The story of Tillie Tooter has gripped the nation. Stranded for three days in her wrecked car, lodged in a mangrove tree beneath the freeway, the 83-year-old grandmother survived on rainwater sucked from socks and tough-as-nails resolve. Tooter returned to her Century Village condo an octogenarian heroine, but even as Toyota rolled out a new Corolla and the media rolled out the red carpet, New Times sensed another tale had been left untold. Scouring the bushes underneath Interstate 595, we turned up this exclusive, handwritten account of her three harrowing days in August.
This is... Tillie Tooter's diary.
Saturday, August 12
3:31 a.m. Oh geez... oh, Lordy, be... Don't know what hit me -- a black Z-28 or an IROC? Must've been an IROC. Damn kids! Good thing I'm not in a T-top, or I'd be toast. Tillie Tooter: Toasted. Much better off in Betty Sue. She's so feisty. Just a feisty ol' girl, hanging in like this. Aren'tcha Betty? Aren'tcha a feisty lil' Tercel, not letting that big bad IROC get you down? Awww, that's right, good girl. There, there.
4:57 a.m. Lost it -- talking to car again! HELP!! IS ANYONE OUT THERE?!
4:59 a.m. Ahhh... will have to sit tight a while. Tight is right, wedged in between the seat and door -- seat belt was really starting to chafe! Hmm... Think there's Vaseline Intensive Care hand lotion in the glove box? Should be in intensive care myself, what with bug bites. Ouch! Oh, goshdarnit, my back! Where's police or the highway patrol or the SWAT team when you need them? I've paid good tax money, now I want some help here! Is that too much to ask? Is that such a big request from an 83-year-old grandmother stuck in a swamp under the freeway? HELLO?!
11:19 a.m. Thank goodness for golf socks! Gearshift cozy doubles as nifty bota bag style water keeper! Superabsorbent, too. Mmm, not bad for sock water. Just gonna suck a few more drops out, then put back.
1:27 p.m. Parched from another rousing a capella medley of Tommy Dorsey tunes. Time for sip off socks. Hey, is that my cell phone ringing down there!
4:50 p.m. Famished! Could go for some yummy petroleum jelly, wish glove box were within reach. Montel's almost on -- wonder if psychic Sylvia Browne is guest? Granddaughter Lori always watches, maybe Sylvia will guide her to me!
5:51 p.m. Is that a whippoorwill, or my cell?! If only I had a hands-free model -- know it's Lori calling me! Sylvia, tell Lori I'm up in a fluffy tree! What is it, mangrove? Whatever, it's fluffy. Under the freeway. Oh, Sylvia, knew you'd guide her to me!
5:52 p.m. MOMMY!!
7:58 p.m. Raindrops keep fallin' on my head, cell phone will soon be going dead! Must try telepathy with sis -- Montel's not on in California for another two hours. Over here, under the freeway, in a swamp. Concentrate. Picture a fluffy tree. Come to me. Under the freeway, GODDAMN MORONS!
7:59 p.m. Very hungry. Hey -- is that a squirrel? Here, squirrelly, squirrelly... GET BACK HERE YOU LITTLE SHIT!
11:19 p.m. Finally found two slices of Freedent in bottom of bloodied white purse, hooray! Divided into bite-size portions to make last. Never going to get the blood out of pocketbook, though. Should've splurged on Shout wipes. Live 83 years, and this is what you learn!
Number of times honked horn 18, screams for help 75, licks of Halls lozenge 13, calories 9.
Sunday, August 13
2:00 a.m. Refuse to sleep for fear of snakes -- Eww! Halls almost gone. In dark can barely make out what's left of the lozenge, my precious jewel. Must fight urge to crunch it!
3:39 a.m. Still haven't crunched the cough drop. It's paper-thin now. Ouch! Sharp, too! Must be careful not to cut my tongue and bleed to death. Better put back in wrapper.
3:48 a.m. Horrible thought: What if snake eats lozenge!?
7:02 a.m. Decided cough drop was snake bait, finally crunched it, now licking wrapper but mouth getting dry. Rain, rain, don't go away, goddammit! Water level in the steering wheel cover/reservoir dangerously low! Sopped up tears with golf socks and sucked them -- very salty.
1:22 p.m. Too weak to sing, hummed a few bars of "In the Mood." In the mood for Freedent! Only one gum ration left. Had I known I'd be here so long, wouldn't have scarfed down that whole peppermint yesterday. Am a little woozy, like those guys stranded on Everest, only without oxygen tanks. They survived, and they weren't even from Brooklyn!
1:23 p.m. Are there squirrels on Everest?
1:24 p.m. What about snakes?
4:41 p.m. Found button in bloodied white purse, sucking on it to produce saliva. Read that in Redbook years ago. Mmm, tastes... minty.
5:22 p.m. If close eyes, button sort of like a Halls, but no danger of snapping it with overzealous sucking action. Who knew a button could be so satisfying?
7:57 p.m. Button sucks!! Can't produce a goddamn drop of saliva! Dried out and ready to pass on, but want to hold out as plenty of TV-movie material here if ever get rescued. Thinking of the older lady from Facts of Life for moi, Melissa Rivers as Lori, and Montel, of course, as himself.
9:19 p.m. Creepy critters everywhere. Ick! Toot-toot-tooter, don't cry... Toot-toot-tooter, goodbye.... Oh, what's the use?! I'm gonna die alone in my Tercel in a tree under the freeway! COVERED IN SNAKE BITES!
Number of times honked horn 0 (battery dead), screams for help 0 (what's the point?) licks of Halls lozenge 514, calories 7 (mostly from Freedent).
Monday, August 14
5:11 p.m. Sick and tired of goddamned big band! Nothing left for me anymore. Almost choked on button, put back in bloodied white purse and found Publix receipt. Knew she didn't give me back the right change! No matter now. Just going to jot farewell note:
I've tried to hang in there, but I just can't go on sucking the tears from my socks. I've crunched my last Halls. Time to say...
Wait... what's that?
5:13 p.m. Oh, sweet Jesus! OHHHH, what a feelin'! Knew I was saved when that handsome young Justin Vanelli saw my toes wiggling. Hallelujah! Ouch, itchy all over!
7:22 p.m. Rescued, reunited with Lori, now haggling with Toyota. They sprang for a new Corolla (blue book: $16,500) but are refusing to give Justin one. Cheap bastards! He's only 15, but he's gonna need wheels. Thinking Leo Di Caprio for the part of Justin.
7:23 p.m. Ouchie! Itchy all over!
8:22 p.m. On a Tooter roll! Reege, Geraldo, Larry, and that pill Katie Couric called. Halls recalled Cool Ice lozenges after Inside Edition safety report. Special postseason episode of Survivor -- "Terror Under Florida Interstate 595" -- airs next week. Can't wait!!
8:28 p.m. Tiger's Nike people on fence re: line of survival golf socks, but Lifesavers endorsement promising, once the shiner clears up.
9:55 p.m. Freedent sent huge bouquet; Halls sent nothing. Cheap bastards! As Justin would say, fuck 'em! Stretch limo waiting, stocked with Evian-soaked socks, seedless grapes and crystal dish of buttons -- very funny.
Number of times honked horn 44 (in delirious tantrum, forgot battery's dead), screams for help 3 (muffled by sobs), licks of button 2513.
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Thursday, August 24
Network interviews 67 (very good), book deals/endorsements 3 (1 for Justin).
10:10 a.m. Still busy as a bee! Dinner with the Daves this week: Cronenberg wants me to star in Crash sequel; Matthews discussing big-band remix of "Crash." Justin formed a new boy band, Florida Bush Hog Society, and is dating Britney what's-her-name. Rear-end me, baby, one more time!
Tillie's totals: new cars 1, new phones 1, new GPS systems 1, calories 3788 (hospital food never tasted so good!), licks of Halls lozenge 0 (kidding!).