Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Brake for Turtles

I advise the student newspaper at my college. Now you have to understand that primarily I am a writer and that's how I got my job. I have an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York and a master's from a college in New Mexico. But I don't have a Ph.D., and so I think students tend to think of me as their mentor and editor, not some starched-shirted academic.

So last week I drove one of my editors (Evan) to North Carolina to pick up a national award he had won.

As we drove along a busy Ohio highway I saw something and  slammed on my brakes and pulled on the shoulder. As Evan gaped in amazement, I slipped between the semis and plucked a box turtle off the highway. I was afraid he or she was going to get turtle waxed for sure.

Wide-eyed lest I end up with tire tracks on my white tee shirt, I tucked the terrapin under my arm like Randy Moss sprinting for the goal line.

I jumped the guardrail on the opposite side and scampered down the embankment to leave Mr. or Ms. Turtle (we never were formally introduced, and I am biology-challenged when it comes to terrapin sexual parts) on the side of a stream.

When I returned to the car I saw Evan was in shock.

When we returned to our college Evan told a few people and now I have a nickname, "I Brake for Turtles."

It's been all in good-natured fun.

But I can't help hoping that I sprinted in the direction that the
turtle wanted to go. Can you imagine if I took him or her back to where he or she started from?

Imagine the turtle explaining this to a spouse. "Yes, dear, I know I'm late to that delicious repast of bugs and flies you made but some 230-pound monster swooped down on me, put me under his armpit ("I think he uses Right Guard") and set me on the ground. ("What do you mean, a likely story, my dear. It's true.")

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