They Don’t Take Credit Cards on the George Washington Bridge - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

They Don’t Take Credit Cards on the George Washington Bridge

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Be thankful you live in the highway-toll-free society that is Southwest Virginia.  But if you venture beyond, beware...

They don’t take credit cards for the toll on the George Washington Bridge in New York City.  This I learned the hard way.

We are living in an increasingly cash less society.   Stand in line for coffee and you will grumble at the person in front of you who pays with actual dollars and slows down the process.  A simple swipe is just faster. 

Vending operators have figured this out.  I was in the waiting room at a car dealership last week and wanted a Coke, but had no cash.  No problem.  Swipe, push, clunk – the Coke was mine.

My son has a business selling pond fish from.... beside a pond.  Don’t have cash – not an issue.  He sticks a gizmo in his cell phone and swipes your card.

For the record, the toll for the George Washington Bridge is $13 one way.  It’s got to be one of the most traveled bridges in America, in the heart of the nation’s biggest city.  Would you think perhaps they would take plastic?

I mean, how many people in our swipe dominant culture are running around with multiples of $13 in their pockets?  I can tell you on a recent trip through the City to Rhode Island, it wasn’t Mary or me. 

We had about $8 in cash between us.  So when the sign said toll ahead $13, we began to panic.  But what could we do?  We were traveling 55 mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic being funneled helplessly toward the tollbooth.  We started looking under the seat cushions, in the car’s cubby compartments – you name it – but there wasn’t an extra dime to be found.

“What are we gonna do?” Mary said, white as a sheet.

“They must take plastic,” I said, with a sinking feeling that made my words lack conviction. 

So we pulled up and threw ourselves at the mercy of the poor toll attendant.

“We’re from Virginia.  We didn’t know it was $13 dollars and we don’t have enough money,” Mary said in a sort of pleading voice that also said something to the effect of, “Please don’t arrest us or make us go all the way back to Virginia.” 

Mary was driving.  I leaned over from the passenger seat and asked helpfully, “Do you take plastic?”

The attendant did not play the annoyed New Yorker card.  She nicely said, “I’ll just bill you.  Have a nice day.”

So, they can photograph/video your car, run your license plate, search the database in another state and generate a bill without so much as taking your name, but they can’t swipe a card? Yes, that appears to be correct.

Fast forward two days and we are headed to Newport Harbor in Rhode Island.  We must cross ANOTHER bridge.  The toll here is $4, but now we have NO cash.   We panic slightly, but as cash less tollbooth veterans we think we know the routine.

Wrong.  This time the somewhat obnoxious lady in bright yellow Buddy Holley sunglasses cocks her head and says, “Nobody in that car got four bucks?” 

“No Maam,” I said.  “Neither of us does.”  Then I added helpfully, “Can you bill us?”

“I’ll bill you right now,” she said, handing over a clipboard with an attached document that required all the personal information a person can reveal short of their resume, favorite pet and grandmother’s maiden name.

After filling out the lengthy document, she said, “Oh – and there will be a ten dollar surcharge when this arrives in the mail.”

I smiled and said,  “Well that stinks.”

“Sure does,” she said.  “Can I have my pen back?”

She then handed my wife a map of the region and a brochure of local attractions.  It felt like the lovely parting gift for the loser on a game show.

So gentle Roanokers.  My advice to you, It’s a big world out there a world where you don’t get to cross the bridge for free – and they don’t take plastic.

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