There was once a rumor of a toll booth out of which the attendant would utter only a single statement to each driver as they passed through. Regardless of attempts at conversation or not,

the attendant said one statement per driver.

And we are talking Pennsylvania / Ohio I-80 state limits tollbooth. Endless truck traffic through there at all hours of day.

Having reached a construction stoppage in close proximity to several drivers who were previously ahead of me in the tollbooth queue, we shared a similar anecdote with each other.

“Did he say something weird to you?”

“Yes! And I asked him what he said and-”

(all) “He just nodded and closed his window.”

And upon comparing sentences, we realized that there were different.

And each sentence seemed to logically follow the preceding one, BUT IN REVERSE ORDER.

The attendant seemed to be providing a full conversation, a diatribe if you will,

But in reverse of the customers.

What did it mean?

Was he simply delivering monologues from a play, but in reverse,

Perhaps in some fancy acting school, a method of embodying a character is to literally lean their lines backward. and forward.

Perhaps the attendant was doing that.

I endeavored to find out.

I bought road cones

I bought tape

I bought an orange vest

and a clipboard

For an entire day, I flagged down cars and recorded what the attendant said to them.

A monologue chronologically in reverse.

Madness, genius, or rehearsal?

“Did he have a visible script on the desk,” I’d ask.

No was invariably the answer.

At the end of a shift, having recorded some eight hours of sentences, fragments of monologue in reverse, with only a few missed sentences,

I read from right to left.

This story was what he narrated over the course of that day.

I panic. I think about what was said before and

What will be said afterward.



Tree branches in clouds




— Copyright 2023 Matthew A. Roberson / AllegedBeef