Monday, January 28, 2008

How Convenient!

I'm going out of town and have a long list of to-do's to be completed today, which means I have this semi choking feeling of I'll-never-get-all-this-done. Although I know that in the end I probably will.

But anyway, to my point: One of the items was to go to the post office and ask them to hold my mail while I'm away. I was concerned because I know a mail hold takes a few days to take effect, and I'm leaving tomorrow, so I'd need to ask one of my neighbors to pick up the mail for a couple of days. Yet one more thing to do.

And then I started wondering if possibly there could be an online way of doing this. "No", I thought. "The post office couldn't possibly be so efficient". But on a whim I typed "hold mail postal services" into Google, and lo and behold, the first hit is the USPS page that lets me enter, online, my hold mail request, no special questions or passwords needed, and active by tomorrow (in fact, as long as you enter the request by 2am, it can take effect the same day).

How cool is that?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


As you may know, there's a small toll road on the way from San Diego to Los Angeles. A private toll road, owned by Toll Roads... How exactly a toll road was constructed by a private company I don't know, but that's not the point of this post.

The point is the following: A few weeks ago I drove up from San Diego to L.A. using, for the first time on this route, my beloved Garmin GPS. And Jill (the lady talking out of the little GPS box) told me to go onto route 73, which as it turns out was the toll road. Except I was talking with my trip companion, and didn't notice it until I was almost past the sign that indicated right if you were paying cash, and left if you had a FastPass. Well, I was on the left lane and there was no way I could make it all the way to the right to get into the cash lanes.

Just to clarify, the FastTrack lanes don't really look like lanes, they're just the highway itself, as you drive by, some antenna picks up your FastPass signal. The cash lanes are actually an exit to the right, that takes you through standard toll booth lanes were you can pay the lady (or the gentleman) their due.

Well, I figured this is not a problem, because I already knew that they have cameras on this toll road capturing the license plate of all passers. So I figured one of two things would happen: 1) there would be some way for me to pay the toll at the end of the road, or 2) I'd be billed for the toll.

What really happened was a modified #2. I got a bill, except instead of a bill for $4.25, the standard toll, it was for $52.75 (the toll plus a $48.50 fine).

So I called the Toll Roads company. I explained that by the time I had seen the sign, I couldn't make it all the way to the right hand lane for the toll booth. They told me that I should have seen it. Not only that, they told me that they have police patrols on the tollway, and if a police patrol would have picked me up, the fine would have been $200(!).

In other words, state sanctioned highway robbery. The state and the state police ensuring some extra revenue for Toll Roads in picking up newbie toll road travelers...