A Turtle in the Road

 A few weeks ago, I tested the brakes of my car when I saw a small turtle in the road; my car has excellent brakes. My middle son, Art School, was with me, and I instructedhim to lift the turtle out of the road, keep it facing the same way, and put it down in the grass. He was surprised that the turtle scratched his hands with its desperately waving paddles, but he was more surprised than harmed. We drove to dinner with the excitement of having done a good deed, and though we were late picking up the Bacon Provider at the train station, and Art School had to wash the wild turtle germs off his hands, we were glad we did it.
Gregor, Soup Turtle
Back at the farmhouse we have rented in Dutchess County for the season, we are playing host to a pet turtle named Gregor for the second summer in a row. Gregor is a third year student at Bard College, having been enrolled after being purchased by other Bard students from a Chinatown street purveyor of “soup turtles.” Now he is an overfed beast, a red-eared slider, the kind of cheap pet that finds itself living in the green ponds at Central Parkonce it exceeds the normal dimensions of an apartment-sized aquarium. Somewhere in Gregor’s future there is no doubt a real pond and an old age spent basking in real sunshine instead of a propping him/herself on a small pile of rocks under a light bulb, and eating real insects and pond weeds instead of Rep-to-Sticks and wilted lettuce. But for now, he is our houseguest at the farmhouse.
Last summer Gregor’s aquarium sat on a shelf out of view or reach from our permanent pets, but this year he was placed by his exhausted owner on a little trunk in the mud-room, just inside the door. And there the aquarium has remained.
Just the other day I was feeding Gregor, and Cherry (who is a dog interested in all things small and squeaky, and has recently caught herself two baby rabbits) suddenly noticed the soup turtle for the first time, and now she actively wants to smell, watch and taste the aquarium of said small animal. I don’t want to find out if turtles squeak like baby rabbits.
Yesterday morning, because there was a train to catch, the dogs were roused when we got up. Even though the dogs should be exhausted from oh-so-much running around, wasp-catching, bunny-chasing and sun-bathing, they will leap to attention from a sound sleep if we make a gesture towards the door. So out they were sent, and they galloped about, did their morning business on the grass, and Cherry, being the senior and more obedient dog despite her predilection for hunting, presented herself promptly while Captain went off for an early morning adventure.
There was no time for an early morning adventure yesterday.
Once again I had made an incorrect calculation; I was wrong about what time we needed to leave the house to have the Bacon Provider to the train on time, and so we had lots of yelling anxiety in the car on the way there. The problem had started when I wasn’t ready to go at 7 am, got a bit worse when I was found at 7:08 stripping the sheets off the bed, and got worse still when Captain didn’t come back in. Captain finally took an out-of-the-way route via the open garage, and was shooed into the house. As I fired up the engine of my car at 7:12, the Bacon Provider leapt out again, because in my haste I had put Captain in the closed mud-room with Gregor, the turtle.
The yelling anxiety got more intense at the long stoplight in Rhinebeck, where all directions of traffic go red for a pedestrian, and then it always begins with green for the direction you don’t need. We should have left at 7 a.m. and it was my fault that we didn’t.  Good thing I’m a multi-tasker; I can simultaneously offer an apology, articulate a bland re-assurance that the clock in my car is fast, and drive like a bat out of hell slightly exceed the posted speed limit without crashing into anything. We made the train, just in time.
On the way back from the train station delivery, I met a large snapping turtle in the road, about 1½ miles from the farm. It was bigger than the last one we encountered.
Last year, we were still in North Dreadful, where we had a swimming pool and some scenery but were still surrounded by people who didn’t want to know us, I witnessed a woman in a large white SUV purposely driving over a large snapping turtle. It made a loud popping noise, turtle guts were strewn all over the narrow pavement, and I let out a shriek of horror. What kind of person goes out of her way to run over a snapping turtle? Oh, yeah. North Dreadful.
Angry snapping turtle, still ready to bite me
Yesterday’s snapping turtle was actually on the other side of the road, and almost all the way across already. I stopped my car and put on my hazards. I opened my window and tried to make a frightening noise. The turtle didn’t move. I opened the door and clapped my hands at it. The turtle didn’t move. I touched the back of the turtle’s shell with the toe of my shoe. The turtle spun around, snapped at me with its enormous mouth and scared me. I jumped left, hoping to get around it again. It hunkered in. I tapped it again, thinking that now I had its attention I could herd it off the road. The turtle spun and snapped again. Now it was pointed 180° from its original destination. I tapped the turtle once more, hoping to get a course correction. Now it was pointed towards the road’s shoulder, and looked ready to move.
I got back in my car and sat with my hazards on, waiting to watch the turtle make it to safety. A car came up from the other direction, and the turtle was directly in its path. I waved them down. I told them about the turtle. They thanked me. I told them about the turtle rescued by Art School. They told me they saw a man throw a jacket over “one of the big, aggressive ones” to be able to move it safely. I told them this was one of the big, aggressive ones.

The approach of their car inspired the turtle to rise to its greatest height, stretch out its neck and start booking it, turtle-style, up the road. I said it looked like it had an appointment in Rhinebeck. The other drivers laughed and said they could give it a lift since that was where they were headed. Another car arrived, and I pulled forward to tell the second driver about the delay. He was as good-natured about letting the turtle make its way safely across the road as the people ahead of him were.

Today I am back in New York City. I saw a green leaf on the sidewalk this morning and mistook it for a frog. 

Our Irene

Sunday evening we made it home with equal parts of technology, stubbornness, and the kind of stupidity that is sometimes called courage.  The cat was soon sprawled on the table, having finally stopped meowing. The dogs were twitching in their sleep on the couch, dreaming of the lightning and thunder they heard that morning, or all the dogs they played with, or whatever things dogs dream of.

We had had weekend plans for a while, and went ahead, leaving a day’s more extra food for the cat and warning the dog kennel that our dogs might need to stay until Monday.  Even though cats are independent, I felt a little sad and worried about the cat, all alone in the apartment, and I did wonder about the consequences of the power going out, high winds, and flooding.  A few weeks ago, we had been invited to spend the weekend upstate with new friends. Now, the weekend had nearly arrived and (then) Hurricane Irene was approaching. The media presented scary scenarios involving 120 mph winds whipping through the tall buildings of Manhattan, flash-flooding in the streets and blocks of power outages. Upstate with new friends seemed like a better option than riding out the storm on our own in a tiny, temporary apartment.
Friday afternoon, after dropping the dogs at day care, we headed out around 3 p.m., but found gridlock within blocks of all the Manhattan escape routes. We let the GPS navigate and we made our way north, taking two hours to get out of the city and up onto a freeway.  Arriving after dark, we had a nice dinner and rushed to bed. 
Saturday was pretty nice weather-wise, although very humid, and our hosts provided pleasant and comfortable array of food and activities. Sunday morning, we slept in a bit, but woke to house-shaking thunder and lightning.  Soon we found the storm had been downgraded, and we put on our gung-ho caps and decided it would probably be okay to make our way back to the city.  Had we been paying attention, we would have also learned that people in Columbia County had been asked to stay off the roads.
We drove from Chatham, New York to Pine Plains, hoping to arrive in time for our usual Sunday riding lessons. It was raining really hard the whole way, but it was not windy, and the roads were mostly empty.  I think most people had more sense than we did. 
The further we went, the scarier it got.  We saw drainage ditches overflowing with fast-moving water, ponds that had doubled in size, roaring creeks and rivers, and standing and flowing water on roads. Within ten miles of our destination, we drove to a spot where the Taconic State Parkway had just been closed.  It was flooded on both sides with the scary brown water you never want to drive across.  The gung-ho caps were flung off, and we started arguing about how to proceed.  I am always very stubborn about turning around, but not turning around was not an option.  We turned around.  Then, we took the first safe-looking road we could find to get off the Taconic, and let the car’s GPS do the rest. The barn was damp and drippy but still had power.  I think they were somewhat surprised to see us.
After riding we visited our oldest son at Bard College, where classes were scheduled to start Monday.  While much of campus has no power, his dorm room was an exception as of yesterday.  There was still a lot of water everywhere, and some downed trees.  We tried to leave in time to make it to Manhattan without it being completely dark. The GPS had to re-route due to traffic information four times, and we made it to the city with only a few scary moments.  It was just getting dark, but our power was on.  The only casualty of the storm we saw in our building Sunday night was the elevator, which we already did not trust.  It was parked on the ground floor, with the mysterious letter “C” where a number should have appeared on the panel. The light was on in the elevator car, and the door was opening and closing, opening and closing. 


Bates Motel

One of the pleasures of visiting a student at Bard College in New York is the opportunity to stay in a nearby bed and breakfast. While Bard is not located within any town, it surrounded by small towns with bed and breakfasts we’ve enjoyed like the Red Hook Country Inn, and The Inn at Hudson. This time, I called a new one, and finding it full, I made the mistake of asking for a recommendation and trusting the advice of the man on the phone.

He suggested the Gaslight Inn, in Red Hook. It is on Route 9, on the west side of the road, across from a gas station. The motel rooms closely resemble those of the Bates Motel, featured in the Hitchcock thriller “Psycho.” We arrived quite late, and found a note on the motel office door saying to use the intercom. “Hello?” said a quavery older woman’s voice.

I said my name.

“Did you call before?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, is your name Molly?”

“No…”

“Oh. How long are you staying?”

“Three nights.”

It went on like this, repeating all the details of our initial phone conversation. We were told room #7 was for us. The key was in the lock. The room was small, and smelled faintly of something; the fixtures were old and flimsy. The door did not even have a dead bolt on it.

After I stopped making comparisons to the Bates Motel, I realized the Gaslight Inn reminded me of the case Kveragas v. Scottish Inns, which we covered in Business Law. Armed intruders kicked in the flimsy hotel door of the room Mr. and Mrs. Kveragas were staying in, injured both, and made off with $3000 in cash and jewelry. If I understand the case correctly, as a guest I should be able to rely on the fact that a reasonably prudent motel operator would employ adequate protective measures for my safety. In the event that the persons responsible for the facility did not meet this standard of care, they are negligent. Of course, when the lady in the house comes and stabs us with a kitchen knife, she’ll have a key, since she’s the owner.

The day we checked out, the office was dark, and I had to ring the bell again. “Hello?” said the voice.

I said my name, adding, “We’re checking out.”

“Oh, did you tell me that before?”

“Yes.”

“How much did I tell you the room would be?”

I had to leave a check with the housekeeper, Rosa, who had just arrived with a drink tray and coffees for her co-workers.