Anyone who drives in the Chicagoland area knows how much patience such an endeavor typically requires. Luckily, traffic was great for once as I drove downstate last weekend. However, the open roads did not prevent it from being a painfully character-building experience for me, and not because I was headed to visit my new hometown for the first time ever and apply for jobs, or because the cigarette lighter was broken, rendering both my iPod and GPS useless…
Before I left on my last-minute journey, Ben informed me that Illinois is beginning to enforce speed limits strictly in construction zones, using cameras and issuing $375 tickets to drivers going even slightly above 45 mph. While I am supportive of the idea of protecting the lives of construction workers who do a dangerous job to begin with, when there are miles and miles of construction zones on a 3+ hour trip, usually with not a worker present, I’ll admit that the money was my primary reason for slowing down. And I did. I drove 44 mph through each construction zone, much to the dismay of my fellow drivers. As I received stares and the occasional honk, I tried to console myself with the thought that I was the prudent and fortunately well-informed driver among them, pitying them for the $375 they may have to shell out when their tickets arrive in the mail. But inner strength and self-consciousness warred within me, and due to another unfortunately embarrassing situation, the self-consciousness was winning out.
See, Ben and I have had trouble with our iPass transponder pretty much since we got it. I won’t rant now about the never-ending phone calls to reverse hundreds of dollars in fines, even after we exchanged it for a new one. We have since discovered that something about the slight tint in the windshield of our Caprice prevents the signal from being transmitted properly (or whatever the proper technical explanation would be). Therefore, we were advised to try holding the transponder and sticking it out the window as we drive through tolls. After finding that, however annoying, this technique was a successful one, we have chosen to resort to this mildly humiliating method instead of all the fines, phone calls and frustration.
So… you can imagine the intensity of my inner battle to maintain a sense of dignity as I crawled along at 44 mph with cars going 65+ speeding around me, their drivers catching a glimpse of me in their rearview mirrors as I wave my iPass out of the open window. What thoughts ran through their minds I do not know, but the kindest were probably wondering what kind of freak or foreigner does not know how to use an iPass OR how to drive like a Chicagoan.
Despite the mild sting of humiliation, because I appreciate the efforts of the Illinois Tollway to speed up traffic with the iPass and to protect construction workers, and because I am continually on the journey of letting go of my pride and reputation, I am going to chalk this one up to a character-building experience. And hey, it was good for a laugh.
Illinois, can I charge YOU a toll for a laugh at my expense?