Spider season is coming. Spring, summer, fall: Every time the weather changes, those 8-legged predators appear. Clinging to the kitchen ceiling. Scuttling over counters. Rappelling down walls in the shower like….well, like Spiderman. I’m not one of those shrieking, jump-on-a-chair girly-girls. I don’t mind cockroaches and I love mice. But spiders scare the bejesus out of me.
We have a variety of breeds in our house. True, these are not the spiders of my Jersey youth; those baseball-sized “beauties” that lurked in our toothbrush drawer and under garbage bags in the garage. But they’re just as evil. With their segmented bodies. Multiple eyes. Spindly legs stretched like claws. Waiting-sometimes hours at a time, I’m sure-to catch me alone.
Spiders are intimidating, and they know it. They have motive. They mean harm.
I get up before my husband each day, when it’s still dark. Nervously, I turn on the kitchen light but don’t step into the room until I’ve scanned the ceiling.
“If you hear me scream, it’s always a spider,” I tell him. “So come quickly.”
I don’t care that they eat flies and ants and other insects-I want them out of the house. I want them dead. Though I sign the execution orders, my husband is usually the one who kills them. He uses a wet paper towel to squash them with his bare hands. If they’re too high to reach, he grabs a mop and crushes them into the plaster. That’s what I call an action hero.
At one point he bought an expensive bug vacuum that was marketed as a “keep your distance” way to capture pests. It touted a telescoping nozzle and a 22,400-rpm motor that sucked insects into a tube and stunned them on an electric grid. According to the catalog copy, the stunned bugs could then be dumped outdoors. “Screw that,” I said. No spiders would be set free as long as I manned the vacuum.
It worked beautifully the first time we used it. Steve positioned the nozzle over a quarter-sized beast and turned on the power. The spider whooshed backwards into the plastic tube and we heard a sizzle. I smiled.
A few days later and alone-once again-in the early morning hours, I was confronted by those creepy legs. Confidently, I grabbed the vacuum I placed the nozzle over the spider and hit the switch, but nothing happened. There was a sucking sound but no sucking. The spider began to move, so I pressed harder on the tube. I turned the vacuum off then on again, but the spider still clung to the wall. It was a terrifying moment of face-to-fangs intimacy, but I was losing confidence and the spider knew it. Finally, I dropped the vacuum and backed out of the room. I woke up my husband.
The “Keep Your Distance” vacuum hasn’t been used since.
Arachnophobia is one of the most common fears in the world. According to the website, Celebrities with Diseases (http://www.celebrities-with-diseases.com/), Andre Agassi, J.K Rowling, Jessica Simpson, Rupert Grint, and Justin Timberlake all have an aversion to spiders. Johnny Depp, Emma Watson, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Woody Allen….the list goes on. Perhaps the real question is, who isn’t afraid of spiders?
“Various therapies and self-help groups can work wonders to overcome arachnophobia,” the Celebrities site claims. “Gradual exposure to spider’s pictures or even touching the spiders can be of great help in beating arachnophobia.”
I’m not interested in beating arachnophobia. I think it’s wise to avoid anything that has fangs, injects venom, and liquefies its prey. But spiders seem hell bent on making my acquaintance. I’ve had spiders appear on the inside of my windshield while driving. Skitter across my table at a coffee shop. And parachute onto my salad while eating al fresco. Charlotte’s Web be damned, I’m not going to pet them!
One summer, I walked into our bedroom and found hundreds of spiderlings crawling over the walls and ceiling. Of course I screamed. It was my personal Nightmare on Elm Street. I’ve read that a female spider can deliver as many as 3,000 eggs-and judging by the number of tiny creatures scrambling over the walls, that sounded about right.
Steve and I grabbed wet paper towels and started crushing the seething mass. In the face of such an invasion, I was suddenly brave. Fueled by fear and anger, I dabbed hard at the walls. It took more than an hour to kill the ones we could see, and afterwards, I still imagined I felt them crawling on my scalp. Lice, I wouldn’t have minded. But spiders? I’d have to set my head on fire.
The only place in the world that doesn’t have spiders is Antarctica. But since the job market is especially tough in that neck of the woods, I’m resigned to fighting these seasonal battles. Sometimes I wonder if the spiders are keeping track of how many of their relatives I’ve killed. I wonder if they’re plotting revenge and just waiting for Steve to take an extended business trip. Then they’ll corner me in the basement and ensnare me in their silky webs. Descend upon me with thousands of fangs….It’s a horrifying thought. And one reason why I’m thankful that my husband doesn’t travel much these days.
“Naturalists have pondered this for years: there are spiders whose bite can cause the place bitten to rot and to die, sometimes more than a year after it was bitten. As to why spiders do this, the answer is simple. It’s because spiders think this is funny, and they don’t want you ever to forget them.” – Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys