A few weeks ago it was “raining spiders” in Australia—something about drowning and ballooning and a Jet Stream. I know this because since then, I’ve received four IMs with links to stories about it, a photo of a house covered in webs, an IM describing them as “a larger species of spider,” and one panicked phone call warning me that “it’s finally happening.” Why?
Because everyone is a jerk.
They know that if I had to choose between holding a spider in the palm of my hand and chopping off my own head and feeding it to a rabid grizzly bear, I’d chose the latter.
I’m not sure what caused this completely irrational fear in me but I’m assuming it has something to do with what happened to me when I was five. I’ll tell you the story but the details might be slightly exaggerated and even completely false. You know, like they’re being told by a five year old who would rather feed her severed head to a grizzly bear than hold a spider. But since you’re still reading this I guess you don’t really care, so here goes…
There was an episode of Gilligan’s Island when Gilligan was trapped in a cave with a gigantic 6’10” spider that tried to eat his hat. It was that very spider that lived in a three-story web that was connected to a honeysuckle bush and my grandparent’s neighbor’s house.
All summer my grandmother tried to convince me that Gilligan’s spider was more afraid of me than I was of him. I still doubt that. I’ve never seen a spider flail its arms and legs and cry like a baby at the sight of me. But my grandmother was very wise so maybe there’s still hope.
All summer my friends and I would run around the neighborhood, ducking in and out of each other’s backyards, eating bomb pops, playing Hide and Seek, and most importantly, completely avoiding that spider web. We knew that whoever broke that web would be stalked, cocooned and eaten alive by that spider. And every night I thanked god that I made it through another day.
Until that one day when I didn’t make it through.
It happened during a friendly game of Hide and Seek. Who am I kidding? Hide and Seek was never friendly. Because everyone knew that the second worse thing than getting eaten alive by a giant spider was being tagged It. I’m still not sure what It is but back then I didn’t want to be seen with It and I certainly didn’t want to be It.
I can still hear my friend counting, “…8… 9… 10! Ready or not here I come!”
I was not ready. Everyone had beaten me to all of the best hiding spots. I even offered one kid a lollipop for his spot behind the shed but the fear of being tagged It was too strong in him and he shoved me into the street to die alone.
I needed a plan! I had too much to live for. I was going to marry Kirk Cameron and be the first woman astronaut to run a nail salon in space. So, in a last-ditch effort to save myself, I squatted behind a parked car and waited.
I sat there for nearly five minutes. I would have made it to six if that killer ant didn’t fall out of my pocket and attack my leg. (Really it was the lollipop but it had the same effect). I jumped up and screamed. It was my first mistake. My friend spotted me. Our eyes met. The race was on!
I booked down the driveway, around the house, under a swing. Then in a state of panic and stupidity, I did the unthinkable…
The next few minutes of this memory are in slow motion as I struggled to untangle myself from the sticky death grip of that web. It was on my face, in my hair, on my shoes, between my fingers, on my teeth, in my eyeballs… my lungs!! (Seriously, I think I inhaled some of it.)
And the spider? Death by Strawberry Shortcake sneaker.
To this day I’m certain that the children of Gilligan’s spider are waiting to exact revenge on the five-year-old that destroyed their home in the mid-80s. Every time I see a spider I hear him say, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Then I flail my arms and legs, scream like a baby and hairspray him to death.
After my grandmother de-webbed me and tried to convince me that “it’s just like cotton candy” my friend stopped over to see if I was still alive. I invited her in. Since she was the one who chased me I think she felt a little guilty about the whole thing. Secretly, I did blame her but I shared my bomb pop with her anyway and we watched Growing Pains. Then, when I was least expecting it, she slapped me on the back, smiled and said, “You’re It!”
Because, like I said, everyone is a jerk.