I would like to preface today’s anecdote by saying I am not a squeamish person. Any fear of insects and arachnids I may have had as a child were cast aside when I went to my first sleep-away camp as a seven year old and discovered I was much more averse towards the screaming of the other girls than I was towards anything with more legs than me. I became a pint-sized “problem solver,” quietly taking care of any offending creatures in order to get the other campers to shut the hell up.
That being said, I am the kind of person who the phrase “delicate sensibilities” could be applied to in the most literal sense at times – I don’t like loud noises, foods with spongy a mouthfeel, the concept of sewing skin, even if it’s for a healing purpose, or the sensation of something gooey or creepy-crawly on my skin. (But I can bait my own hook with worms or leeches. Go figure.)
In general, I have a neutral relationship with spiders. We have a pact of sorts – stay out of my business/things I stick my body parts in and I don’t kill them. This is primarily because a) I’m kind of lazy and finding something to squish with takes more effort than ignoring the situation, and b) being from Minnesota, I’ll take all the allies against mosquitoes, gnats, and deer flies I can get. As long as I don’t have to listen to someone’s fear response, most spiders can just as well say “by your leave” and be on their way.
That is, until they get into my stuff. You see, I don’t like being surprised, and since I spend most of my life assuming there are not spiders amongst my things, it’s rather unpleasant when I discover one hiding out in my Teavana bag when I pull out one of my canisters for an afternoon brew. Had it not been the size of a nickel, I would have gasped a little then promptly eliminated it. As it was, the size of this particular spider had reached the “reluctant to squish” range because frankly, ew, I don’t want spider guts on anything I own! Let’s be honest, once they reach a certain size where the evidence of their death will be detectable, I’d much rather leave the area or shoo them away than handle any kind of guts. In this case I was caught between “you violated our peace treaty, for which the punishment is death” and “I do not want to deal with your carcass.”
It didn’t help my situation that since this particular spider was big enough to warrant more than a gasp, I accidentally flung the eight-legged crawler way too close to the opening of my hamper for my own piece of mind. Without going into too much detail about the epic battle that ensued (which involved no less than two different aerosols and all the members of my family in the house at the time), the spider was iced.
The psychological damage had just begun, though. This is the crux of what I don’t like about things that crawl. My mind goes into overdrive and even when I never had physical contact with a spider or insect, the very fact that it could have been in something I wear or a place I sleep is enough to cause to me to scratch and swat at phantom skin crawlers for the rest of the day. I had the same reaction when I found a beetle in one of my t-shirts a few weeks back. That shirt, which I had not yet worn, had to be quarantined from the rest of my clothes and then washed again before I was satisfied it was no longer contaminated. My mind freaks out and tells me, “since you didn’t know about that one, there’s probably more, including in the clothes you’re wearing right now,” and then I feel the bugs on me for hours.
It doesn’t help that I have no idea what poison or disease a spider or insect might inject into me so I err on the side of caution, assuming all spiders are poisonous and all mosquitoes will give me malaria.
So to sum up…
Spiders out of arm’s reach: safe.
S.O.A.C.S. (Spiders of a Certain Size) or ones that move in a non-standard spider fashion (ie fucking jumping): go away – oh fine, I’ll leave.
Spiders found in my things or within eyesight of a screamer: moments from death.
Spiders in my laundry basket: we both come out losers today.