So the other day John surprised me at lunch. It was pretty awesome, because I have a kickass husband. I always eat at the park, and the last few times he’s joined me for lunch, he came to the office. That day, though, he texted me saying he fell asleep. I got to the park, and there he was!
Incidentally, he didn’t lie. He actually had catnapped on the warm wooden picnic bench while waiting for me, so he did fall asleep, he just didn’t mention the location.
Anyway, we had a nice lunch together. I ate my salad while he told me jokes and news and stories. We walked around the rose garden and sat in a bench swing for a bit. When it was time to go, he said he was going to take a different way back to the office and we would see who got there first.
So he took off his way, through the neighborhood with no stop lights or traffic. I went my usual way, by the main roads in downtown at lunch hour. Traffic sucked, as usual. I allow 20 minutes for driving on my lunch hour (which still leaves me with a leisurely 40 minute lunch), so I had about 10 minutes to make the approximately 2.5 mile drive back to the office.
Just as I was approaching the turn for my office, I noticed two shimmering strands, tracing their way from the dashboard to the windshield wiper handle/ knob thingy. “That’s curious,” I thought. “It looks almost like spiderweb.”
I know, I’m sometimes sadly dumb, right?
At almost the same moment it occurred to me that the silky shimmery strands were in fact spiderweb, it occurred to me that where there is web, there is usually spider. Just as that notion presented itself, I saw it: A fat, golden-brown striped garden spider, sitting on my windshield wiper knob.
Now I don’t know that I qualify, exactly, as an arachnaphobe anymore. It’s been years since I’ve broken down into tears or screaming or incoherent fear at the sight of a spider. I hate the way they look and I hate the feel of spider webs or the unexpected tickle of their feet. I keep a good distance from them — but I also appreciate the role they play in the world. I like that they eat mosquitoes and flies. I appreciate the way the dew and morning sunlight sparkles on their webs. I’m glad spiders exist, I just prefer them to exist away from me.
Even now, thinking and talking and writing about this, I have the familiar terrified nauseous clutch in my stomach and I swear I can feel their tiny little legs on my neck and arms. Ugh. Those spider pictures on google images did not help. That was dumb. Anyway.
Since my son was born, I’ve striven not to pass on my fears to him. I try to mask my fear of spiders and heights by acting casual and what-evs. I don’t always succeed, and sometimes my silent, white-lipped stoicism is more telling than a thousand screams could be, but I endeavor to show through example that it is possible to overcome one’s fears.
So, normally, I’m pretty pleased with how I am able to handle the presence of an arachnid. Normally, I am able to retreat from the 8-legged creature, formulate a means of capture, and gently release my tiny frenemy into the wilds of nature.
In the car, though, there is no retreat. I tried, believe me. I may have been driving, but that didn’t stop me from attempting to squish myself against the drivers side door, steering with one hand and keeping only a toe on the gas pedal in a frantic attempt to give the spider plenty of space.
Spider, apparently thinking all this space was an invitation to explore, promptly dropped a line and started floating his way down to my knee. My nylon-clad knee, curving out from a skirt. I was dressed for the office, which means no protective denim jeans between spidey and me — just a thin web of nylon through which the tickle of his legs would be horribly amplified.
At this point, I became distantly aware that a low keening scree was exiting my throat, and also that my car was slowing down (as I’d now fully removed my foot from the gas pedal while trying to get away from spidey) and swerving. I managed to park quickly on the side of the road and hopped out of the car to pace up and down the sidewalk while trying to get back my breath. The whole time, that terrified high pitch keening noise keeps happening — when I become aware of it, I stop, but the second I start focusing on the spider and situation again, it must start up, because I keep realizing I’m still making it. I must have looked like a crazy person, pacing wild-eyed outside my car whilst keening with terror.
I check, but spidey isn’t going anywhere. Now he’s chilling on my steering wheel, and I’m going to be late back from lunch. Quick-thinking me spots a lighter in my backseat from our camping trip a few weekends ago, and I grab my weapon of choice and torch that little fucker. He falls to the floor of the car, curled up in pain, and tries to skitter away, but my blood-lust is roused. I ruthlessly squish him with my heel, grinding his tiny little spider guts into the carpet of my car. His web I dash my hand through, but leave the ruined strands as a warning to other spiders.
Triumphant, I got back in the car and drove to work, shaking with the adrenalin of my deadly fight. My husband is waiting for me there — turns out avoiding traffic is a remarkably good idea for getting quickly from Point A to Point B — so I excitedly tell him my harrowing story.
Dude, he was laughing at me so hard. I no longer felt like Lana, Mighty Vanquisher of Arachnid Evil! — I felt like a dumbass who nearly wrecked the car because of a garden spider. It seems arachnophobes are thinner on the ground than I thought, because no-one, no-one, has been impressed at the fire-wielding derring-do of a 32 year old mother confronted with a spider while driving. Sometimes I wish I was 6 again just so people would be amazed at the tiny things, I swear: “No way, you killed a spider! All by yourself?! That’s amazing! You’re so brave! What a big brave girl you are!”