accordions, clarinets and tubas.

Question: Is there a McDonald’s in Sanibel?

TBC: Yes, Jim McDonald. He lives on West Gulf Drive. But he’s not there today. He and his family are visiting their friends the Kings Betty and Burger.

Question: What are the best shopping places?

TBC: Paris, New York and Rome.

Question: Where can I find the best sea shells?

TBC: At She Sells Sea Shells By the Seashore.

Question: What’s the best place for blackened food?

TBC: Haven’t you heard? Blackened food has been outlawed by the Sanibel City Council. Too many brush fires.

Question: I’ve heard that this causeway bridge is brand new. Can you tell me anything about it?

TBC: Well, to tell you the truth, I’m supposed to tell you officially that everything went very smoothly when the bridge was built. But you should have seen what was going on before it finally got guilt. No one could make up their minds on what type of bridge they wanted. Did they want another drawbridge or a high span bridge? Sanibel and Lee County were at loggerheads. We thought there was going to be a civil war. They even brought in Colin Powell to arbitrate. There was even a hot rumor that instead of a bridge they were going to build an underwater tunnel. But all’s well that ends well.

Question: Will the tolls go up?

TBC: The tolls will be so high that they’re now accepting bequests. Imagine that. You can buy a lifetime program of toll payments for $150,000 and leave it to your heirs. Your heirs will never have to lay out a dime to cross this causeway.

Question: With all the changes taking place will your job be secure?

TBC: Yes. Our jobs are so secure that when we retire we can pass our jobs on to our own heirs. In fact I come from a long line of toll booth collectors. My grandfather was the first toll booth collector here when the causeway opened in the 1960s.

He handed his job to his son my father-and my father turned the job over to me. When I retire my son will also become a toll collector. All my heirs will be toll collectors for centuries to come as long as there’s a Sanibel.