Woman pays it forward on Mackinac Bridge, gives $100 for the cars behind her

A look at the Mackinac Bridge. (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

Any time the Mackinac Bridge is closed or congested, traffic wise, you can imagine drivers are a little on edge. All of us can be that way in heavy traffic, right?

(Not to mention, it’s the bridge!)

Just last month, the Mighty Mac, as it’s called -- which connects Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula -- had to be shut down for a bomb threat: So when it reopened, a woman crossing gave a toll collector a $100 bill, and asked the worker to use it on the cars behind her.

At $4 a car, it ended up paying for 24 other vehicles, said Kim Nowack, the bridge director of the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

The move was just a small effort to help ease traffic.

The woman asked for the gesture to be paid forward “until you run out of money.” She was alone in her car, and told the collector the drivers behind her “deserved a break,” according to a published report, which Nowack confirmed.

The “Pay it Forward” concept on the Mackinac Bridge isn’t exactly new.

As the author of this story, I remember my parents telling me when I was younger that we should “make it a Michigan thing” and try to pay for the car behind us while crossing the bridge. I remember it being a sweet moment -- although at least once, the driver on the receiving end sped up to see who we were, like, “Do I know those people? What just happened?”

A look at the Mackinac Bridge. (Michelle Ganley/GMG photo)

And although my colleagues hadn’t heard of this as a tradition or a common practice, one of them just crossed last weekend, and was delighted to report back that the car in front of him had covered his toll -- and he paid it forward, of course.

That July incident marked the first time Nowack had heard of involving someone paying as much as $100.

“We probably see it happening every day, but usually just one or two cars, not $100,” Nowack said. “Sometimes they will say, ‘Use it for the next veteran, or use it for someone short on change.’ It’s a nice gesture and makes people happy to get their toll paid for by a stranger.”

So, now you tell us: If you’re in Michigan, or you’re familiar with the bridge, is it a tradition? Or should it be?

And finally -- and we know this might be a long shot -- do you happen to know the woman who paid the $100? We’d love to talk to her! Email me with your own contact information if you think you can connect us. She can even remain anonymous. 🙂

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