There the ol' one was last Tuesday, just like many times before: At the helm of the Kinetic KIA with a cup o' joe in the beverage holder on the approach to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, this time via the Downingtown interchange on a course to the Norristown exit in the Plymouth Meeting area where he had some business to tend to.

With the air conditioner flying in his face, the ol' one steered the Kinetic KIA onto the eastbound lanes of the turnpike. With the miles sailing by, the ol' one was in good spirits, periodically taking a sip o' joe. The morning was fast fading into afternoon, the humidity was on its way up, but otherwise, it was a beautiful time of day.

Soon the Norristown exit came into view. The ol' one slowed down the KIA for the approach to the toll plaza. Ever confidant, he reached to his right for the toll ticket from the Downingtown entrance, which he had placed in the small shelf-compartment neatly molded into the control panel, midway between the radio and the climate control. To help facilitate the exit routine, the ol' one even had the exact amount of the toll, $1.30, sitting right next to him on the passenger seat.

Then it happened. As his right hand went to retrieve the toll ticket, it came up empty! There was some ensuing fumbling in the compartment, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the KIA was steadily closing in on the Norristown toll plaza with the $1.30 glittering in the sunlight bathing the passenger seat, and the ol' one feeling his anxiety level rapidly increase to sweaty brow proportions.

Gads! What had happened to the toll ticket from Downingtown? The ol' one pulled the KIA out of the approach pattern and parked off to the side. He laughed to himself that the ticket probably had slipped onto the floor of the KIA. After a quick and futile search of the floor area, the ol' one's brow had gone from sweaty to full perspiration status.

The situation was continuing to deteriorate, and now the ol' one had broken out into a full sweat. That toll ticket had disappeared! Ever wonder what would happen if you had misplaced your toll ticket or perhaps it had been sucked out of your car by the suction from a passing vehicle? Oh, that inscription on the bottom of each toll ticket began to strike terror in the ol' one's heart: Lost ticket pays full toll.

By this time, the ol' one had cleared the loose change and cassette box from the shelf-compartment and had reached a startling conclusion. For sure, he had guided the missing toll ticket into the shelf area. He knew he had slid it under the cassette box where it would be secure - at least he thought he had.

Then it dawned on him. As he had guided the toll ticket to a safe landing in the shelf space, it had somehow found its way into the seam between the shelf and the climate control portion of the panel, and had disappeared into the nether world of wires and things.

The ol' one then tried a number of times to pry the shelf out of its position in the control panel so as to gain access to the nether world. While the shelf, made of plastic, would bend it would not break. Scrambling for something stronger than a nickel to wedge into the seam in an attempt to break the shelf (after all, that portion of the panel can be replaced), the ol' one, now in a full and gushing sweat, found a compact metal tire retainer in the trunk that just might do the job.

Oh, sure. It raised the shelf a bit, but that was about all it could do. The ol' one even slid a hanger he had found in the back seat into the nether world hoping it would meet up with the toll ticket and nudge it back into the light of salvation.

After 20 minutes of anxiety and no progress, the ol' one decided it was better to face the consequences at the tollbooth and the prospect of paying a full toll than to destroy the shelf and probably black out the KIA's electrical system.

He pulled the KIA into the toll lane, rolled down the window, and informed the toll taker of his plight. The courteous and empathetic toll taker leaned over and passed final judgment. "It will have to be $12.25," he said.

Well, $12.25 is better than maybe 20 times that much in repair work. But then things got a bit more complicated. The ol' one did not have $12.25 in cash! Because he hadn't planned on spending that much to ride the turnpike, he only had about 11 dollars in his wallet plus the change on the floor - and that was to be for incidentals after he tended to his business in the Plymouth Meeting area.

After being informed of the ol' one's situation, the toll taker quietly replied, "We can fix that." He asked for the ol' one's license and began to fill out a billing form. After what seemed an eternity with traffic backing up in the lane behind the KIA, the toll taker handed over the form for the ol' one to sign. The ol' one didn't dare take a sip or two o' joe during this time lest he give those behind him the impression that this was just another normal occurrence.

After he had wrung his hands and gazed out at the signs marking the exit, the ol' one signed off on the form, watched the toll monitor ring up "$12.25," was awarded his copy of the billing form, thanked the empathetic toll-taker, and off he went about his appointed rounds.

The billing form is actually called a "Certificate of Passage." Upon reviewing it, the ol' one noticed that if he fails to submit proper payment within 10 days, he could be fined as much as $1,000 and be prosecuted under Title 75 (PA Vehicle Code, Section 6110).

The moral of this story: The ol' one must make every effort to wear a shirt with a pocket whenever he heads for the turnpike, or at least find a seamless spot in the KIA to place a toll ticket. Seems it's time for another cup o' joe along with the checkbook.

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