Trick or Bleat

Easing on down the highway of tax horror…

A pike to fishermen is something on his hook, but pikes of Medieval times were pointy shafts like the points of spears, or javelins. A Cheval de frise or spiked obstacle were like these from the civil war:

Cheval di frise civiil war


 photo credit the Granger Collection

The roads of yore had turning gates, or barriers of pikes that turned on a pivot to allow travelers passage after paying a toll. Hence the name we are all familiar with, turnpikes.

But Highwaymen or robbers-on-the road used a similar tactic, “Your money or your life, or your wife or whatever else you have,” before allowing a traveller to continue on.

I suspect some medieval brigand “toll” takers would demand anything a man of commerce-via-wagon might have on board, a chicken or a half peck of pears or five minutes “petting” one of your sheep. Hey, better a ewe than YOU, right?

Today that tradition kinda continues. Our local governments set up physical roadblocks to collect a road fee. Do we really need a blockade placed across a highway to collect what is basically a tax?

One of our Manhattan toll entry points:

Queens mid tunnel tollDSC_3249

With today’s technology of collecting taxes couldn’t a better way be found? Say, add a few bucks each to each drivers license fee or registration? Blocking traffic with all the fumes for drivers and toll takers to inhale doesn’t seem like a good idea. The wasted gas for stop and go traffic is obvious. As well as the potential for accidents with last minute lane changes or failing to slow and rear end the guy in front or even crashing into the toll booth itself. And the cost of maintaining toll plazas and paying the toll takers and maintenance guys make it all even more of a bad idea. Then there is just time and the aggravation of this stupid gun-in-the-ribs tax method.

Well, you might say, “Road tolls are a fair user tax for a motorist’s use of the road”. But in NY the toll monies subsidize transit fares for subway riders. Who can I expect to subsidize my road travel, airline or cruise ship passengers? And should we stop them in mid travel, say, make them land in Colorado or make port in the Virgin Islands to pay a toll? No, the tax is included in their tickets. Our road tickets are our drivers licenses.

Governments do have an E-Z pass or other electronic toll collection methods across America: I Pass, I Zoom, Sun Pass or Fas Trak these are real, these are not Flintstone cartoon captions. They do take your money more efficiently but the cost to drivers is more efficient tracking of movement too.

Consider the Staten Island-Brooklyn Verrazano bridge: $15 toll covers the round trip, what a bargain, $7.50 each way, but E Z pass is $10.66.  For Staten Island residents the  E Z pass is six bucks per trip. It’s incredible that the Staten Islanders are toll captives within the city of New York.

The Atlantic Beach Bridge which connects Atlantic Beach, Ny to the Rockaway Peninsula has been known to be a patronage toll-bridge for decades. Read this:

I think we need to scuttle the whole Medieval road blockade tradition.

Keep some of this in mind as you approach a toll booth with your half peck of pears at the ready and your ewe in the back of your pickup. Oh no, that’s right, that was in the Middle Ages. We’re in a much more civilized time now. Right?

Medieval E-Z Pass:



Be well,


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