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I was driving up Arkansas Avenue, in Northwest DC, about to turn onto Georgia Avenue, so that I could return to the studio on Illinois Avenue, just a few blocks north. I was talking to myself… more like yelling, as I was dealing with some serious financial issues: late on rent several months for the studio, outstanding invoices from clients, and the usual barrage of shit I had to deal with being an entrepreneur.

While I was turning onto Georgia Ave, I saw this rather large snapping turtle lumbering along the sidewalk and heading into the street where traffic was heavy. I stopped my car right where the turtle was coming off the curb and got out. The turtle crawled under my car and laid there. Cars had to swerve around me because I was blocking not only the lane for cars advancing up Georgia Avenue, but also those cars turning from Arkansas Avenue just as I had.

The turtle resting in the shade under my car.

I waved off traffic and no one really had an issue with me being there. I think most folks thought my car had stalled or something. I turned on my hazard lights, which helped. I called Hamilton (my production partner) who happened to be right up the street at the studio editing, and told him to grab the large cooler from the basement, a broomstick… and my DSLR camera. I had to capture some imagery. My phone at the time did not have a camera.

Hamilton quickly arrived and we used the broom to shoo the turtle into the cooler. He was snapping away at the broomstick, but we were successful in getting him into the cooler after about 10 minutes of pushing and prodding. We transported him to the studio and I proceeded to call DC’s Animal Control.

I have no idea where the turtle came from. While there are waterways around the city (tributaries to Rock Creek) that can be hidden from plain sight, I can’t imagine anything, anywhere near that part of Georgia Avenue capable of hiding a turtle that size. Rock Creek was too far away for it to have exited and successfully made it down Georgia Avenue unspotted. I’m guessing I was the first to see it. The thing was about 18-inches, excluding the tail (stretched out, tip of the nose to tail, about 30″).

An animal control officer came out to the studio within an hour and she handled the turtle with great care. She didn’t seem overly surprised and reassured me that they’d do something humane with the turtle, like reintroducing it back into the wild. We have a spectacular swamp area in Northeast DC called the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, where snapping and other turtles abound.

I had somehow convinced myself that this “was a sign” that great things would happen. Somehow, me saving that turtle or simply seeing a large snapping turtle in the middle of the city meant something more than I could understand, so I should be on alert for something great. Some twelve years later, still nothing that would strike me as related to this turtle sighting and rescue.

I pondered over what it actually meant and a few weeks later, making that same turn, an indigent gentleman was at that very spot with an empty cup asking for change. My reaction was disdain, bitter by my then hapless financial state, I pressed on. But as soon as I parked in front of the studio, I thought about the turtle. “Was that the turtle incarnate, asking for help?” I panicked and thought about driving back. I relented, considering the idea was crazy.

But then, it happened again, maybe a few months after that, in the same spot – an indigent man asking for money. My reaction was kinda the same. I had gotten just a block away and pulled over to the side. Confounded, I was wondering if I had lost it, trying to fabricate such a mystical relationship to the coincidence. I pulled off in front of a liquor store and wondered if it were to happen a third time, I better instinctually help the person asking for change, just as I had no second thought about helping the turtle.

I had a tremendous amount of self criticism around my history of concern for animals being well above that of my human brother. I wrestled with the idea I would do all that for a animal and perhaps not for human being. I wasn’t’t exactly sure because it’s difficult to juxtapose a human dilemma of asking and perhaps needing money to the urgent life-or-death situation of a turtle lurking down Georgia Avenue. I felt I had to change a few things about myself after that event. I’ll be forever working on those things, babysitting them if you will.

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