I hate spiders. No, let me get that right. I loathe spiders. I might even have arachnophobia, to tell the truth. And I found that out the hard way just a week ago.
Driving to work one dark morning the week before spring break, I was fighting the urge to curse the darkness. I mean, who wants to be driving to work before 7:00 a.m.? Still half-asleep, I was driving slowly enough to notice something glimmering in my windshield, illuminated by the streetlight. A spiderweb.
Surely that web was on the outside of my windshield, I reasoned. No chance a spider had climbed inside, I thought. My Jeep sits in the garage, windows shut tight to avoid just such possible problems. So I reached up to reassure myself–only to find that, no, the web was on the INSIDE of my windshield, and proving that, as a matter of fact, I wasn’t making this trip alone.
I recoiled from the web and the thought, focusing hard on the task at hand–driving to work, vowing to head to the carwash right after school. There, I could count on several hard-working guys to climb through my car, rags and potent solvents in hand. They’d spray, clean, and vacuum that sucker right out of there. I took a deep breath and made it to school without ever laying eyes on my passenger. Little did he know he’d be a goner soon.
Yet, after the kids left for the day, I got busy on a project, somehow forgetting the time until it was too late for me to head to the carwash. Tiptoeing into my car that afternoon, I reassured myself that since the web wasn’t any bigger, perhaps it had been there for weeks–a mere relic, a record of a spider having been in the car–with emphasis on the past perfect tense. Past. I could breathe a sigh of relief and drive home.
The next morning, as I climbed into the car, I didn’t notice any remodeling of, nor addition to, the web. So I was right. He was a past participle. Until I left the garage and hit the same spot on the same quiet road. There, the streetlight told the truth: the web was not only larger, it now took up the entire width of my windshield.
My choices were simple: drive as fast as possible to school, hope the spider never made eye contact with me during the trip, and head straight for the carwash right after school. That, or call for a substitute, but I don’t recall seeing “Spider In Car” as an acceptable absence reason.
After school that day, I darted out as soon as possible. Never mind that everyone else in town was at the car wash with me, and the wait was longer than usual. All I cared about was a clean, spiderless car to get me home safely.
And clean it was, after a 25-minute wait. I noted with pleasure the cheery, lemony smell, the absence of desiccated French fries on the floor, that shine on my dashboard–and, best of all: my clean, spiderweb-free windshield. I headed to pick up dinner: pizza.
And then I saw it. Just a flicker, then a small movement in the corner of the dashboard. The spider. Crap! He was huge! All that carwash had done was awaken the beast!
One eye on the road and one eye trained on that corner, I drove like a bat out of hell for the pizza joint. I prayed that my eight-legged companion would just crawl back whence he came, at least until I could get home. And he did, to my extreme relief. Back into the corner of the dashboard where I hoped he’d stay. At least until I could recruit help.
When I walked in to pick up the pizza, I was greeted by an employee who’d obviously been recently trained to use the customer’s name as often as possible. “Hi, Sue! Glad to have you, Sue! Your pizzas will be ready in just a moment, Sue!” I smiled weakly, paid for the pizzas, and plodded out to my car, hoping the monster was still where he belonged, hiding in that crevice.
As I set the pizzas on the seat, eyeing the dashboard, I noted a funny-looking knob and wondered why I’d never noticed it before. Why weren’t there two, I wondered, when I suddenly realized with fresh horror that my nemesis had crawled out and was sitting scrunched up like some arthritic, knobby-kneed, elder version of the quick-moving critter I’d just spotted on the way here.
I guess it was my movement as I set down the pizzas that startled him. No oldster after all, he rocketed across the dashboard toward me, and I screamed, dropped my purse on the seat, and ran back inside the pizza place.
“Hey, Sue! What do you need, Sue? Anything wrong, Sue?” the same employee greeted me.
The store was practically deserted. “I’ve got a spider in my car,” I blurted, “and I’ve got to get him out!”
Friendly Employee just smiled, “I know you can do it, Sue! I have faith in you, Sue!” as he watched me grab as many napkins as I could stuff into both hands. I wished he would help me, I wished I hadn’t tipped him, but what I wished for most of all was a cattle-prod, a ski pole, any tool long enough for me to smash the spider without getting close to him. The napkins were a poor substitute and a guarantee that if I could vanquish him, my hand would be mere centimeters from his black, hairy body when I did make contact.
I glared at Friendly Employee on the way out and walked back to my car like a condemned woman. I knew that each of my feeble, abortive attempts to corner the spider would be monitored, not just by Friendly Employee, but also by the customer who’d just walked into the pizza place. I’ll admit to a few loud screams and some flailing, but to no avail. All I managed was to get the creature to retreat back to his crevice.
I’ve never driven home so fast. With one eye on that corner, praying all the while he wouldn’t dart out and cause me to crash the car, all I could think about was getting home, where one of my sons would surely come to my aid. I mean, after all, I was bringing pizza.
Once back in my driveway, I begged my older son and his friends to climb through the car and pluck him out of there, but they were unsuccessful. They claimed that he “fled” and disappeared under one of the seats.
After googling “How long do spiders live” and finding one claim of one to two years, I’m driving my husband’s black, eggplant-shaped, 15 year-old van, complete with broken tail light and crunched side view mirror.
I hate that car, but I hate spiders worse.