My current arachnophobia explained

It’s no secret that I fear spiders of all shapes and sizes with a tingly, muscle-freezing paralysis to shame all my other fears.  As far as I know, arachnophobia has been a part of me since birth.  That said, I can recall two distinctly terrifying incidents that have shaped my current disquietude.

 

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The Cupola

My grandfather owned a cabin in Maine, to which we trekked each summer since my birth.  It was about a twelve-hour drive through the most beautiful parts of New England, and for years we split the trip in two to relieve the stress of riding in the car from two youngsters.  Almost every year we stopped in a quaint little town in New Hampshire which boasted a delightful book/toy store and a relatively ancient hotel. Although my brother and I were fairly finicky about our modern conveniences like television and air conditioning, we were willing to sacrifice extreme comfort for a night because we had a chance to experience the real attraction of this 1840s inn: climbing to the cupola that sat atop the roof (the reason for our commonplace name for the hotel, “The Cupola”).

The rooms in The Cupola were fairly small, only large enough for one full-sized bed, if I recall correctly.  My brother and I shared a room, while my parents had the next room over, which we could access by an inside door. Before we settled down for bed my father would grudgingly check every corner for intruders of the eight-legged kind, quieting my fears enough so that I could sleep.  Despite this preemptive strike, he would undoubtedly be called in once again to take care of the teeny monster from under the bed that he had missed.

This comfortable routine worked wonders until I was about twelve years old, the last year we stayed at this hotel.  My father had done the rounds, uttering some comment about how we were all getting too old for this. Twenty minutes after he left, I saw a shadow move above the window, which prompted a call to the next room. Ten minutes after that, my brother spotted a rather nasty looking adversary creeping across the nightstand, and ten minutes after that we both saw spindly legs scuttling across the floor towards the bed.  After my father had squished our foes, he scolded us for still being awake, but I saw a look of uncertainty flicker across his eyes as he scanned the room a final time.

Once he left, the trouble really began.  It felt like that scene at the end of Arachnophobia  where the family was trapped in the bathroom with spiders overflowing from the sink drain and dripping down from the windows like curtains.  They came out of the woodwork – literally – by what seemed like the bucketload, swarming about the room.  There must have been at least a hundred of them.  We tucked ourselves in with heads under the covers, so tightly that we nearly suffocated but confident that nothing could squeeze its way in, feeling the little buggers dropping onto the bed from the ceiling.  I’m surprised that our bloodcurdling screams didn’t cause the other residents to alert the proper authorities.

Needless to say, my brother and I didn’t sleep a wink that night.  We never returned to The Cupola again.

 

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The Jungle

About ten years after The Cupola Incident, my father had the opportunity to work in Thailand for a few months. His absence didn’t affect me too much, since I was away at college and wouldn’t have seen him on a regular basis anyway.  Naturally, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit him for a few weeks in the summer.

We centered our Thai expedition in Bangkok, where my father had a very Western-style apartment.  From there we branched out to other parts of the country, like down south to the beaches of Phuket, and up north to the jungles of Chiang Mai.  In the jungle we visited an elephant camp, where they demonstrated the now-outlawed logging techniques of these tusky creatures.

Inevitably, when we arrived in the jungle, I had to go to the bathroom.  Most everywhere else we had visited, including relatively swanky places in the city, sported toilets that were nothing more than holes in the ground, over which one must hover, and to which one must bring one’s own supply of toilet paper.  I expected nothing less in the heart of an Asian jungle.

To my great surprise, our guide pointed out a row of cement outhouses at the edge of the clearing in which we stood.  Armed with the roll of toilet paper I grabbed from the apartment, I chose a stall in the center.  To my even greater surprise stood before me not a hole in the ground, but an actual toilet, complete with a seat.  Of course, the toilet was placed over a hole in the ground, but in the middle of the jungle this was five-star service.

After I finished my business, out of habit I turned around to flush the toilet, forgetting momentarily that I was fifty miles from anywhere and there was no plumbing.  That’s when I saw it, sneaking up the wall from behind the tank.  The legs were thicker than my fingers, and about two and a half times as long.  The body was bigger than my fist.  It was horrible – and the worst part was that it wasn’t there when I went in.

I literally fell out the door in my hurry to get the hell out of that stall.  The look of terror was still on my face when I returned to my family.  When my mother asked what was wrong, I answered the only way I knew how: “Spider.”  My father rolled his eyes.  “No, Dad.  Spider.  Center stall.  Back wall.”  Glancing hesitatingly at me, he made his way to the stall I had just occupied.  Almost immediately, he turned on his heel and speed-walked back to our group, face white as snow.

Incidentally, since then my father has never shown any signs of irritation at my need for him to take care of a spider for me.

 

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I tell you, few and gentle readers, these frightening accounts of fear because it seems another invasion has begun.  In the past two days I have found no less than fifteen examples of arachnoid presence in my small home.  By some wondrous miracle I summoned the courage to skoosh most of them on my own, but I still needed Mike to take care of the larger octopedal invaders.

While the spiders I have found inside my home have been small enough to manage, their Kommandant seems to have taken up residence in a monstrous web spanning the breadth of my deck.  This sucker is big – not as big as the Thai terror that almost ate me – but it is certainly the biggest spider I have seen in these parts.  Even Mike, my spider-squishing knight, won’t go near it.  My outdoor plants are wilting because we can’t get close enough to water them.

If I am not heard from in several days, few and gentle readers, that means that my defenses have failed and the spiders have taken over.  With luck, I will have enough heavy books and Lysol to protect me.

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