Turtle on the road
On my way home from work yesterday, I ran into a turtle. Well, I didn’t hit him, I just passed him standing on the side of the road. I wouldn’t have noticed the turtle, would have thought he was perhaps a chunk of busted tire, had he not craned his head high, watchfully, scanning the cars roaring by him. Ah, that’s a turtle!
I was driving in the corporate park where I work. If I was on the highway, I would have let him take his chances – too inconvenient for me. But I knew this place, turning around would be easy, and there was parking nearby. I U-turned and drove back to help, thinking, though, that this was pretty childish of me. I don’t even pull over to help people with flat tires.
Picking up a turtle is harder that one would imagine. They run fast and on their claws, shell half an inch above the ground, like a reptilian hovercraft. He panicked when he saw me and made a dash for it.
Nearby, a teenage boy was mowing a company lawn. He was too close not to notice my odd operation, so I thought to draw it to his attention before he formed his own false ideas about me. “Look, there’s a turtle on the road!” The boy saw me and took his headphones off, but the lawnmower was still whirring too loudly for him to hear me. Worse yet, the curb obstructed his view of the creature, so the boy had no idea what I was yelling about.
Let me show him, I thought. After a few near-grabs, I had to press the turtle’s shell to the road so he wouldn’t escape. I picked the turtle up, and he retracted into his shell, defeated. Look, I thought to say to the young landscaper, I’m not so crazy as to point at imaginary things, it was a turtle.
“I’m going to drop him in the grass over there,” I hollered to the teenager, “so watch out for him when you mow.” The lawnmower still rumbled, and the boy nodded nervously as I walked away.
There was no good place nearby to release the turtle. We were near an office building: Peapod.com, I think. The vegetation there was sparse – bits of manicured lawn, the lone tree, no real place to make a home. How did the turtle even get here on the road? Can it live around here if there are no lakes? Does it swim and dwell in those small corporate ponds? We have to walk further.
We made our way, the turtle and I, down the parking lot. It was a long parking lot, and we were walking near the office building. Aside from a couple of landscapers, there were no other people around. It was only 5:10 P.M., and there must still be people working behind those windows. I was carrying the turtle with my right arm, stiffly and away from my body, and walking fast. What would those people think if they saw me? I must look like an arsonist. Unshaven, charging alongside their building, dark object in hand. “Take that, Peapod.com, we can deliver our damn groceries ourselves!” Ka-boom!
Past the parking lot was a hill, the largest stretch of green in the vicinity, it seemed. We climbed and walked a little further. If I released him too close, he may just wander right back to the road. We reached the highest part of the hill, which cascaded down in a gentle slope on the other side. The grass was wild but not so tall that he couldn’t waddle through it. There were no roads close by to tempt him. Yeah, this is good. I’ve spent too much time on this task already, I thought, let’s drop him.
The turtle dashed forward as I let him go, and headed toward the long descending pasture like I hoped. Then he stopped. He needs another little scare to get him going again, I thought. I moved closer to him, but he just stood still, neck poking upwards. Maybe he didn’t want to be moved in the first place? Maybe he (she?) had babies or friends somewhere else and I had just confused the heck out of him? Or, on the other hand, maybe he wasn’t scared or angry right now at all.
The turtle lay unmoving amid the purple clove blossoms and uncut grass. I kind of envy him, I thought. Man, this is as good a spot as any to be taken, as far as places human assholes can move a turtle to go. What did he think, he was going to make it across that road on his own, the slowpoke?
No, it’s really nice, to be rescued from a tough spot like that. The turtle doesn’t even know. What are the odds somebody would stop for him? It’s 5 o’clock, dammit, and these tired office laborers want to get home. He’d get crushed by a car, like the raccoons littering Half Day Road on my way to work.
The turtle stared dumbly in my general direction. Yeah, I’m glad I stopped and carried him off the road. It’s really nice here.