On a recent trip to Upstate New York for a family wedding, my husband and I nearly came face to face with a flying wild turkey. We are more urban than rural and – save for stray deer from the nearby woods – our wildlife encounters are generally limited to small birds and cute bunnies.
The turkey that went streaming past our windshield was neither small nor cute. Sitting in the passenger seat, I could see the waddle as it flew past. I was sure it would lift off in time to avoid a direct hit. But the turkey wasn’t so quick on the uptake. It hit the windshield on the upper corner of the driver’s side with a deadly thud. We don’t know where it went next. And we scarcely cared, watching in horror as the windshield cracked and began to shatter.
We were driving north on New York Route 15, and there were few other cars on the road. My husband, who kept his wits about him, slowly maneuvered the car to an upcoming exit where we found ourselves on a country road with no one in sight. I spotted a house, just like in the movies, and knocked bravely on the door. There was no answer. Undeterred, I returned to the car where my husband was examining the growing cracks in the windshield and all the glass sprayed across the front half of the car – the dashboard, seats, floor and everywhere in between. He also had a few nicks with pinpricks of blood. Otherwise, he was okay.
When I spotted a truck coming along the road, I flagged it down to ask where we were and the location of the nearest gas station. My first thought was to call the AAA for assistance, but I quickly realized it might take hours for a truck to come, and we were—quite literally—in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town was named Painted Post.
So we got back in the car, and my husband drove gingerly to the gas station a few miles away. Our first task was to find a vacuum to suck up all the glass. But there wasn’t one we could use. So we drove a little further to a car wash and while my husband went to work on the glass, I set out to call for help.
Thus began a two-hour marathon between our insurance company and the AAA, neither of which could deliver immediate assistance. A series of calls back and forth brought bad news: No help was available that day. Roadside service couldn’t come until sometime later the following afternoon.
At that point we knew we were going to miss the first night of the family celebration; we didn’t want to miss another night too. And it was getting late. So we borrowed a roll of clear strapping tape and reinforced the cracking window as best we could. There was a feather lodged in one of the cracks as a souvenir. And the impact from the turkey had grown to a concave indentation just about the size of the body of the bird. It looked like one strong breath might send the entire windshield crashing into the front seat of the car.
Luckily, we found a nearby hotel for the night and began another series of calls to arrange for the car to be towed in the morning to a brick-and-mortar facility 45 miles away that could replace the windshield early the following day. It’s a good thing I worked for the federal government for many years; it prepared me to handle the seemingly endless bureaucratic loop that had to be navigated to put together all the arrangements.
The next morning a behemoth of a tow truck arrived and loaded the car. We climbed into the cab with the driver and set off on the ride that would deliver us to the windshield replacement facility. By early afternoon, we were on our way, back on the road, heading north towards the wedding.
The countryside was beautiful, but I kept scanning the skies for wayward turkeys. Lightning sometimes strikes twice, despite the adage that it doesn’t. I didn’t know if the same axiom applied to flying turkeys, but I didn’t want to take any chances. A few hours later we arrived safe and sound on the banks of Lake Ontario with a new windshield and a heck of a good story to share.
As we reflected on our adventure, we came to a few truths: We were lucky to have escaped unscathed; had the bird hit lower on the windshield, it could have broken through the glass and flown directly into my husband’s face. We were also as prepared as possible with insurance and towing coverage for the car, along with my skills in navigating bureaucracy. And we didn’t have to worry about the costs incurred by way of our insurance deductible and extra night in a hotel. Last but not least, we had a wonderful wedding to celebrate with loved ones from across the country.
The only question left hanging is what we will serve for Thanksgiving. The thought of turkey somehow isn’t appetizing.