Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Toll Taker

He is scheduled to slip into his place of penance at 5AM under the cover of darkness on the second Monday in February and remain there for three hours. Forgetting the logistical difficulties, his official videographer is to be crammed in this small space with him, to chronicle each moment of every mea culpa. It is the untold, but soon to be released story of the one day toll-taker career of the governor of the great state of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

What better place to say I'm sorry then at the actual scene of the crime. Forget going to Fort Lee's City Hall for a handshake and an apology to the mayor. Did the mayor  sit in that ugly traffic snarl for those four mornings in September? No, the real apology is to be given to the thousands of commuters who were forced to endure the wrath of Christie, who were just in the wrong place at the very wrong, and for a very long, time.

The dedicated entrance to the GWB from Fort Lee consists of three lanes which are (on all but those days in early September of 2013) cordoned off from the rest of humanity by bright orange cones which Mr. Christie described by way of foot in mouth parody. The right and left of these lanes accept not only E-Z pass payment, but cash customers and those who, riding in groups of three or more, advise they are a "carpool" and entitled to special discount. It is in the far right booth that Mr. Christie will plant his rather over-sized ego.

No one can know in advance of this intended action, as to do so would undoubtedly cause the one thing that the governor can surely not afford: another massive traffic tie-up. No, this will be a well kept secret, known only by those in his immediate circle who have been sworn to shut up under penalty of being forced to watch the entire press conference in which the governor held everyone hostage for nearly two hours without actual saying much of anything.

And oh, the few of you reading those words are also now knowing co-conspirators.

The governor is donating the monies he earns during this abbreviated employment to a study devoted to demonstrating there is no reason to raise the minimum wage in New Jersey.

What he hopes is captured during this three hour tour (where have I heard that phrase before, oh yes, Gilligan's Island) is his real emotional attachment to his constituency, a kind of right-after-Sandy type hug and feeling that "I know your pain."  If all goes according to plan (no, not that plan)  the following should be typical of what the final edited product looks like at the 2016 Republican National convention:

Driver: "Carpool"

Toll-booth guy:''Please roll down the back window because I don't see a third person in your car."

Driver: "Are you questioning my veracity? And, by the way, get that camera out of my face."

Toll-booth guy: "I am only doing my job. Please roll down the window."

Driver: "Do you want me to get out of this car?"

Camera shot fades to black. (Sorry. That was an outtake from "the Sopranos" that somehow slipped in)

No, really what the governor envisions is an endless trove of positives as he goes good will hunting. Images of those who recognize the governor not only by his look but by the kindness and compassion that exudes from every pore of his body (actually that is an image that might be a little difficult to capture). Smiles and soundbites of people thanking the governor for being such an excellent toll booth operator (maybe there is a little Peter principle at work here). Myriad words of praise and of understanding by the devoted hordes that every one of us makes mistakes along the way, but it is how we respond to tough times that is the true measure of the man (Mr.Christie just has to make sure none of those still without Sandy relief get in this lane).

And when his shift is over and the governor holds a press conference to thank the head of the Port Authority (who has for some reason asked to stay out of camera range and not to shake the hand of Mr. Christie) for allowing him to perform such a wonderful service, there will undoubtedly be much ado about the nothing that has been more than amply demonstrated.

For in the final analysis, the truth is the toll that must be paid is forever increasing, whether you are in your car heading to New York or the target of those 20 subpoenas that have recently issued. And no photo op can make a small man look large (well, not in the sense intended).

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