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Rated: 13+ · Non-fiction · Cultural · #2120867
When bad things happen to good people.
Ok, this starts with my brother innocently buying a pet turtle in a pet store on vacation in Florida for the girls. Why you go all the way to Florida and go shopping for a pet turtle is beyond me, but just hang on a minute. Of course, pets grow and kids get bored of them. So My brother asked me if I would take the “ever growing” turtle. I said yea, cuz I had a big fish tank and plenty of room for him to move around in. It took about a week for the stupid thing to clean out my fish tank of all the nice fish, didn’t know that turtles could move that fast. In about two weeks he finally got my Plecostomus, that I named Levi, for Leviathan. If that tells you how big Levi was. Anyway, the thing would eat anything. I would even throw in a piece of cucumber, at first he would nibble on it, as he got bigger he it took it in one bite. Soon he got big enough to get out and start wandering around my place, and I couldn't have that. He would climb to the top of the tank, push the lid off and off he went. Scared the crap out of me the first time I woke up and Sparky was wandering around the living room. I called around and decided to take him to the “Discovery Center”, it is a cool place, made for kids and they have an aquarium that runs around the wall. I called the Discovery Center and had to make an appointment. Why did I have to make an appointment? I wasn't sure, but everyone seemed very nice. Don't get me wrong, I love the place, told my Mom about it and she had even brought the nieces up to visit there. It was a pain just to set this up to give away a turtle, who knew? When I got there a person from the TWRA, Tennessee Widlife Resources Agency was there, that is odd. They take one look at “Ole Sparky” and ask were I got him, I told them from a pet store in Florida. I mean, I didn’t, but that was where he came from. Then they wanted to know which pet store? what city? When did I buy him? The date? How big was he then? That kinda freaked me out. I claimed ignorance, I can fake that pretty well. Then, they told me I had to register with the TWRA, for transporting a controlled species over state lines. They knew I wasn’t telling the whole truth, but I wasn’t about to drag my brother into this. I filled out there little questionnaire thing and went on. Now, I'm a registered turtle smuggler…..great.

I had already made plans and to take a few vacation days to help a friend move to Florida. Why didn’t I see trouble coming? I mean I was helping my brother out and ended up as a registered turtle smuggler. Now, I'm planning to help a friend move....across state lines. What could possibly go wrong?

First off, Shelley is about the most disorganized person I have ever met. She is a great person, love her to death, just not good with the planning of things. I got up before the sun on a June morning, just to head up to her place and make sure everything was packed up and ready to go. Our game plan was to have everything loaded up, hook her car to the car dolly, she drive the moving truck and I drive my truck, that had the last of her stuff. Once we get down there, we would crash for the night (I brought a change of clothes and an army surplus sleeping bag) and get up early to move everything in, return the Moving truck and I would drive back. It was a simple plan..........

I parked the truck at the end of the parking lot and saw Shelley walking the dog, good so far, I was afraid I would have to wake her up. When I saw her I asked where the car dolly was, I was supposed to hook the moving truck up to it. She said "down there"; I said "down where?", she pointed to the end of the lot where I parked my truck. The sun wasn't even up good and we ran into the first snag. That is right, the car dolly was stolen in the middle of the night. The question of the day "Who steals a car dolly"? I still don't have an answer to that one. We called the office, of course no one was there, called the tow company that the apartment complex used, they didn't have a clue and finally the police. The police took a report by phone and said that they would call if they found anything. Now, we had to come up with a new plan. Like I said, great person, not the most organized. Finally I said, "I drive the truck, you drive your car, you get the crazy cat, I'll take the dog, let's go". We tie the dog, cute little mute from the animal shelter, on the passenger side so she can get up in the seat and on the floor, but not under my feet and we are off like a herd of turtles. I don't know what went on with the cat, but several times I saw it going bat crap crazy and jumping around Shelley's car. I would have opened a window and let the crazy thing take a header onto I-75.

I have to say one thing, even though Shelley is disorganized, on the road, she is a "road warrior". We worked out signals to look for gas stations or food or what not and I was afraid she would want to stop ever couple hundred miles to walk the animals or whatever...Nope. We drove until we needed gas, I filled up, we were off. The first time we stopped for gas I rolled the window down, jumped out, pumped the gas and jumped back in, ready to take off. I look over at poor little "muffit" and she is panting like she is fixing to pass out. Now, I had a water bowl for her and I wasn't out of the truck more than a few minutes. Anyway, I jump back in, crank up the AC, turn the vents to the dog and take off again. I guess my mind was preoccupied with the road and traffic, because I didn't even think about the mute for a while. After, I'm guessing 20-30 minutes, I look over and she is shivering, literally shaking with the cold air on her. Great, if I don't kill the dog, I'm going to at least traumatize it before we get there.

After 11 hours or so of traveling, one jumped curb, driving through downtown Atlanta...during rush hour, going over Mont Eagle mountain with a shifting load, several toll roads, I'm ready to be done with this. We arrive at her apartment and I'm ready to crash. Surprise! Her parents are waiting on us ready to help us unpack. I would never turn away free help unloading a moving truck, so here we go. Oh, and did I mention that her apartment was on the third floor? The third floor.... wonderful.

That night I slept the sleep of the dead, a couch never felt so comfy. Bright and early....emphasize early, her parents came over to take us to breakfast. Yea! All I want to do is get the moving truck back, book a flight to Nashville, get on said flight and get out of Florida. I called up trusty Southwest Airlines, booked a flight, and headed off to the moving company, breakfast can wait, I'm on a mission. They charge you 50 bucks if you don't bring back a truck with a full tank of gas, and charge you for the gas. So, I spot the moving company on one side of the road and pull into a gas station on the other. Orlando has a weird system of numbering the streets, we went from the 1100 block to the 24,000th block in a few hundred yards. While I'm filling up Shelley is trying to give me money to pay for it. I have already pulled out the debit card and tell her we will settle up later, I'm on a mission. A woman three pumps down says "excuse me sir, excuse me", I didn't realize that she was talking to me, so she get louder, "SIR, Excuse ME! Sir!, Do you know her?" How could that be any business of hers, who I know or don't know? I tell her yes, I know her very well. She explains that she is an off duty cop and I happened to be in a seedy part of town. If this woman thinks there is something nefarious going on, it works a whole lot different down there. Things to remember, Don't flash money in a city you don't know.

We finally get everything done, eat with the folks, map quest all the prime locations and have plenty of time before my flight. We say goodbye to Shelley's folks and I told her to just drop me off at the airport and she can go home and chill out. I had a cheesy paper back book and needed some alone time. Where could be safer to get a little down time than an international airport? They have security and metal detectors and I'm an upstanding citizen. Nothing could go wrong there.......

I'm two and a half hours early for my flight and go up to the counter to check in. Everything is good, go through fine. All I have with me is a backpack and a sleeping bag, I was planning on crashing for the night before we unpacked the moving truck. When I get to the metal detectors they go through all my stuff, dump out my back pack, unroll my sleeping bag. At this point I'm a little pissed, just run it through the machine and X-ray it or whatever. One of the officers, I'm not sure what you call security at an airport, asks me to step out of line. He asks me why I'm carrying this stuff, I explain the whole thing, car dolly stolen, had to leave my truck, parents showed up to help move in, was going to crash before we unpacked, just trying to get back home. Then he informs me that some other gentlemen would like to ask me a few questions. "Can I have my stuff back?", he said "This nice woman will take care of it".

I get shuffled back into a small room and have to answer a few questions; just a few, the third time I had to answer just a few questions I'm thinking of running for it. I'm never getting out of Florida. They touched me in ways that made me feel very uncomfortable. I felt like I needed to run and find an Adult. I finally asked the nice woman, who kept an eye on my stuff that they kept going through what was really going on. She looked at me and said that I had to understand from there prospective. A single man, between the age of 20 and 45, that buys a ticket, pays in cash, one way, the day of the flight and has Army surplus gear. I got kind of loud, "Army Surplus gear?!!?" and she points to my sleeping bag. I was resigned to the fact that I was going to end up in Gitmo. I gave them the number of the police report to check and see if a car dolly was indeed stolen, the name and number to the apartment complex, whatever, just get me on that plane!

After two and a half hours I'm escorted to the plane. They had already started boarding and I was the last person to get on. The lady at the counter said "Have a nice flight". I just gritted my teeth and said "you have no idea". Being the last on the plane I had only one choice of a seat, right next to a woman that "no habla ingles" with her infant child and a two year old. Yea, just par for this course. In Florida, the plane can't take off if a thunder storm is within 5 miles of the airport. After 30 minutes of sitting on the tarmac, the flight attendant brings around cokes for everyone. Not two seconds later the two year old slaps the plastic cup right in my lap. The woman starts, I'm assuming apologizing, and I try to calm her down, no big deal. The infant wakes up and starts crying and now I'm nice and sticky for the flight back.

I usually enjoy flying, this was not one of those times. Anyway, I make it back to Nashville International and I'm one of the last off the plane. Walking with my head down I hear "Hey!" It is a friend from College in line to get on the plane I just got off. Oh, Thank you Jesus! I'm Home and I know people!

I get back home, get cleaned up and was thinking about Shelley's step dad. We had a conversation at lunch about relatives and genealogy and we have an ancestor with the same name and it just so happens there is a statue at Legislative Plaza of a guy with the same name. All three where alive around the same time, pretty curious. I was wondering if Shelley and I had a common relative, albeit step and if he could have been important enough to have a statue downtown. I had taken an extra days vacation, thinking I would be driving back and decided that I would go take pictures of said statue and send them to Shelley to give the her Step Dad. He seemed the pretty decent sort. While I'm taking pictures of the statue, a Capitol Police officer shows up and asks me what I'm doing taking pictures of a government facility, that could possibly be a target of terrorism. "Sir, would you mind putting the camera down, stepping over here and answering a few questions"?

How do you get on a watch list? Become a registered turtle smuggler, be a man between 20 and 45, buy a one way plane ticket, pay in cash, the day of the flight and you have to bring army surplus gear. And if that doesn't do it, take a camera to a prime location, possibly a terrorist target, say where the legislature meets and take lots of pictures. That should do it.
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