Thursday, March 20, 2008

3WW The Pennsylvania Turnpike

Bone’s 3-Word Wednesday assignment (or more correctly yesterday’s assignment) is to write something using these three words: money, tangled, and understood. This story comes from my years in Pittsburgh. The part about the tattoo woman in the toll booth who used to take my money as I got off the turnpike is true; the rest I just filled in to try to make it into a story. Enjoy.

The wipers fight the relentless rain as I squint at the headlights lights of trucks heading east, to Philadelphia and D.C. There are never too many cars at this time of night. The turnpike was been built long ago. Unlike modern interstates, with large mediums, here only a concrete barrier separated the wet highways that reflected the lights. I rub my eyes, and count off another mile. The rain makes it worse, but at least it's no longer snowing as spring has finally arrived to Western Pennsylvania. Finally, the lights of the Monroeville exit appear. I swing off the freeway and toward the toll booth, wondering if she's there.

Sure enough, as I drive toward the booth I see the woman of my dreams. Tall and slender, her lightly curled long dark hair reaches down her back. She always smiles. I’m sure she smiles for everyone, but I fantasized that the smiles she gives me are special and times it seemed even her eyes twinkle. We always exchange a brief greeting while she takes my money and hands me change. Our interaction only takes seconds; The light changes from red to green and I’d drive ahead into the city. I often thought about her, working night-shift in the toll booth, and wondered about her story. So beautiful, she seemed out of place working the graveyard shift. I imagine her in a club, dancing and wooing suitors.

Tonight I feel lucky as I notice she's wearing a sleeveless shirt. Her hair is pulled around to the right side of her neck and drapes down her chest, exposing the side of her neck that faces me. The car in front pays and pulls away, allowing me to ease up to the booth. She smiles as I roll down my window and reach out with my bills. As she takes them, I look up and am shocked to see a multi-colored dragon stretched out across her back, its head resting on her upper arm, red tongues of fire reaching down her arm toward me. I had never imaged that under those turtlenecks she’d worn all winter was hiding one of the most elaborate tattoos I’d seen on a woman. I try to smile, worried she might see the shock in my face as I take my changed and thank her.

The light turns green, I push in the gas pedal and take off while tuning the radio to Magic 97. At midnight, they always play uninterrupted albums. Tonight's feature is Dylan’s “Blood on the Track.” As I sped toward the Squirrel Hill tunnels I sing along to “Tangled Up in Blue,” keeping the words coming even as the station fades out when I enter the Tubes.
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind

Now, looking back over two decades, I finally understood what he meant.


  1. Yoursis first 3WW post I am visiting. And what a good read it is. That tattoo was totally unexpected for me too!

    arched architecture

  2. I loved it. Giant tattoos are a big turn off for me but I understand the looking back through time and finally understanding a song, and feelings

  3. Thanks Gautami

    Pia, I don't like giant tattoos either, and as this was back in the '80s, there weren't too many women with them--hence the shock of seeing it

  4. I imagine her in a club, dancing and wooing suitors.

    You imagined her as a stripper?!?

  5. Sage: You sound like me on a daily basis. So I salute you with this:

    "She was married when we first met
    Soon to be divorced
    I helped her out of a jam, I guess,
    But I used a little too much force.
    We drove that car as far as we could
    Abandoned it out West
    Split up on a dark sad night
    Both agreeing it was best.
    She turned around to look at me
    As I was walkin' away
    I heard her say over my shoulder,
    "We'll meet again someday on the avenue,"
    Tangled up in blue".
    --Bob Dylan

  6. Murf, NO

    Michael, This is one of my favorite songs from Dylan! Thanks.

  7. The story is great - it reminds me of the fast-paced 'love' of that time. Nice!!

  8. I have never seen a woman work the booths looking like that, tattoo or no tattoo. What a shocker!

  9. Excellent, Sage! Although the women I've seen in toll booths would hardly lead one to write prose or poetry! LOL

  10. My hubby loves women with those giant tattoos. I think it is a turn on for him, maybe cause he sure ain't gonna see it at home! I've debated them and finally gotten too old for one. And mine would have been the size of a tick anyway! "People would say have you seen Deana's lady bug tattoo? Oh, it is a tick?"...sorry,

    funny post! I hope you enjoy your Easter holiday with your family! Blessings!

  11. I've too have been surprised by a tattoo or two.

    Nice story.

  12. Interesting story but I want you to know it's understood that my money is always a tangled mess! {grin}

    btw, come on back over, I've explained *Caught*.

  13. Loved the story, Sage. An excellent read.

    We don't have toll roads around these parts that I know of. But I do recall repeated trips to drive-thru windows for flirting and a friendly smile. Those smiles that seem to sear into your memory like a branding iron.

  14. I loved this one, Sage. Really drew me in and I couldn't believe it when it was over.