Behind the scenes of a ND football weekend: Toiling at the tollbooth
With the drone of cars and the ringing of the register in the background, Rich Motz, tollbooth plaza supervisor for the Notre Dame exit, recreated the home game tollbooth experience.
"It's really a very enjoyable time," Rich said as he gave a traveller his change.
Traffic for home games increases as early as Thursday, but the plaza workers usher between 7,000 and 10,000 cars past their booths on Saturday alone. This influx forces Motz to double his normal staff. Surprisingly, though, there is no lack of enthusiastic workers to cover the shifts.
"Employees come from as far as East Point and Portage to work the games. They really do enjoy it."
So what makes it so much fun? The enthusiasm of the fans.
"It's such an enjoyable atmosphere," Motz said.
"Everyone is honking and cheering with flags on their cars and painted faces, hanging out the windows yel-ling. It isn't rare that people will moon you, too."
Even the travellers seem to enjoy the plaza scene. Rumor has it that people who have exited at the Mishawaka plaza — while perfectly capable of reaching the stadium — will turn around to go back to the Notre Dame exit just so they can wait in line with all the rest of the fans.
"Some people have never been on a toll road before," employee Kristi Franklin said. "When you ask them for their ticket, they'll hand you their football ticket."
Franklin went on to regale many interesting tales gained only from the vantage point of her tollbooth throne.
"You think it's dull, but you see all sorts of things working here," she said.
"There are people in search of the nudist colony who drive through completely naked and smiling. One woman gave birth at the tollbooth. And sometimes you will catch people in `compromising' positions," she said laughing. "Often people offer coffee and doughnuts to us."
But travellers aren't always so kind. Irate fans after Notre Dame's loss to Nebraska doused Franklin in a mixture of pop and beer. The tollbooth employees' work doesn't end once the fans take their seats in the stadium. The workers need to keep their eye on the game from their booths.
"If it's a blow away game, people will start leaving at half-time, so we need to switch the lanes to accommodate the traffic," Motz explained. Once the game has ended, it takes between 3-4 hours to give everyone their ticket and pass them on to their final destinations.
After the game, the energy levels have changed. It's easy to tell the winners from the losers, and no one seems to enjoy sitting in the post-play back-up.
Without the loyal tollbooth workers, the Stadium would hold far fewer fans come game day. Please, be courteous to them as you drive through. Oh — and drive carefully; those extra booths they open just for the football traffic? They're only plywood.
All Scene Stories for Friday, October 27, 2000