It's fun writing stories about random people! This story was actually inspired by the multitude of toll gate guys and girls I pass by every morning to and fro work. Though our lives never cross paths for more than five seconds, I often imagine how it would be like sitting there day after day, collecting the same amount of money from countless strangers. Wouldn't they get restless? Or did they secretly enjoy it? Or perhaps they were waiting for something special to happen. So many maybes that only a story could ever answer...
But that's just me, I guess.
(My apologies for the delay in posting this story. Had originally planned to get this up real quick and proceed to 'A Halloween Love Story'. Unfortunately, things got really busy at work and I once again failed in my 23-year quest to celebrate Halloween, thus preventing me from getting the proper inspiration for the story.)
There once was a girl who worked at a toll gate.
This girl, Jenny, was ordinary in every single way possible. All her years of living, she had dreamed of discovering this Special Ability of hers. But she never did quite manage.
What is a Special Ability, you ask?
In her words, a Special Ability is that "one talent God gave you when no one else was looking". It is something that everyone wishes for, yet you alone have. And it matters not how unremarkable you are. Your Special Ability sleeps beneath layers of conformity and doubt, awaiting its discovery someday to make your life yours.
For some reason, Jenny was highly attuned to this fact and wanted anything but an ordinary life. Since the moment she could speak, she religiously sought out her Special Ability. It was her means of escaping mere existence.
First she figured it was reciting the alphabet backwards. But then three other boys in her class could do it.
She next tried riding a bicycle with only one hand. Her sister did it with none.
Finally at the age of 18, she thought she found it. She could imitate the sound of an elephant trumpeting perfectly.
Sadly, the joy lasted only a month. She attended a friend's birthday party, only to be horrified by this entertainer who could mimic an entire zoo.
Between it all, life somehow passed her by. Before she knew it, she was 23, Special Ability-less and working as a toll gate girl. Day after day, cars drove past her carrying people eager to go somewhere. Some drivers were headed to places created by and for their own Special Ability, while most rushed to serve the Special Abilities of others. However, what mattered was that Jenny did not know hers.
One day, she shared this idea of a Special Ability to her workmate. "You're right," he nodded vehemently. "Everyone has a Special Ability. But how do you know if you find it?"
"You just know. It'll amaze people, and yet make you feel good."
"Bah. Nothing amazes people these days. Everyone's seen everything."
"That's because everyone thinks like you. So people are no longer willing to find their Special Abilities. They just want to go through life with their Normal Abilities."
He cocked one eye up. "You're weird."
"No I'm not!" she retorted. "All right. What if I discover my Special Ability?"
"How? You're going to amaze the cars?"
"If that's what you say. I make five cars go wow, and that's my Special Ability. Deal?"
"Erm, hello? You have a job here, you know."
"Don't you fret that. I'll only need 5 days to find my Special Ability." Jenny declared, immediately regretting it.
"Whatever." He walked off to begin his shift.
Fuming, Jenny vowed to stick by her promise of 5 days. If she could not discover her Special Ability in 5 days, she would never mention it again as long as she worked here.
And so Jenny began her quest. How would she do it? Simple - if she could make 5 cars go wow with her Special Ability in a day, that was it!
Day One started off pretty well. WCV 5609 was impressed by the way she deftly transformed his two-ringgit note into eight sen coins. So was BHC 4248 and WJK 8020.
But that was all.
Perhaps everyone was in a hurry. It was a Monday morning, after all.
On Day Two she decided to try reading people's minds. She correctly guessed where WAT 7835, MBH 5856 and WLY 1964 were going. Sadly, the other cars considered it a waste of time and berated her for causing a queue.
No luck either on Day Three. Her finger puppet show wasn't very well-received. Only PBA 1413 and AJV 7451 responded with half-hearted smiles.
By Day Four she was starting to run out of ideas. There wasn't terribly much you could do inside a toll booth anyway.
There was one thing she noticed - most people didn't look at her. They would be busy reaching for their pockets, fiddling with the radio or illegally talking on mobile phones.
That was it! She would make them listen instead. Surely no one could resist a singing toll gate girl!
"The toll is one ringgit twenty! One ringgit and tweeenty...ooh wo wo, one ringgit twenty! One ringgit and twenty..." She warbled along to the tune of My Heart Goes Sha La La La La.
"Ha ha ha! You just made my day." beamed WHD 6523.
"That's very original." WFS 3773 loved it too!
"You're amazing!" And so did TAC 2094!
"Brilliant!" mused JCM 5595. Only one more to go!
Just ten minutes to the end of her shift, WAX 2510 eased into her lane. Yes! He's going to adore it, I'm sure. I just know it.
"The toll is one ringgit twenty!" She burst into song, face agleam.
At the end of her ditty, the driver, a merry old man of 65, couldn't help but clap. "You remind me of my niece. She sings very well too."
Mission accomplished! Her heart leapt as his car tottered off. She had finally discovered her Special Ability!
Or had she?
Wait... something didn't seem quite right.
"You remind me of my niece."
Didn't that mean someone else could sing just like her?
Jenny buried her head in her arms and cried.
"So Jenny, how's your Special Ability coming along?" Her workmate made that oh-so-annoying 'inverted comma' sign with his fingers.
"Oh, shut up."
"Hey, I'm sorry. But you know what? I believe you're still talented in your own way. Maybe you're trying too hard."
"How about a movie tonight? Anything to take your mind off this."
"We'll see. Thanks. Hey, gotta get to work now. WJP 7380 is coming."
"Huh? How did you know?"
"There, can't you see? That green Proton Wira."
"But it's so far off! How on earth can you see the number plate?"
"I can't, silly! I just remember the number plates."
"WHAT?! You remember the number plates of every single car?"
His eyes widened in amazement as her mouth fell open in similar fashion. Could she have possibly, accidentally, miraculously, at a time when life seemed destined for mediocrity - found her God-given Special Ability?
Within three months, Jenny became an instant sensation as the Incredible Memory Lady.
Sometimes, dreams are like butterflies. The more you chase them, the more they flit away. But when you trust and stay still, they come to you someday you least expect them to.