One day about a month into my career, I was in an exam room with a client when a large-ish spider skittered across the exam table towards my hand.
“Eeek!” screamed the client.
“Eek!” screamed the vet. I grabbed the nearest book (I believe it was Miller’s Anatomy, a nice, dense tome) and dropped it on the table with a thud.
Then, from the client: “Guess you don’t love all the animals, huh?”
I felt kind of bad about that one, truth be told. I haven’t done it since. I’ve posted before about my grandmother and her love of all creatures on this planet, spiders included; surely she would be mortified at her granddaughter exhibiting such capricious murderous tendencies.
But that was my dad’s mother, and I was brought up in my mother’s house, She of the Grand and All Encompassing Arachnophobia. Her mother never met a fly swatter she didn’t like.
My mother stalked the house relentlessly with shoe in hand, and she was a registered nurse of the 60s era so “shoe” meant “10 pound white brick of a clog.” Spiders had but one purpose in life, and that was to be flattened like Alton Brown pounding a chicken breast.
So I have always had this internal struggle- I was genetically imprinted to fear and loathe spiders, yet the rational side of me knew there was nothing to fear, for the most part, kind of. I mean, I read Charlotte’s Web just like every good kid of the 80s. (And Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter too, but never you mind that.)
Spiders have webs of silk and hearts of gold, that’s what I say. Behind those eight black soulless eyes staring balefully at you inquisitive obsidian spheres lies the heart and cephalothorax of a hero.
My point is, I made a conscious decision that guilt-ridden day, full of remorse about my senseless arachnocide, that I wouldn’t kill any spiders unless they really, really deserved it. Daddy longlegs passing through are granted safe passage. Go forth and debug, my friends.
Black widows are trickier. They like to hang out in my children’s sandbox, which sets up an unfortunate confrontation: There can be only one. I dispatch my husband to be the hit man, my sensibilities unable to stomach the carnage.
I’m getting better with time, my underlying curiosity about these creatures (usually) overcoming my innate response of terror. Such was the case when my daughter informed me our front porch was now inhabited by an orb spider the size of a small bagel.
I sent my husband out to shoot it. With a zoom lens.
For reference, we take a leaf and toss it onto the web.
I told you it was big.
From the safety of the other side of the yard, I realized the gentle giant was more Snuffleupagus than Shelob. She didn’t want to jump out at me and suck out my brains, she just wanted to be left alone to spin her 7 foot web and rid my yard of flies. So we let her. As long as she stays out of my bedroom.