Guess what? American bureaucracies aren’t the only ones that are ridiculous.
Last October I went to Lake Temagami in northern Ontario, Canada for a wonderful few days of fishing. To get there, I drove on the Express Toll Route. Rather than simply paying the toll as you pass through, the ETR takes a picture of your car, figures out where you live, and then sends you a bill.
A few weeks after my trip ended, I received a bill. We paid it in full. Then, some time later, we got another bill — for four cents. Why the four-cent differential? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing the U.S. dollar-Canadian dollar exchange rate might be responsible. In any case, we wrote a check for 4 cents and sent that off. Obviously, the cost of postage and the cost of processing the check on both ends far outstripped the 4-cent payment. But, so be it! We are interested in maintaining friendly relations with our Neighbors to the North, and if I ever am invited back to Lake Temagami I don’t want to be hauled away as a scofflaw and tossed into debtors’ prison by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Then we received the bill above, demanding a balance due of . . . one cent. One cent! I’m blaming the exchange rate again, because the bottom of the bill says, under “amount paid,” “Canadian funds.” Of course, there is no way I can write a check on my American bank for one cent, Canadian. The letter specifically says that I can’t send cash. And if you think I’m going to risk giving my credit card information, on-line, to bureaucrats who are trying to chase down people who have paid, in full, twice already, you’ve got another think coming. So, my only choice is to write a check for 5 cents, American, and hope that it accounts for the exchange rate and is finally accepted as payment in full by the ETR collectors.
I’ve never really thought much about toll booths before, or fully appreciated the schmoes working inside. Now, I do. The next time I toss 75 cents into the collection bin, I’ll relish that I can simply drive on, free from care that I’ve just become mired forever in an endless sea of red tape.