Ball pythons are not optional accessories on 2001 Toyota Sienna minivans.
But Marika Suominen-Yeh's van had one.
The biochemical engineer was driving home Aug. 28, when she saw a woman get out of the car behind her at a traffic light.
“You have a snake hanging from your car,” the woman told her.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Those are not words a commuter wants to hear in the middle of rush-hour traffic.
At first, she thought it might be one of her kids' toys that somehow got caught under the vehicle, but traffic was too heavy to get out and investigate. After a short distance, she pulled off the road.
Another motorist pulled up behind her as she looked. He wanted to know: Did she lose something?
No, she replied, and then explained that someone had said there was a snake hanging off her car.
“It might be the one that's in the middle of the street over there,” said Danny Markadakis.
A former snake owner, Markadakis noticed the reptile as he slowed to make a turn. It didn't look like one of the snakes indigenous to North Carolina.
Markadakis waited for a lull in traffic, then scooped it up in a blanket and took it home.
Markadakis said the snake was docile when he picked it up, and not at all aggressive.
“I'm sure it was somebody's pet,” he said. “I just couldn't see him get killed in the middle of the road.”
The next day he took the 3-foot-long snake to Avian & Exotic Animal Care. The ball python was treated with antibiotics for mild abdominal burns and was adopted last weekend.
“She's doing just fine,” said Jason Watkins, managing technician at Avian.
Suominen-Yeh doesn't have any idea where the snake came from. She asked around in her Wakefield neighborhood with no luck.
“I wondered, did this really happen?” she said. “It was so weird.”
She admits that she now glances around her car when she gets in.
“It's not very likely,” she said, “that there's going to be another one.”