Thursday, July 15, 2010
Shew! I had a setback last week. In the midst of celebrating the independence of our great nation, I almost relinquished my independence from arachnophobia when I noticed a huge red bump on my right index finger. It was hard and painful, and it popped up out of nowhere! I was positive it was a brown recluse bite, and all of my old obsessive fears returned! My brain was immediately flashing images of my future... in a hospital...having my finger removed...maybe my entire hand. I was up googling symptoms for hours when it occurred to me just how long it had been since I'd gotten so paranoid.
Seriously, this was an almost disabling fear a few years back. At least twice a day, I thought about how I could avoid the bite of the brown recluse and black widow spiders. I don't know if it was because my apartment was in a wooded area at the time (and heavily populated with spiders), or I'd simply spent too much time watching Animal Planet, but I was majorly obsessed with those damn spiders. When the time came to leave my little woodland cottage apartment and move back to my hometown, I dreaded the packing because all the empty boxes I needed were in this unlit storage space above my kitchen (the kind where you have to pull a chain to open up the ceiling and then reach for the ladder to unfold, yada yada). I knew good and well, thanks again to Animal Planet, that recluses and widows often resided in such a place. Naturally, I took the necessary precautions.
It was July mind you, as I dressed in a turtleneck pulled up to my chin, tied an old flowered scarf of my grandma's over my face cowboy style, added my reading glasses to protect the eyeballs, a ball cap, and most important, my Dad's old tube socks as protective gloves pulled up to my elbows. I climbed up the ladder, all the while thinking of a black widow I found near my front door a few days prior. It occurred to me that its pincers could possibly penetrate through the tube sock gloves, so I hastily climbed back down the ladder and put on oven mitts as well. One by one, I took great pains to shake out the boxes and launch them down to the floor in one smooth motion. Surely if there were any hidden spiders, the shaking and barraging would send out the message that I wasn't messing around. I was prepared for battle, and I would come out unscathed.
Of course, when you move, you'll find plenty of stuff not worth packing, so I had to make the journey to the apartment dumpster several times...in my protective gear. Thank God it was dark out because my neighbors could have derived any number of conclusions from my bizarre behavior and "uniform". I was so focused on spiders, I almost forgot about the raccoons that dined there every evening. Don't get me wrong, I loved watching them from my window every evening, but I never tried to make friends. Rabies isn't any more appealing than flesh killing spider venom, ya know. So, I was sure to clear my throat several times, hum some random "please don't eat me" songs, and stomp my feet a little as I walked to let them know I was coming. Trust me, you don't want a startled raccoon flying out of the garbage bin at you at midnight.
On my last trip to the dumpster, probably around 3am, once every spider free box had been packed and sealed, I felt like I had cheated a certain death...Well, at least I'd avoided a painful trip to the ER and days to weeks of sickness with possible loss of limbs or large chunks of flesh. I was so tired I had to adjust my eyes to the darkness a few times on my way back toward the steps leading to my apartment door. Just then, on the edge of the middle step, I saw a wolf spider the size of my hand! I couldn't get to my door without stepping over it! I was jolted alert, a little panicked, and completely unsure as to how I was going to get back into my apartment. True, a wolf spider wouldn't do as much harm as my evil nemeses the widow and recluse, but, whoa! This thing was huge! Finally, in perhaps my greatest act of bravery to this date, I backed up, took a breath, and began a momentum building run which enabled me to leap over most of the steps and onto the landing. I busted through the door, but my relief only lasted a moment, because I knew....I knew he was still out there. I imagined myself drifting off to sleep as the wolf spider found a way into the house. I wondered about the urban myth that you swallow so many spiders in your life time, and knew it would be super painful if a furry, hand sized spider tried to crawl into my gaping mouth as I snored away. No! I couldn't let that happen.
I tried to think fast. There was no way in hell I was going to attempt stepping on this spider. No. He was too big and too quick. I pictured him crawling up my leg in attack mode. I was going to have to kill it ninja style...with the heaviest and most deadly kitchen utensils I could find in my already sealed boxes. I tip toed out my door with a wire whisk and two mixing beaters, took another run, and leaped from the top step to the bottom landing, super hero style, pivoting quickly to face the enemy. I hurled a beater and then the whisk, and the thing barely even moved! "Oh crap," I said to myself, "I've just pissed him off!" I decided I needed to get a tiny bit closer, although, I have to say, my beater hurling skills were pretty impressive. I surprised even myself at that. From only a foot away, I hurled my last beater as hard as I could, and he scurried into a hole just beside my steps. I couldn't let it end there. I knew where he lived, he knew where I lived, and he had my right mixing beater. Okay, he wasn't actually holding my mixing beater ('Cause that would just be crazy!), but it was way way way too close to his house for me to get it now. At this point, and I'm not proud of this, I took a can of insect spray and emptied it into the hole.
The next afternoon, with the sun shining bright, I saw a few legs sticking out from the hole. I was brave enough to poke them with a very long stick. There was no movement. I fashioned some tong action by adding another stick and pulled him out of the hole. He was D-E-A-D dead, and I felt immediately terrible. I mean, he was frozen stiff. I didn't think spiders experienced rigor mortise. Maybe they don't, and the 3/4th can of insect killer just literally petrified him. Either way, I had the taste of bug spray in my mouth for at least two days after. I'm sure that ingested poison will manifest into some sort of karmic justice for the innocent wolf spider someday. It was totally unnecessary to go to the lengths I did, but I was frightened and horribly arachnophobic. Oh the awful things we do in fear and haste! This has been my true confession. May the spiders of the world forgive me...especially the poisonous ones. Oh, by the way, that red bump on my hand went away. I guess it was just a mosquito bite. Whew! What a waste of psychotic energy. Thank goodness I have so much on reserve!