Saturday, February 2, 2008

Creepy Crawlies

Warning: if you are squeamish about spiders, or even about any kind of bugs for that matter, you may not want to read this post! Just skip right over it!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I am an arachnophobe. Spiders FREAK ME OUT!! And that’s really not an understatement. So, when I got an email the other day entitled “What Would You Do?”, and it included this pic:

I, of course, was a little unnerved. My answer to that question? FLIP OUT and then MOVE OUT!! (Thanks very much to Jen for sending it, who’s just as freaked out by these things as I am!) Once I forwarded it on, I got an email back from my mom asking how you could ever let something like that going on in your house get that far. Good question. I don’t ever plan to find out.

I also got an email back from a friend who mentioned that she had gone to see Arachnophobia when it came out in the theater. She said that while everyone was watching the movie, someone put black string up in the exit doorways, so that when the patrons came out they would feel the “spider webs” on their faces. I said, what kind of sicko does this?!? And then I remembered my own experience with that movie, and realized that I know EXACTLY what kind of sicko does this.

That movie came out the summer of 1990. This was before my own phobia was completely developed, though I’m wondering now if this may have contributed to it. My friend Kelly and I decided to go see the movie in the theater. Had I known what kind of movie it really was, I never would have gone, but the way it was advertised it appeared to be a comedy. For those of you who have never seen it, it’s not. As we were getting ready to leave for the movie, my then next-door neighbor sort of invited himself along. Neither Kelly nor I protested much. The more the merrier. Being that it was summer, all three of us had shorts on. We sat in the theater with our feet up on the seats in front of us. Obviously the theater was not terribly full. My neighbor insisted on sitting in between Kelly and I, and we didn’t really think much of it. As the movie progressed, of course, we became more and more jumpy. After all, it’s not bad enough that this movie has all these spiders, but they are spiders that KILL people almost instantly. During one particularly tense scene, Jeff Daniels is in his bathroom trying to escape the spider-filled house, and as he’s trying to climb out the window, all these spiders start coming down from the ceiling over the top of his head. He is actually at one point nearly bent over backward looking up at them coming down on him. *shudder* (I tried to find a pic of this scene on the internet, but I only got about three pages into my search of Google images before I just couldn’t stand to look at any more spiders!) Anyway, my neighbor chose this particular moment to drag a chewed up and flattened drinking straw up the back of Kelly’s bare leg. She, of course, screamed bloody murder and jumped about three feet off the seat, which made me jump too! Uh, my skin is crawling! To this day I am convinced that he had the whole thing planned from the beginning, and we walked right into the trap. See? Sicko.

Unfortunately that night I had my own run-in with a real spider. As I lay in bed in the dark in my basement bedroom, I thought I felt something crawling on my arm. I at first thought I just had the creepy crawlies. But when the feeling continued I frantically hit at my arm and then turned on my lamp. Sure enough, I had launched a little house spider across the bed that had happened to crawl up on my bed after I’d turned out the lights. I slept upstairs that night.

As if that isn’t enough, years later my fear was compounded when my parents suddenly had a large infiltration of spiders into their basement, and I experienced several spider attacks on my person. This was the summer of 2000. I was already married and living in Salt Lake, but had come home for a week to help with my sister’s wedding. My mom gave me no warning about the spiders. (I think she was afraid I wouldn’t come home if I knew about them.) One afternoon, as I was in the basement vacuuming the hallway carpet next to the door to the laundry room, the suction from the vacuum slightly moved a piece of lint sitting on the linoleum floor of the laundry room. Suddenly, a big brown spider, about as big around (with legs) as a fifty-cent piece, came racing out from under the door that leads to the hot water heater (which is right there in the laundry room.) From the angle it was running, it looked like it was running right at me. Of course, I screamed and backed myself into the opposite wall, and my mom, who was doing laundry, came running. As it turned out, we believe the spider thought the lint was prey, since it had moved apparently of its own free will. By the time my mom got there, the spider was standing by the lint, “examining” it with its front legs. My mom scooped him up in a jar, and flushed him down the toilet. We experience five more sightings during that week, all of which my mom killed for me, and all of which were about the same size.

During the week I was there, I also received a call that I had been accepted to law school at the University of Wyoming. This presented a problem, since school was scheduled to begin in only three weeks, and we had no where to live in Laramie. So, the following weekend we returned to my parents’ house on our way through to spend the weekend in Laramie looking for a place to live. My parents had left for Arizona with a U-Haul to take the rest of my sister’s belongings to her, and to help her and her husband move into their apartment. My husband and I were going to spend the night at their house on Friday night, travel to Laramie on Saturday and stay, and then travel straight through back to Salt Lake on Sunday. Regrettably, our housing search went so badly that we returned to my parents’ house on Saturday night instead.

As we walked into the bedroom and flipped on the light, I noticed another spider on the wall, close to the floor. I less-than-calmly pointed it out to my husband who asked “what do you want me to do about it?” Not wanting to waste time arguing with him and give the spider the chance to get away, I told him to watch it to make sure I could still find it when I got back. I then left him alone in the room, in search of a cup to scoop it up with so I could flush it down the toilet, as my mom had done the week before. When I returned with the clear plastic cup, there sat my brave, manly husband, up on the bed with his feet pulled up off of the floor. After laughing and calling him a coward, I went about trying to “scoop” up the spider in the cup. Why I didn’t just smash the thing, I’ll never know.

Unfortunately, the spider was half on the wall and half on the base board, meaning I could not place the cup over him flat against the wall. As I tried to scoop him up, he escaped out of the created space and – I kid you not – ran straight at me. He wasn’t after lint this time. I screamed bloody murder and leaped up onto the bed next to my husband, after which the spider changed direction and ran into a pile of clothes on the floor. Well, now what? I wasn’t about to get off of that bed, since I couldn’t tell exactly where he was at. So, I lay down on my stomach, stretched just far enough off the bed that I could reach the clothes, but could still retreat in a big hurry if necessary. I began to pick up the pieces of clothing, one by one, with two fingertips, and shake them out, then toss them aside when I felt confident that they contained no creepy crawlies. Finally, I found the one Creepy was hiding under. As soon as I picked it up, he ran toward me again. I screamed again, but managed to keep my wits about me and put the cup down over the top of him. So now, picture this: my husband, sitting next to me on this bed indian-style, doing absolutely nothing to help me, and me, stretched half-way off of the bed trying not to fall off while holding a plastic cup so hard down over a spider that it’s a wonder there wasn’t a permanent circle-shaped indentation in the burber carpet.

Finally, I got brave enough to get off the bed, feeling confident that the spider was efficiently confined. Creepy, meanwhile, was running at the sides of the cup, throwing his body savagely against them, in an effort either to just get out or to get out and eat me, I never could decide which. I didn’t know what to do. I must have held that cup for 20 minutes. By the time I finally did let go of the cup, my fingers were so stiff from gripping it so hard, I could barely move them. After much discussion, we decided that Creepy just had to die here, instead of in a watery grave. I readied myself with a shoe, and took the next five minutes mustering up the nerve to move the cup. At long last, I took a deep breath, and simultaneously moved the cup and smashed the spider with the shoe. Three times. Yep, he was dead.

The next morning was a whole new experience. I went to take a shower in the basement bathroom, the door to which just happens to be right next to the door that leads to the water heater. As I got into the shower, I distinctly remember thinking “I hope there’re no spiders in the folds of this curtain.” There weren’t. Later, after getting out of the shower, I was standing bent over with my wet hair flipped upside down, using a pick to comb it out and avoid the knots later. The shower in this bathroom is right next to the door, so I was standing on the bath mat right in front of the door. Keep in mind, I had no contacts in and no glasses on. My vision is bad enough that I can see my hand in front of my face clearly at about six inches away. Anything further than that is a complete blur. Now any of you who have imperfect vision will probably understand this. When you can’t see clearly, you feel very vulnerable and defenseless. Add to that the fact that at this time, I had just gotten out of the shower and had no clothes on whatsoever…well, talk about defenseless!

Suddenly, through my blurry vision I see a brown object scurry into the bathroom under the door and just stop. I, of course, start screaming for my husband who was upstairs at the other end of the house, all the while frantically wrapping my hair in the towel and backing up into the furthest corner of the bathroom away from the spider that I could get to, which isn’t that far considering this bathroom is probably not 6 feet across at its widest point. If I could’ve climbed the wall, I’d have been on the ceiling. In my frantic retreat I also grabbed my glasses and put them on, in an attempt to be able to see in case the spider advanced on me. Unfortunately, they had been sitting in the bathroom the whole time I’d been in the shower and had steamed up. Every few seconds I would take them off again, and not having any sort of cloth to wipe them off with, would try desperately to clear the steam with my fingers. This didn’t make for very clear vision. But, it was enough for me to see that the spider was just standing there, as if he were staring at me, plotting his attack…

I don’t know how long I stood there, but I truly had no defenses. No shoes, no cups, nothing to smash the thing with. And with the previous night’s experience, I was terrified to move. Finally I hear my husband outside the door asking, “Did you call for me?” In a very high-pitched, obviously panicked voice, I told him there was another spider and to get something to kill it with. When he returned a moment later, I warned him to be careful opening the door, since the spider was right there under the door. He slowly opened the door, right over the top of the spider. As he did this, I actually jumped up onto the counter next to the sink and pulled my feet up off of the floor, (not an easy feat, considering the counter is probably not more than 3 or 4 inches wide on that side of the sink). I was sure the spider would go into attack mode. It didn’t move. There stood my husband with one of my shoes. Instead of bending down and hitting the thing, he actually dropped the shoe from shoulder height onto the spider. Luckily he had good aim and it was a heavy shoe. The spider did not survive.

After that encounter, I called my parents in Arizona to tell them they HAD to do something about this spider problem. I talked to my dad and told him the whole harrowing tale. He didn’t believe me! He absolutely did not believe that these spiders literally attacked me! Can you imagine? In between howls of laughter, he told me in so many words that he was sure I was exaggerating, and in my panicked state I just misinterpreted the spiders’ attempts at escape as an attack. I finally just told him that he could believe me or not, but the fact remained that they had a spider infestation. He agreed and said they would deal with it when they got home. The problem was, they didn’t know what kind of spider these were, and therefore, didn’t know how to get rid of them.

In the weeks that followed they managed to capture one of the spiders alive, and took it first to a Game and Fish Warden, who thought it might be a Hobo Spider. Which absolutely made me sick to my stomach. They then took the spider to the local field expert. These people are amazing. They are paid to be familiar with all things natural in the area, from the largest moose, to the tiniest parasite, the largest tree to the tiniest weed. The field expert identified the spider as a garden spider. Apparently these spiders are very aggressive, and when informed of my story, the field expert agreed that the spiders probably did attack me. (My dad was very contrite, and rightly so!) These types of spiders are also not poisonous, but have bites that do hurt. The field expert told my parents how to get rid of the infestation.

Now, years later, my family is having difficulty with Hobos, who have been positively identified as such by the experts at the University of Wyoming. I wonder now if that isn’t truly the type of spider I did battle with way back when. The new experts say the field expert probably misidentified the spider then because, at that time, there had been no documented incidences of Hobos in Wyoming. Well, there are now!

And as if spiders aren’t enough, earlier this week 5 confirmed, and 1 unconfirmed, cases of lice have been discovered at my daughter’s daycare in the preschool class. Fortunately none have been revealed in my daughter’s class, and the class with the outbreak is actually housed in a separate building from my daughter’s. The daycare has been sanitized from top to bottom, and the infected children instructed to stay home until they have gotten rid of the problem. The part that really upset me, though, is how they were discovered. A little girl came up to the teacher and told her that her head itched, but that when she scratched one side of her head it hurt. The teacher didn’t even have to lift up the little girl’s hair. She looked at the side of her head and literally SAW her hair MOVE!! My question was, how did her parents not know about this?? I brush Sweetpea’s hair sometimes twice a day, since it’s so long and gets so many knots. I couldn’t miss lice in her hair. How could that child’s parents let it get that bad?? My daughter’s teacher told me that she was forever and a day doing that child’s hair, since her mom apparently never combed, and seldom washed, it. If you ask me, that’s neglect. I feel so awful for that little girl. I do not know whether daycare contacted authorities, but I would have had I been them. In the meantime we are being extra cautious and checking Sweetpea regularly to make sure she does not have them as well. So far so good, but I guess I am destined to have the creepy crawlies at least for the next couple of weeks…

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