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What you’re about to read just might save your life . . .

August 16, 2011

Yet another way Indiana Jones movies traumatized my childhood.

My daughter loves creepy crawly things.  And she’ll take them anywhere she can get them.  Under rocks.  On trees.  In garden sheds.  Attached to lawn chairs.  Six legs, ten legs, a hundred legs, no matter.  She loves them all. 

She even loves spiders.  Now this is where I draw the line on her affection.  I do not like spiders.  I do not like them in a box.  I do not like them with a fox.  I do not like them in a house.  I do not like them with a mouse.  I do not like them here or there.  I do not like them anywhere.

Please don’t get all “save the whales” on me.  I get that they need to be kicking around here in order to prevent a cricket infestation.  And, truly, I mean them no harm.  I’m a pacifist.  If I could, I’d catch them in a jar with an extended mechanical Go-Go Gadget arm that would allow me some distance.  I would then place them safely outside, reunite them with loved ones, buy them a beer, say “no hard feelings,” and go about the rest of my day.

But instead I just squash them dead.

"Ward, get the pickaxe."

The other day I was vacuuming out the hallway closet and disrupted a spider lurking inside our communal shoe basket.  He came right out to yell at me about all the racket I was making.  And while I was at it, get off his lawn!  Scared the June Cleaver right out of me.  I swear it.  So freaked out my workday pearls popped right off my neck. 

For starters, he was the size of a large rodent.  Only hairier.  And then, an unsettling realization crept over me – he had probably been squatting there for ages, our family’s own shoe basket Kato Kaelin.  Here I’d been feeling all contented in my spider-free life, and all the while he had been living in there, scheming to descend upon me at some vulnerable moment when I least expected it.  Maybe while I was unconscious in my bed at night?  Perhaps he’d burrow under the rim of the toilet where my scrub brush doesn’t reach? 

Poor spider didn’t know who he was messing with.  Because, guess what?  I had a vacuum.  Bye-bye, Mr. Spider.  Yep, sucked him right up like a Looney Tunes Acme pest control service.  I could actually see his hair fly up and his body slant to the right while he dug his little grippers into the rug.  A second later it was all over and done with.  Nothing to see here, folks.

Only then, another second later, I stepped barefooted onto a miniscule prickly something in the vicinity of Mr. Spider’s Last Stand.  A rational person would assume it was just a stray piece of cat litter dropped from Matilda’s furry foot pad.  I, on the other hand, was convinced it was an amputated spider fang.  Sure, a final middle finger to me, courtesy of Mr. Spider.  And with that, I leapt up in the air yelping, howling and frantically flinging toes around like I was completely off-my-rocker insane.  My daughter ran into the room to investigate. 

Margot:  Mommy, what happened?

Me:  I just stepped on a furry spider fang.

Margot:  A what?

Me:  Nothing.  I just saw a spider.

Margot:  Where is he?  (Eyes wide and sparkling like dewdrops on honeysuckle leaves.)  Can I go get the bug jar?

Me:  Oh, no.  He’s gone now.  He ran away.

Margot:  Let’s go look for him.  What’d he look like?  I bet he’s hiding in that basket!

Me:  (What the…what are you, some kind of sleuthing spider bounty hunter?)  Nope, he’s gone now.  He probably went to find his friends outside.

Margot:  Awww.  Okay.  Tell me if you see him again.

Me:  Okay, sweetie.  I love you.  Now please go back to that creatively-stimulating art project I’ve facilitated for you on our uncluttered kitchen table.  A delicious, nutritious dinner will be ready in five minutes.*


This all might make more sense to you if I explained one thing.  I suffer from spider-induced post-traumatic stress disorder.  This is a fact.  Yes, if I get any indication that a spider or some part of a spider has grazed my flesh, or that he appears to be a pole vault jumper, I go into full-on ape-crazy mode.  

It all started like this.  It was a summer evening in 1989.  I just finished 7th grade.  All summer I would stay up until nearly four o’clock in the morning watching old reruns on Nick at Night.  Then I’d sleep until noon the next day.  Yesiree, my parents were mighty proud.

So in closing out that night with my favorite rerun, The Patty Duke Show, I briefly glanced upward to see what appeared to be a dark stain on our ceiling.  But then it moved.  And that’s when I locked eyes (at least six of them) with the largest spider ever to have inhabited the continental United States.  I figure it came over on a boat from South America, hopped a ride on some boxes shipped to my dad’s hardware store, and then it hitched its way to my house. 

Without anyone awake to help out, it was up to me to do something.  Quickly, so as not to lose him forever into a ceiling crevice, I grabbed the first shoe I spotted.  Standing on a chair, shoe in hand, I assumed the bludgeoning position.  Closer…closer…almost near him…almost ready to slam him into my Reebok treads…any moment now…shoe is just about to make contact…  And that’s when he fell!  RIGHT ONTO MY HEAD.  More specifically, RIGHT INTO MY BANGS.* 

(*Side note:  In 1989, in order to achieve the “lift” desired by mall bangs enthusiasts, I had to curl my bangs into three descending rows, which were then teased and sprayed to form a ball resembling a kitchen scouring pad.  Quite possibly this also resembled a spider’s lair.) 

So, naturally, I was screaming at this point.  Blood-curling-campy-1970s-horror-film screaming.  I was also running around the room like I was on fire.  I finally employed the lifesaving maneuver “stop, drop, and rake-fingernails-ferociously-across-the-scalp.”  How will I ever know if he’s dead?  A brilliant idea flashed through my mind.  I will drown him.  I ran to the bathroom and threw my head under the faucet, screaming throughout the process.  By then, my dad had gotten out of bed, mad as holy hell.  And there he finds me.  Three in the morning.  Drenched hair.  Screaming my lungs out.  Head stuck under the sink.  A spider is stuck in my hair, Dad.  The biggest one you’ve ever seen in your life.  For God’s sake, don’t just stand there!  Grab the dog clippers and shave my head!  

You won’t believe this, but nothing I said convinced my dad of the dire situation I was in.  Or that my reaction was justified. 

"Jeepers, Poppo, it's gonna live in my hair forever."

Disturbingly, I was never able to certify a Spider Proof of Death.  And my dad insisted my up-all-night rerun marathoning come to a screeching halt.  I have to wonder, in a pickle like I was in, what would Patty have done?  She would’ve deferred to her calm, sensible cousin Kathy, that’s what!  For future spider run-ins, I’ll try to defer to my calm, sensible daughter Margot.  Although, I promise you, I would not have stuck my head in a bug jar.  Because that’s what she would’ve done.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2011 3:49 pm

    Spiders freak me out. I saw a tarantula on the golf course and about fainted. And recently, the pest control guy put some glue traps in our utility closet and guess what they caught. Brown.. FREAKING.. recluse spiders. No joke.

    The skeptic in me makes me wonder if he planted those in their just to get me to sign a contract for monthly visits…

    • August 16, 2011 3:59 pm

      I’m glad you told me this AFTER my visit to your house. Yes, sounds totally like a Laurel & Hardy type of stunt to me.

  2. jesse permalink
    August 16, 2011 4:12 pm

    NO WAY. NO HOW! are you going to see me around any spiders, i leave that up to the wife or a steady stream of any chemical i cand find that has a shooting distance of at least 3 feet!

    • August 16, 2011 8:18 pm

      Let me know what that 3-foot-spraying chemical is as I’d love to have it on hand.

      • February 24, 2012 8:12 am

        Be careful Jesse. After reading this, I realized why all winter I kept finding dead crickets in my kitchen. I killed all the spiders and so now I have nasty black crickets! YUCK!

        Angie Z. wasp killer has a long range and I think it’ll kill anything.

      • February 24, 2012 6:58 pm

        Wow — really? So there needs to be some sort of balance even in your own home’s ecosystem? This is all very disturbing to me and may explain our summer fruit fly problem.

  3. LaVonna permalink
    August 16, 2011 4:29 pm

    I’m scratching my head now! And it is all your fault, Angie. We sometimes see the wee spiders and I can ‘feel’ them on me for hours.

    • August 16, 2011 8:20 pm

      I could hardly insert the spider pictures into this blog post without feeling them crawling on me.

  4. August 16, 2011 5:50 pm

    This has to be a gene from the Link side of the family…because Laurie has it too!
    However…her children would take in most critter…including their snake friends…yes…SNAKES…now that really horrifies me…when are you going to address “Snake” fears Angie?

    • August 16, 2011 8:22 pm

      You’re probably right, Doris. My mom used to comfortably pick up spiders and put them down her sister’s shirt…so I know it doesn’t come from her side.

      I can handle snakes so long as they’re not wrapped around my neck or something. I guess I could never work in a carnival.

  5. Shari permalink
    August 17, 2011 12:32 pm

    I’m with you on the deep-seeded spider phobia/hatred. Not just the creepy crawly bug itself, but walking through a web sends shivers down my spine and I do the arm flailing, hand slapping, leg hopping jitters. When I’m mowng and run into one either in the evergreen trees which hang over my fence line from my neighbors (have to remember to thank them) or between the lines of my clothesline, and my neighbors see me to the above mentioned moves, I’m sure they are quietly warning their children to stay away from the crazy lady next door.

    • August 17, 2011 8:12 pm

      Yes! I totally understand that reaction! I think you suffer from my phobia to the same degree. Just the idea that you may have touched something a large spider has touched is enough to do you in.

  6. Punky Brewster~ aka Jaclyn permalink
    August 17, 2011 6:40 pm

    There is something special about a post where you can reference 80’s TV, Nick at night and high bangs. I am with you on the creepy crawly bugs- I learned early on that a bottle of hairspray goes a long way- I keep hair product in the house not for my head but for protection.

    • August 17, 2011 8:14 pm

      Hairspray spider repellent. Now why didn’t I think of that? I obviously was not lacking a plentiful supply of hairspray back then, given my demanding hair upkeep.

      • Punky Brewster~ Jaclyn permalink
        August 18, 2011 8:12 am

        AND you can stand at a distance for the attack! No concern over it dying and falling into your bangs, again.

  7. February 24, 2012 8:09 am

    I too had mall bangs, though not to that extent. One summer we had a heavy miller moth population. So heavy, when you opened any doors, 10 of them would bombard you with their furious dusty wing gunk. I got one stuck in my bangs, then proceeded to run around the yard screaming and slapping my own head three stooges style. Later, when mall bangs were out, but I had a mushroom shaped, permed bob on my head, on a trip to Elitch Gardens I had a spider start making a WEB in my head while I waited for my brother to go on a roller coaster I was too chicken to go on. Different scenario, same ending, only much more public.

    • February 24, 2012 7:03 pm

      These stories are by far better than my mall bangs story and perhaps anything I could’ve ever written about spiders or the like. I have a friend who I recall being driven straight to the brink of insanity by the Summer of the Moth (aka Miller), circa 1992. The way they just sort of drop on you all batty-like is beyond unsettling.

      In conclusion, your comment made me wet myself in terror and due to absurd amounts of laughing at the thought of a web in spun in someone’s hair.

  8. February 25, 2012 5:51 pm

    Spiders freak me out too. But thank God I’ve never had an experience as traumatic as yours.

    • February 26, 2012 3:01 pm

      Yes, it’s really quite a wonder that those mall bangs never became the death of anyone, via poisonous spider trap or otherwise.

      • February 26, 2012 4:56 pm

        I knew there must be a reason I’ve avoided bangs.

      • February 26, 2012 7:26 pm

        I finally have bangs again, but they are firmly, through gel and other means, plastered to my forehead.

      • February 28, 2012 6:50 pm

        Perfect. No pest can crawl into that sort of stuff.

      • February 28, 2012 6:49 pm

        That’s certainly a good reason to.


  1. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. « Childhood Relived

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