Spiders and Koalas
(No Koalas Were Harmed in the Writing of This Article)
All I can say, is that Little Miss Muffet is lucky that she was just sitting on her tuffet. Some of us are not so lucky that we can simply run away. Anyone that knows me is well-aware that I am a card-carrying, certifiable, completely irrational arachnophobe. Despite the fact that I know how irrational my fear is, it seems that this particular phobia only worsens with each passing year. Spiders are very much on my mind, particularly this time of year, as with springtime also comes the arachnids.
I cannot explain how consuming this fear and panic can be, only a fellow Arachnophobic individual could understand. And I am not referring to those who are simply “a little scared”, or put-off by them. I see a spider, or even THINK I see a spider, and instantly my heart begins racing and pounding out of my chest, I become short of breath and nauseated, all sphincters are hyper-contracted, and in all likelihood I am also screaming for the nearest man, woman, or child to come and kill the thing for me. I dare not take my eyes off of the thing, if at all possible, because the only way this situation could possibly be ANY worse, would be if it were to disappear. A live spider on the lam, in hiding, and inevitably planning my death is definitely the worst-case scenario. What does it want? Why is it in my house? Are there not, like, billions of bugs to eat OUTSIDE? So basically, not only is this revolting creature invading my space, but apparently I am also dealing with an idiotic spider that has nothing left to lose? Excellent. This is no exaggeration, this is just a glimpse into the workings of my anxiety-ridden mind.
It can be exhausting! Need to go to the bathroom? Not without looking under the seat! Time for bed? Not without shaking-out the blankets and sheets! Time to get dressed? Not without shaking-out the clothes first (shirt, pants, socks, underwear)! Need to flip that light switch? Not without activating your best possible night vision and straining to verify that the switch is the only thing waiting for me on that wall! Time for a shower? Nope, not without first carefully inspecting the walls, ceiling, and in between the shower curtains! Then you need to dry off? Better shake out that towel again (because you know I did it before the shower, too)! You get the idea. This is why the winter is okay with me.
It has long been said that no matter where you are, you are never more than seven to ten feet away from one or more spiders. THINK about that. Just, why?? If the same were true for virtually any other species, I bet people would have questions! Say, if you were never more than seven to ten feet away from a koala bear, for instance. Sure, they’re adorable, but that would definitely be suspicious, correct? By the way, the term for a fear of koalas and/or bears (I know, it’s a marsupial, but I Googled it) is Arcotophobia. Did you know that the vast majority of the koala population is infected with chlamydia?! Yikes, the more you know (cue music). . .
Oh yeah, I'm sure it just wants to cuddle.
Back on topic: I hate spiders and anything associated with their existence. I know of their necessity in keeping the insect population in check, I understand that they are apparently more afraid of me than I am of them (so stay out of my house!), I just do not care. Are you one of those humanitarians that, instead of squishing and flattening a spider properly, comes to its rescue and then frees it outside? Then you are dead to me. If a spider comes into my home, I will not be happy until I see its lifeless, preferably dismembered carcass. Just so we’re clear.
Keeping all of my neuroses and spider bigotry in mind, I would like to bring you back in time approximately eleven years. I would have been around twenty three and working in a family practice located in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a beautiful, sunny, late spring afternoon, and I was starting my lunch break. I hadn’t brought anything with me, but some Tex Mex from a nearby local place was calling my name. I hopped in the car, and as I was a smoker at the time, immediately began to roll down my window. I lit my sweet, sweet cigarette (I have not smoked in over four years, yet at this moment find myself drooling), buckled up, and adjusted the driver’s side electronic mirror. Just as I did this, a white spider comes scurrying out from behind the mirror, and was now sitting right in the middle of it. Naturally, I froze for a split-second, then rolled the window right back up. Now what? Well, the window going up again triggered the spider to run right back behind the mirror. Do I just get out and starve? No, that’s a bad idea, Hungry-Katie was bound to alienate the patients. I looked around, but didn’t see anyone else that I knew who appeared to be going out for lunch. And would I really want to come back to this vehicle after work, not knowing where this albino bastard might be hiding? No.
So, I just leave the window up and make the four block venture over to the drive-through. My husband was never a smoker, so I didn’t use the car’s ashtrays in deference to him (remember when cars had ashtrays?), normally just ashing out the window. As the ashes grew to more than an inch in length, I came to a stoplight and decided to quickly roll the window down just a tiny bit in order to tap my cigarette, which I did, then rolled it right back up. I’m sure I was going to smell fantastic after basically hot-boxing myself in the car with a cigarette, but this was an extenuating circumstance.
As I pulled up to the speaker at the drive-thru, suddenly facing the realization that the window had to come down again, I actually hesitated. As if I was going to come up with some miraculous new method of ordering that did not require my lowering my window. I could go inside, but then again would be faced with not knowing where the spider would be when I returned. Holding my breath, I rolled down my window and tossed out my cigarette butt. A woman came over the speaker, “Welcome to [Some Taco Place], may I take your order?” Desperate to get my window back up, I quickly began to rattle-off my order, all the while keeping my eyes on that mirror. As she read my order back to me, the white spider reappeared (my Lord, had it GROWN?), and made a freaking beeline straight into the vehicle, around the corner, over and then INTO my dashboard!! I screamed my fool head off, even opening the door and climbing out, just trying to figure out where the thing had gone.
"Clearly the only item missing from this equation was the addition of fire..."
There were now two cars behind me, one of them honked. The lady came back over the speaker, “Ma’am?! Is everything okay?!” What was I going to do? Should’ve just taken my chances with Hungry-Katie, dammit. “Um, yeah, everything’s fine. . .I. . .I’ll be right there.” Still no sign of the spider, I crawl back into the car, trying my best to touch only what was absolutely necessary, sweating, freaking out, and trying not to vomit. I pulled up to the window, where an older woman wearing a headset stood, her head now out of the drive-up window, looking frightfully worried. I’m sure I was even paler than usual. “What HAPPENED?!” the lady asked me. I was kind of half-crying as I told her my situation, also revealing to her how deathly-afraid of spiders I am. As I handed her the money, my hands were visibly trembling. She looked at me like she really wanted to make it all better for me, then turned around, grabbed two heaping handfuls of napkins and handed them to me, “Here, honey, take these. Good luck! Are you going to be okay to make it wherever you’re going?” She was sweet. I assured her I only had a few blocks to drive, and that I’d be fine, but I wasn’t all that convinced myself. Me trying to operate heavy machinery whilst an unseen arachnid lurk nearby; I would probably be safer if I were drunk driving. The woman handed me my food, and I took off. No need to close that window now! In fact, I opened ALL of the windows. Maybe this thing would see the error of its ways, and make a hasty exit! I just hoped it wouldn’t be up my leg.
After what seemed like the longest short drive ever, I returned to work, parked the car, and barely got the thing thrown into park before jumping out of it like I was escaping kidnappers. Again, I face the question: Now what?! Do I go the rest of the day distracted by the fact that I know I’m going to have to face this car after work, and that it may or may not still have a creepy, little (but huge), white spider in it, on it, under it, WHO KNOWS?! Again, I look around the parking lot for a familiar face. I spot one of the receptionists, and beg her to come to me. I briefly explained the situation, careful not to take my eyes off of that dashboard. Still no sign of it. She was laughing at me, but agreed to help. I opened all four doors and windows, made sure the receptionist was now staring intently at the dash in my place, and made a run for it up to the fourth floor, where my clinic was. I was a woman on a mission.
I headed directly for the janitor’s closet and grabbed the most toxic-looking, industrial-strength, all-purpose cleaner I could find (this stuff is used for cleaning up blood, amongst other bodily fluids, and for disinfection purposes), and one of those huge, brown rolls of paper towels. As I turned to run back down to the parking lot, one of the psychologists associated with our clinic spotted me. I must have set off his therapist-senses, as I’m sure I was visibly in distress, and probably did not look like the perfect picture of mental health while cradling the cleaner, the paper towels, and my burrito. He stepped in front of me, looking just about as concerned as the woman from the drive-through, “Are you all right?” Feeling obliged to explain myself, I did so as quickly as possible, also divulging my plan to drive the spider out of hiding with the use of my handy little friend, the industrial-strength cleaner. He was sweet, too, offering, “Would you like me to help you with this?” I thought about it for a split second, but said, “No, thank you, but I need to do this.” I was being a brave little toaster.
I finally got back downstairs and the receptionist, true to her word, remained standing as my lookout. “Any sign of it?” I ask her, as I place my burrito, the cleaner and towels on the roof of the car. “I haven’t seen anything yet. You mind if I watch?” I reached into the car only long enough to grab myself another cigarette and the lighter. Clearly the only item missing from this equation was the addition of fire, but I was trying to calm my nerves! Cigarette in one hand, I grabbed the cleaner with the other and just went to town. I sprayed all over the dashboard, steering wheel, glove box, under the dash, the floor, under the seats, but still no spider. I repeat the same process on the other side of the car, and still, nothing. Had it snuck out? I quickly look up, surveying the ceiling of the vehicle, as well as the seats themselves, and the ledge just in front of the rear window, but no luck. So, I do the only logical thing and repeat the entire procedure again.
"I grabbed my burrito and ate it victoriously!"
I have no sense of smell whatsoever, and I was outdoors, but my entire car was SO drenched in this chemical that I felt myself getting light-headed. The receptionist was coughing and excused herself, but I couldn’t give up! I finished with my second round of spraying, and began to circle back around to the passenger’s side of the car. Where was it?! Suddenly, a glimmer of light reflected off of a pea-sized, white ball on the pavement. I got closer, but still couldn’t be sure what I was looking at. I kneeled over it, and just as I took another drag off of my cigarette, a couple of tiny legs began to come out of the ball, but they were quivering and weak. This thing was in a freaking puddle of this pungent, suffocating chemical, yet was still struggling to get away.
I stood up and loomed over the wretched little stowaway. Having myself a bit of a “Pulp Fiction”-esque moment, I stood, took another drag from the cigarette, and unloaded another twenty or thirty squirts on the thing until it stopped squirming. Then I stomped on it.
I did it! Sure, my car was now dripping with disinfectant and was probably inhabitable for at least a month due to the fumes, but I did it! I wiped out what I could from the car and left the windows all open for ventilation. I grabbed my burrito and ate it victoriously! I felt great! Stupid spider. When it was time to return to work, I found that psychologist and shared my triumph. He pretended to be impressed, bless his heart. I couldn’t wait to tell the physician that I worked with, he knew how bad my Arachnophobia was, so he was going to love this! Still remarkably excited, I laid out every last detail for him. He was also very kind, and gave me a pat on the back, then felt the need to share a story of his own. You see, this was a very Christian-centric practice, and all of the physicians there were devout, unbelievably selfless, and always practiced what they preached.
Apparently I reminded him of a story. He was on a mission trip to Haiti, and it was going to be for a whole summer, so he had his family with him, as did the other missionaries. They were staying in these little mud and grass huts on the edge of, or maybe IN the rainforest, I don’t recall all of the precise details. What I do remember, is that he said some of the kids came running to the adults in terror, telling tales of a gigantic tarantula that had lunged at them and hissed, even chased them a short distance. He and the others were certain that the children were exaggerating, but this WAS Haiti, and if there was a large spider around, it could be poisonous, so they sought it out. When the children showed them where to go, and the spider was located, it was about the size of your average dinner plate. The men took several more steps toward it, and this thing reared-up on its four hind legs, and hissed at them louder than a housecat! I can’t even imagine. I’d have surely sharted. Long story short, they had to kill the thing with a cinderblock.
He tells me this, all the while laughing, even slapping his own leg once or twice. It was a remarkable story, and given the source, I have no doubts as to its accuracy. He sums it up with, “We didn’t see another one quite THAT big the rest of the trip. Your story reminded me a bit of our search for it, though.” As his laughter settled, and he looked me in the eye, he seemed confused as to why my arms were crossed and I was frowning at him. I was pissed. This was a huge victory for me. “You just COULDN’T let me have this one, could you, doc?!” He tried to make it up to me later with a diet Pepsi. It may have worked. Now I’m just going end this story before my spellcheck kills me.