On my way to work the other day, I spotted a turtle in the middle of the road. That’s a weird, unexpected sight – like seeing a peacock on your way home from work, which also happened to me a while back. Maybe my car spits out some kind of Dr. Doolittle-vibe or something. If so, that’s some special feature that was included, care of dealer oversight. I bought my station wagon as bare bones as possible. My in-dash cassette deck stands as a rock-solid testament to this fact.
Anyway, I had basically made it to work when I saw the turtle. The shelled gentleman was smack in the middle of the second to last corporate road I navigate before leaping from my car and sprinting into work to quickly begin a glorious workday. The street the turtle was crossing typically isn’t very busy – but still, what is he? Crazy? I drove past him, instantly felt guilt settle in, and decided to turn my heap-on-wheels around. Now, it would have been pretty exciting to perform one of those screeching turns you see expertly executed in old 70s cop shows. Or even some kind of balletic turn, like the car was on a lazy Susan. I wish I could brag about accomplishing either kind, but my turnaround was pretty long-winded. Picture the blog you are currently reading as a car turning, and you should have some idea.
By the time I got back to the turtle, he had backtracked. He was at the side of the road, and his shell was up against this fairly tall curb that he had no possible way of climbing. And, I guess knowing this – that somehow his decision-making skills had let him down – he had emptied his bladder in terror. He looked like a tossed, green water balloon. This, of course, broke my heart. I mean, I was already gearing up to rescue him, but now it was imperative. The tiny pool of piss he was standing in underscored the fact that my instincts had indeed been correct on this one. This was not some devil-may-care critter crossing the road like some reptilian badass who couldn’t give a shit about what lay in wait for him beyond his comfy habitat. You know, like this guy:
From my personal collection. It’s a double, if anyone wants to trade.
This was a turtle that, like so many of us have done, simply made a bad life choice.
So, I got out of my car and headed towards the little guy who, as I got closer, didn’t look so little, really. He was mid-sized to kind of large. And he looked pretty weathered and old. Plus, he was cornered – not so much by any obstacles (aside from the curb), but by his galaxy-given slowness and his next to nothing reflexes. Surrounded by his own urine, all his faults in relief, I cautiously approached him. Yep. Cautiously. I mean, with all of these little details rolling around in my mind (old, cornered, large, alive), I’ll sadly admit that I started to get a little nervous. I thought, “Don’t some turtles bite? Snapping turtles, right? What does that snapping part mean?” “What if it attacked?” I’m thinking. “Do turtles hiss?” – hearing any animal hiss always gets to me. And then, a flash – what if someone saw me running from a hissing, pissing turtle? Cell phone video begets YouTube begets plastic surgery to change my face. In summary, this was not a proud moment for either of us.
This is kind of what he looked like, but even more frightening.
Eventually, my heart won out. I swallowed my sad fear and I grabbed the old guy with two hands…like I was grabbing a big sandwich or a dictionary. Of course, I made sure to keep his possibly-dangerous head full of possibly-sharp turtle fangs pointed away from my body. As soon as I put my hands on the guy, he tucked in. Which, I’ll admit, was exactly what I was gambling on. He went indoors. He hermited up. I wanted to hug the guy.
As I carried the turtle away from the street and over the curb (which I managed in one step, thank you), I felt a bond form between us. Me and him, united inside this gaggle of boring corporate buildings, headed towards a man-made lake. And, I sympathized with him. Because, honestly, the lake didn’t look great. It looked small – to me, at least. Confining. And this turtle, maybe he was sick of the same old. Or maybe there were troubles at home or something. Maybe he was fleeing a bad relationship. Or maybe even some kind of predator or turtle bully was on the loose down there. And maybe this (currently) tucked-in reptile decided to pick up sticks and strike out on his lonesome. Take his chances on the new, the unknown. Maybe he pictured a world full of lakes – better lakes, bigger, cleaner lakes. A clean start. A starched shirt. A warm rock, baked to perfection by the sun’s rays, to lean his tired shell against. And then, I mean, it must have taken him a long time to get to the road on those little radish legs. Hours into the journey, exhausted, reality set in that he might as well be in fucking outer space. It must have been like living a waking nightmare. Sounds up close that he’d only ever heard at a distance while lounging on a pitiful micro-beach that surrounds the lake’s waters. Strange objects, way beyond his understanding, quickly attaching themselves to those sounds. The world like a fucking maze of regrets. Every single thing programmed to end his life. It must have been the single worst experience of his entire existence.
So, to cheer him up, since I was holding him like a sandwich, I pretended to take a bite. And he giggled.