Thursday, January 2, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Illinois Tollway Part 2


Jeffrey Redick
Director Illinois Tollway
2700 Ogden Ave
Downer’s Grove Illinois  60515


I am writing you with the hopes you can deliver me from what has become a bureaucratic hell.  Let me bring you up to speed…  In June I was driving through the Greater Chicago area with my EZ Pass.  As an Ohio resident, I often travel the turnpike to Illinois through Indiana, and appreciate the convenience of the system.  I appreciate that I don’t have to stop in Gary Indiana, and risk being decapitated for six dollars and a travel mug by area hoodlums.  I had to stop there recently for gas, and noticed that much of the area around the exit had devolved into a Mad Max type wasteland.  I think in real estate parlance, these structures are called “fixer-uppers” or “handyman’s delights”.  Regardless, I like being able to motor through at a brisk speed.  Kudos to all those involved in the fast pass system.

The problem was that on this particular June day, one of the toll booths did not pick up my transponder signal, and I was sent a fine asking for the $6.00 toll and an additional $80 fine for blowing through the gate.  As soon as I received this notice, I called the Tollway Authority and paid for my toll.  I’m not trying to dodge paying my toll.  I’m just a guy trying to stay on the right side of the law.  I was told to fill out the “Non Liability for Fine” forms, which I did and sent back.  I was told that I did not have proof my EZ Pass account was active at the time of the infraction.  My task was to then provide documentation that my pass was active.

I’ll level with you.  The State of Ohio could really use some help in the area of customer service in their EZ Pass division.  I couldn’t log onto my online EZ Pass account as I had set it up initially as a “paperless” account.  Who knew that such a selfless decision would prove to be so disastrous?  I had no idea what my account number was as I never received any correspondence from EZ Pass, therefore I could not have access to log into my account.  No account number, no way to log in.  I was like a dog chasing his own tail!  One would think my account number would be on the side of the transponder, but it’s not.  That number is only the transponder number.  I can’t do the “Forget your password?” option because I don’t have the option of just using my email address.  I mean, who set up this system?  What sort of Fool’s Errand had I set out on?  I was left with no other choice than to call the 800 number and speak with a representative.  This proved to be a challenge…

No one ever answers the 800 number to the Ohio EZ Pass office.  I even tried that trick of entering random extensions, or hitting the button for emergencies only.  You know that move where you hit the emergency number and then try to play it off like you had no idea you hit the wrong number?  “Oh, I’m sorry!  I don’t have a seventeen car pileup to report.  I was just trying to reach an Ohio EZ Pass representative.  Could you transfer me?”  No dice.  They have every loophole closed.  I believe the descendants of George Orwell were involved in the setup of this office, though this might just be a wild internet rumor. 

I became interested in how long it would take me to actually speak to someone, so I kept a record.  I made 17 calls, each averaging 32 minutes on the automated hold system.  Sometimes it just hangs up on you.  It’s maddening.  It became a quest to me.  I would not be deterred.  I would speak to someone.  Anyone.  At last I spoke to a world weary voice, a man so obviously beaten down by his impossible job that the feeling of defeat oozed through the line.  He provided me with the online account information I needed.  I printed out every single screen that is available on the website, as well as making a copy of my actual transponder, and filled out the Non-Liability forms once again.  I felt confident that my name would be cleared and the State of Illinois could move on to larger projects.  After all, you are the people that put on the World’s Fair!  A center of commerce and art!  The hub of the entire Midwest! 

Weeks later I received a form letter as a response to my requested paperwork.  “After review, my request for non-liability had been denied.”  I recall staring at the letter, blinking in disbelief.  How could this be?  I had provided all the information that was available to me.  I had initiated the contact between us.  How could this be?  My good feelings for the State of Illinois began to wane.  I hoped this was just some sort of misunderstanding between a low level government employee, perhaps over eager to prove they should be promoted up the ranks of the State of Illinois Tollway’s pyramid of power.  I reached out again to try and clear this issue up.

I was told I needed to provide a document that to my knowledge did not exist.  Well, it wasn’t accessible to me on the website anyway…  In my experience in dealing with government, I knew this could prove to be a problem.  While I am an “Ends justify the means” guy, it became evident that everyone I came in contact with at the Illinois Tollway was more of a “means justify the ends” type.  I think this makes me more of a “dog person” and they “cat people”, but this is just a theory that we can perhaps discuss at another time over brandy and cigars.  I set out on the suicide mission of attempting to once again contacting the Ohio EZ Pass office and get a copy of my full participation in the Ohio EZ Pass system.    

Making another long story short, I acquired the necessary documents.  It took weeks.  At last I had the documents that were my key to escaping this trap.  It should be noted that during this process, the Illinois Tollway sent me over to a collection agency.  These people began calling me from an 800 number, leaving messages that said “return this call to Mr. Scott at the law offices of Blah, Blah, and Blah and only speak to Mr. Scott.”  The interesting thing about this is when you call back and ask for Mr. Scott, they become very agitated when you actually ask for Mr. Scott.  I thought that The Mr. Scott Ruse was interesting in that they deliberately set up their painfully untrained operators to immediately be on the defensive.  Why leave a message to speak only to Mr. Scott when there is no Mr. Scott to speak with on the return call?  Personally I like to think of Mr. Scott as a balding heavy set late middle aged white man in an ill-advised Tommy Bahama outfit enjoying a gin and tonic in the Dominican Republic, with beads condensation on his glass.  I also picture him with one of the more attractive women from the call center he has culled from the herd to act as his “personal assistant”.  She is dressed in a sundress that would be illegal in the States, and she hands Mr. Scott the occasional report from the call center in a bored fashion.  There is some sort of distasteful “arrangement” that has been made there, but Mr. Scott has had this type of hustle going so long he doesn’t even notice the glances from onlookers any longer.

 Obviously I have spent much time considering the elusive Mr. Scott…

 After the documents arrived at the Illinois Tollway HQ, I was feeling positive that this would be the end of the matter.  It had been a real struggle, but I made sure to see this thing through.  That’s when I received a call on Christmas Eve where I was informed that they had received my documents, agreed that I had an active EZ Pass at the time of the infraction, agreed that I had paid the toll which had not been collected and now were in a position to offer me a settlement on my fine.   The position the Tollway has taken is that although I had an EZ Pass, the amount of time it had taken me to wade through the bureaucratic muck had exceeded the random amount of time allotted when the fine was assessed, and I still owed the fine.  My understanding is that I owe a late fee on a fine that I never should have been assessed in the first place.   While I can appreciate the black comedy of this, and might even refer to it as “Kafkaesque”, I have taken a position that I should not owe any money to the good people of Illinois for something that I didn’t do.  Unfortunately, I cannot seem to get anyone on the 800 number to agree with me on this.

As a learned man, I am sure you agree with my position conceptually.  While looking online for your address, I noted you went to college in Charleston IL, one of my favorite small towns in America.  By God, any person that spent four years in a place that hosts a “Turkey Testicle Festival”, and attended a school where Graham Lewis taught literature and poetry must be good people.  I feel confident that a man of your position can call off the dogs, feel secure in the knowledge that I paid the Illinois Tollway what it was due, and now both parties can move on with their lives.  I ask you this… Can you and will you help me resolve this matter?

Best regards,


Greg Miller


At January 2, 2014 at 9:47:00 PM EST , Blogger Frank said...

Well played. And of course, never ever pay them a single red cent.

At October 21, 2015 at 4:42:00 PM EDT , Blogger missmeso said...

Sounds eerily similar to the situation that I am dealing with. Oh, Illinois Tollway.


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