Turtle Guilt

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hDriving to work recently, I noticed a turtle crossing the pavement on the other side of the road. There was no place to pull over safely, so I kept going. As I drove on and up the curving hill, I glanced back over my shoulder.

Hurry up, little guy!

The distance between us was growing.

Maybe there’s somewhere up ahead I can stop…but it’s probably a snapping turtle… Ugh!

Still, I should really pull over, walk back and move it…

I looked at the edge of the road. There still wasn’t a great spot to pull over. I looked down at my sandal clad feet. Clearly nudging the turtle with my foot (which I have done in the past) wasn’t an option.

If I try to pick it up, its head is going to whip around, its jaw will open and SNAP! that’ll be the end of my finger! Darn it. I should have clicked on that video link I saw on Facebook the other day. Then I’d know how to move it safely. 

While my internal monologue droned on, I continued driving, each moment moving farther and farther away, from both the turtle and from the likelihood of moving it.  Just stop!  I told myself, beginning to feel like someone who abandoned a puppy, or didn’t call 911. Guilt spread on me like a greasy stain, but I kept going, rationalizing why I wasn’t stopping — It was almost to the edge, wasn’t it? It wasn’t safe for me to pull over. I have so much to do at work! My fingers! The next driver will surely stop.

The next driver.

When I drove by that spot the next day on the way to work, I slowed way down. My eyes scanned the pavement, searching for a tell-tale smudge. Nothing. I’d like to say I felt relieved, and I did, but mostly I still felt guilty. I should have stopped. 

Even now, weeks later,  I still feel uncomfortable that I didn’t stop, though I have that defensive queue of excuses lined up tidily in my head. But most of those excuses are pretty thin. Really, I chose not to act because it wasn’t convenient and because I was scared–of a small snapping turtle. Ultimately, I hoped that someone else would do what I should have done. But, as one of my colleagues is fond of saying, “You don’t want to be that guy.” And I don’t. I want to be the driver who stops, not the one who keeps going.

So, after writing this, I decided to go back to Facebook and watch the video to eliminate at least one of my excuses. Honestly, after doing so, I’m not sure I feel much better about moving a snapping turtle, but at least I’ll have a starting point.