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Amazing Moments

Taking tolls at the Golden Gate Bridge

Photo by Tim Porter

Bridge Officer Michelle Shalagin, Petaluma 

“Whatever people can do in a car, I’ve seen them doing it; well, almost. During the summer, especially, they drive through half naked lots of times. Don’t forget, and not that it matters, but a car is in front of me for no more than five seconds, seven at the most. I have been doing this for 15 years now and I love my job, I really do. I’ve seen kids grow up—Becca’s mom was pregnant when she first started driving through, then I’d see Becca in the back in her car seat; now Becca is in her early teens and rides in the front seat; she always gives me a nice big smile. Then there’s this man who, every day, gives me an extra six dollars and tells me to ‘pay it forward,’ meaning pay the toll for someone who doesn’t have it or wants to use a credit card, which we don’t take. Of course, not that I would, but I can’t keep this money. There is a video on my station constantly and every vehicle has to be accounted for—or I am docked the missing six bucks. What bugs me are drivers who get impatient and honk when the person in front of them can’t find fare money. Gosh, they only have to wait a few seconds. Corvette drivers are the worst, Prius drivers are nice—but guys in antique car clubs are really the best. They always seem happy, especially when I ask about their car.”

"What's It Like?" ­is a collection of first-person accounts from local people doing extraordinary things. Submit your own personal story for consideration for a future issue. For guidelines, e-mail jwood@marinmagazine.com.

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