Monday, March 14, 2016


Most humans have an aversion to certain creatures we call pests—insects, vermin, that sort of thing. In some cases, it’s mere disgust at things associated with filth—cockroaches and rats, for example. But there are also more elementary fears that may be hard-wired into our core. Today, I was reminded of the latter fact.

I’m afraid of snakes and spiders, which are the first and second most-common fears for Americans, according an article LiveScience posted a few years ago. In New Zealand, which has no land snakes, I’m unlikely to have to face that fear. Spiders, however, are everywhere, and my fear of them grows in direct proportion to how big and ugly they are.

Like today.

It was still dark outside this morning, sometime before six. “Come here for a second,” Nigel said to me. I wasn’t really awake at the time, and didn’t need to get up for awhile, but Nigel persisted. “You have to go to the toilet anyway, right? Just come here for a second.”

So, I did. He was in the kitchen. “Look at that!” he said, pointing at the floor, it was a big ugly spider, about three kilometres across. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit (its legspan was probably about 3 or 4 centimetres). My heart started racing as soon as I saw it.

“It looks like a huntsman,” Nigel said, referring to the large (but not dangerous to humans) spider native to Australia and reportedly on the verge of becoming established in parts of New Zealand (Wikipedia has an article with photos). “I don’t care what it is,” I said. “Kill it!!”

I have a long-standing policy: Any spider that crosses my threshold will forfeit its life. This is non-negotiable, and the penalty is meted out the fastest for the biggest and ugliest spiders. Nigel is not as focused on assured destruction of spiders.

“It could be an Avondale spider,” he suggested next. That’s actually a type of huntsman spider that’s been in New Zealand for about a century. Typically found in the Auckland area called Avondale (hence the name…) it was the “star” of the movie Arachnophobia and was in the beginning of Spider-Man. Harmless to humans, but still gross—and also not the one in our kitchen, because that one was black.

Personally, after bit if online research, I think it may have been a vagrant spider, or maybe a jumping spider. Interestingly, seeing photos of spiders doesn’t bother me, but I can’t watch videos of spiders (Te Papa has a bunch of photos of spiders common in New Zealand). Whatever it was, had I been alone, the spider would have perished before I even knew I was eliminating it.

Nigel, however, caught it and put it in a old Chinese takeaway container after I left the room. “It’s okay,” he called out to me. “It’s on the kitchen bench now.” “KILL IT!” I yelled back, from the safety of the other side of the house. I thought he meant it was loose on the bench. Nigel must have guess that: “No, it’s okay,” he said. “It’s in a container.”

I went back to bed, certain that Nigel would think it was funny to bring it into the bedroom to show me. He never did, of course, but I had a dream that he did, and I woke up dreaming I was crying due to frustration that he wasn’t listening me telling him to keep it away from me. None of that actually happened.

However, when I went out to the kitchen a couple hours after the pre-dawn incident, the monster was still in the plastic container on the bench, but up near the lid, trying, I was certain, to open it so it could escape—to seek revenge for its imprisonment.

I went about my morning rituals, and while I did that, Nigel carried the container outside and released the spider into the bush. I was aware that his actions demonstrated a certain moral superiority over me, but I still maintain mine is the best way to deal with spider invaders.

My great hope is that spider told its kind about how it had been captured, kept in solitary confinement, but ultimately released unharmed, so he and his kind should stay clear of our house. I’m certain, however, that they’ve been plotting their revenge all day long—hey, I managed to watch (most of) Arachnophobia, so I know it’s what they do!

I don’t like spiders and snakes, and I’m fine with that. I know some people try to get over the phobias, but they can take their “desensitising therapy” and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine—like the nearest spider nest, for example. Me, I’ll keep my fear to better avoid becoming a victim.

Critters may have their place, but anywhere near me is not one of them, and never will be.

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