Learning Greek and Stealing a Kiss at NH Tollbooths

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Susan Dromey Heeter

Friendly toolbooth operator waves at Joyful Musings columnist.

By Susan Dromey Heeter
Susan Dromey Heeter

Susan Dromey Heeter

American Scholar, Brene Brown said, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”

This week’s Joyful Musings connects with Greg Grande, a linguist, a Spanish teacher and a wonderful source of connection for students, colleagues, neighbors and … tollbooth operators.

For years, Greg has been travelling between Dover and Rochester and frequents Route 16.  And while Greg has the latest Iphone and Ipad, pays all his bills online, texts, Skypes and is entirely 21st century technologically literate, Greg refuses to get an E-Z Pass.

His joy is in the connection he makes with those who collect the tolls in Rochester; Greg sees them sometimes twice a day and, according to Greg, looks forward to “meaningful conversations … loaded with smiles.”

As a linguist, Greg embraces connection using a variety of languages including Spanish, Dutch, French and, with the help of one toll worker – Greek.  Each time Greg pays his toll he is met with a gift – the native Greek toll worker teaches Greg a word.

“Zesty “ has been one used frequently of late as in “Zesty Summer”  or “hot summer.” A connection made at its best: Greek lessons and a smile.

Many toll workers are going the way of dodo birds and elevator operators as technology proves more efficient.  But what happens to the personal connection?  While certainly EZ Pass expedites life, it can lead to fewer and fewer connections.

And, I must admit, I myself gave in and purchased an EZ Pass and do miss the personal interactions. I used to ask every toll booth worker if she or he had seen anyone famous.  Steven King was often recalled but the best was the toll worker whose eyes twinkled brightly when he recalled exactly where Jackie Kennedy Onassis had used the rest room.  “Right over there,” he pointed.  “She really had to go.”

And when Greg saw one of his favorite toll workers lean over and kiss the man in the car ahead of him, he puckered up, waiting for his kiss when his car arrived at the window.  This toll worker, of whom Greg calls “Stevie” for her resemblance to Stevie Nicks, laughed uproariously and said, “THAT was my husband!”  And they both continue to laugh over the connection, the purpose of a delightful moment.

So as I muse joyfully on connections and life I celebrate people like Greg Grande who bask in connections and delight in the touch stones of life – a laugh, a smile, a pause.

May you muse joyfully on your own connections and perhaps learn a word or two in Greek from a most unexpected source …

Susan Dromey Heeter, a writer from Dover who recently let her hair go au natural white, debuts her new column “Joyful Musings” at InDepthNH.org. Dromey Heeter is a secondary Spanish Teacher at Dover High School and the mother of two teenage daughters.  Writing has been her passion since her English majoring days at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  Dromey Heeter has lived in The Netherlands, Alaska and currently basks in all things New England, including the frigid winters. An avid swimmer, Dromey Heeter’s great passion is to bring back body surfing as most children have no idea how to ride waves without ridiculous boogie boards. She also writes about thrift shopping and all things frugal  in a column called “Budget Vogue” for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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