Stinkerbelle’s school is about a kilometre and a half from our house. It’s walking distance, so if the weather is fine, I will walk Stinkerbelle to school in the morning. It’s kinda far for short little legs — she can do it, but I don’t want her tired out for class — so I’ll usually plonk her in the jogging stroller and she rides there. Then I leave the stroller in the hallway, walk home, and go back after class to get kid and stroller, and we all walk home.
So, as we’ve been walking to school in the mornings, I have noticed something: many, MANY slugs and snails crossing the sidewalk. It’s like the first day of fall all the slugs and snails went OMG I MUST DO MY ANNUAL INVERTEBRATE EXODUS ACROSS THE GREAT CONCRETE DIVIDE TO THE BOULEVARD OF CLOVER.
(Which, if you ask me, is particularly dumb because they’re LEAVING the lush green wonderland that is the conservation area and crossing over to a weed-filled roadside strip of limited grassy potential. Anyway. Ours is not to question the philosophy behind the Great Invertebrate Exodus.)
So I am walking along, and every few feet a slug or snail is making the long trek across the sidewalk. And I am compelled to stop and say DUDES, SRSLY. It’s a long way and most of you are going to dry out or get eaten by birds or get mashed by feet before you get there. TURN BACK! SAVE YOURSELVES!
But I don’t. Mostly because a) snails don’t have ears, and 2) I have enough issues looking foolish to the general public without doing so PURPOSELY.
So I walk along, and the quasi-Buddhist tendencies in me compel me to do what I can to avoid stepping on the little fellows or crushing them under the stroller wheels. Because I don’t want to KILL them. Well, if they’re eating my flowers and plants, then ALL BETS ARE OFF YOU MUNCHY LITTLE BASTARDS. But when they’re just going about their slimy business, I tend to just let them be.
You can’t avoid ALL of them. There’s TOO MANY. I’m bobbing and weaving and herking and jerking the stroller and myself all over the frigging place. It’s nuts.
So I get into this little existential argument in my head as I plod along, while Stinkerbelle sings WHERE IS THUMBKIN tunelessly, and at the top of her lungs, like a tiny drunk being pushed in a shopping cart.
At first, I get kind of pissed, actually. WHAT THE HELL GET OFF THE SIDEWALK YOU STUPID SLIMY THINGS THIS IS DISGUSTING. But then, after watching a few of the little fellows working so hard to go so NOT FAR, only to get squashed by various and sundry pedestrians, I think OMG YOU POOR STUPID BASTARDS WHAT ARE YOU DOING? OH NO ITS STUCK TO THE WHEEL THAT IS SO GROSS. I mourn for their tiny slow-moving pastoral existences, snuffed out by my Stroller Wheels of Doom. And I like snails, mostly, so for them? I’m almost compelled to stop and pick them up and move them across the sidewalk to safety.
But I don’t, because, well, who has that kind of time? Plus they’re snails. Birds will get them, dead or alive. Circle-of-life, Planet-Earth-Attenborough nonsense and all that.
But I feel bad.
Then I think WAIT. What if this is THEIR DESTINY? What if this is their ROLE IN LIFE, to be in this place at this time, to be in Their Appointed Spot on the Food Chain? What if they are on some sort of Slug Kamikaze Mission? Who am I to fuck with THEIR DESTINY? And what if I am simply fulfilling MINE? Aiding them in their quest to be the BEST (and to birds and other bug-eaters, tastiest and most available) LITTLE INVERTEBRATES THEY CAN BE by, you know, making them ex-invertebrates?
So I am torn. To paraphrase The Beatles (the band, not the bugs, although I appreciate the pun like you can’t believe), should I Help? Or should I just Let It Be?
I’m either a mass murderer, or I’m an invertibrate Dr. Kevorkian. You tell me.
(Either way? Too much time on my hands.)