The One About Driving To Crossgate's

After graduating high school, completing driver's ed, and a very long talk about being responsible, my parents surprised me with a grey 1987 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country. It wasn't too flashy or too fast, but I really didn't care. It was freedom on four wheels and I went everywhere I could think of, making sure I was home close enough to curfew so it wasn't taken away.

Upstate NY isn't all that exciting so "everywhere I could think of" often involved trying to get lost in the middle of somewhere else.

Occasionally though, my (slightly younger) sister and I would go to Crossgate's Mall. It was about 20 minutes from home and about the most exciting place for the two of us to go without having to make up some elaborate excuse. On the way we would sing along with the radio as loud and as obnoxiously as possible. If we didn't know the words we would play 'The Radio Game' wherein one person said "This song is about ____________ ", and then called out a radio station. We'd go to that station, and listen to see what connections could be made. Boys, and their otherwise indecipherable feelings, were a constant topic. Somehow the local DJ's seemed to know just what they were thinking.

On one trip to the mall, the cars ahead of us suddenly started swerving for what appeared to be no reason. Nonetheless, I changed lanes, slowed down to around 35 mph and prepared to avoid something like everyone else. When I got closer, I still had no idea what all those cars had tried to miss. It wasn't until a few yards past that spot, when I checked the rearview mirror, that I saw it.

A very large tortoise had made it's way across three lanes to the median and was starting to head across the other three.

I slammed on the brakes, pulled into the breakdown lane and drove backwards. I remembered hearing that you should never handle a wild animal with your bare hands and I was sure there was something in the car I could use. After a little rummaging, I found an old tshirt in the trunk and took off.

Tortoises, as I'm sure you know, move slowly. He hadn't made it into oncoming traffic when I scooped him up and started to cross the road. He was much heavier, and far wider, than I had expected, so in order to carry him I ended up having to hunch over a bit and hobble. I also had to dodge several cars, which were now abruptly changing lanes to avoid the two of us. Despite the traffic and the tortoise's best efforts to snap my hands off, we both got to the other side unscathed.

Heading back to the car, I remembered that I had dropped my keys when I was looking for the t-shirt. My car didn't have one of those latches to release the trunk and the only set of spare keys was at home. I yelled, "Careful! Don't shut it!", to my sister who was now leaning up against the back of the car. Unfortunately, she didn't quite hear me.

So, there we were, stranded on the side of the road, trying to come up with a way to explain to our parents how the keys got locked in the trunk halfway down the bypass... without having to mention the part where I dodged speeding cars to save the life of an ungrateful tortoise.