This Fruit Is Filled With Spiders

Some people wonder how I can be afraid of spiders. Others marvel that I detest bananas. I’m sure that there are deep psychological causes for these feelings of revulsion, but I’ll let this video of a spider bursting out of a banana sum it up for me.

No, really. A spider coming from inside a banana.

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I’ve Never Been to See a Shrink

I’ve mentioned my arachnophobia before. So why do I stop and look at spiders? I wish I knew!

I'll swallow your soul!

I’ll swallow your soul!

Seriously, this thing seemed to me to be about a foot or so in diameter. I swear it laughed at me as I took the picture.

“Think you can prove anything? I’ll only appear to be the size of a dime in your pathetic picture! Mwa-hahahahaha!”

Then it tried to flip me off, but spiders don’t have fingers.

Beware the Rides of March!

Tuesday tried to kill me on the drive in to work. It didn’t act alone, either. Daylight Savings Time set me up to be completely exhausted and sugar crashing, despite having eaten a normal breakfast. There doesn’t seem to be a clock reset for my gastrointestinal tract, so I just have to keep enforcing the new schedules until we settle on some sort of compromise.

It’s sort of like dealing with the kitten. I pour a glass of water for my pills, and Fischer jumps up on the counter to stick his nose in it. I move the glass to the other side of the crock pot that blocks his way. He jumps over the pot as I fiddle with the safety packaging on my sinus meds. I pick up the glass again and try to move it to the kitchen island. Now Bogart is entwined in my feet, and I’m stuck there with a glass of water in one hand, a half-exposed pair of capsules, and two cats staring at me.

I’m not sure whether my internal clock or I am the kitten in this comparison. That probably means it’s a terrible analogy, but I’m completely exhausted since the time change so it’s just going to have to do the job.

Anyway, Tuesday was trying to kill me.

This was one day before the latest big storm so the roads were clear, the snow was melting, and everything was various shades of drab. I was driving my Ion to work, as Wendi and I had separate plans for the evening.

You know how most accidents happen near home? It’s not just because that’s where you mostly are. A big part of it is that we tend to disengage — run on auto-pilot — when faced with the routine.

So there I was, wiped out and zoning out, driving down a dreary country road. My brain noticed that my eyes had picked up something out-of-place. Blearily, it checked out what seemed to be a patch of dirt that loped across my view. There was something familiar but misplaced…

Deer! I hit the brakes and slowed rapidly as three deer passed in front of me. Down to 20 mph, I barely missed the last one. I’ve never yet hit a deer, and I really don’t want to test my little coupe against one.

But Tuesday was just warming up.

Now I was awake and acutely aware of my surroundings. Too aware, as it turned out, because I then noticed movement in the car. On my steering wheel.

There was a spider on my steering wheel!

For those of you who are newer to Atomic Zombie land, spiders are my natural predator. They have mocked and pursued me since childhood. I don’t care how beneficial they are, the scheming little bastards are vile and filled with tiny, bitey loathing for humanity. And now one sat on my steering wheel, probably considering options for attack.

I withdrew my fingers as much as possible, until I barely had the tips on the wheel. Twist, turn, down the road I went, peering intently at the spider while searching for more deer. Every time the spider moved I flinched. Every time I turned the wheel to follow another curve, the spider moved.

Recipe for disaster: 1 spider, gently resting on the steering column; 1 arachnophobe at the wheel, pre-agitated; Send driver down winding roads at 55 mph for 10 minutes, then dodge potholes on city roads.

I can’t explain how I managed to reach the parking lot without crashing. Nor do I know where the spider landed when it fell off the wheel after a sharp turn. For hours I suspected that the infernal thing had hitched a ride on my jeans.

If it did land on me it must have abandoned its schemes. Maybe it saw all of the scabs from Fischer biting and scratching me and realized it just couldn’t compete with that level of determined attack.

Gah! Spider Puppets!

You may remember that spiders are my natural predator. You may also recall that above all else I fear signs of intelligence in the leggy bastards. News of communities of spiders cooperating when food was plentiful convinced me that the end was near.

Well, according to this article on Wired, we now have evidence of spiders that put on puppet shows! They make spider puppets out of bits of debris and wiggle them. Why? It may be to mislead predatory birds, but they won’t know unless someone sits and watches enough spider puppet shows to prove out the theory.

Spider. Puppet. Shows.

I can’t even.

Emblematic of Entomophagy

I’m at work with my team this fine Saturday to support the release of a new product. A lot of effort has been put into making us comfortable and keeping the atmosphere light. There’s an extensive breakfast spread, balloons are everywhere, and there are reportedly games planned for when we’re sure everything is okay.

QA, understandably fixated on bugs, gave us all special necklaces for the day. They glued plastic toys of insectivores to Mardi Gras beads and left them on our keyboards for us to find this morning. The idea was that these bug-eating beasties would help keep the launch free of bugs.

I believe that I’ve discussed my arachnophobia here. So of course, while everyone else got centipedes and scorpions, I came in to find a spider lurking at my station.

Now I don’t want to be the jerk that won’t play along, but there’s no way that damn thing is hanging between my nipples. After an ill-considered attempt to wear it backwards (“Aaagh! It’s in my neck hair!”) I used the materials at hand to modify the charm.

If I was a bug this panda would terrify me.

When my handiwork had been discovered by QA I explained that pandas also eat bugs, if they happen to be on yummy bamboo shoots. This claim was met with suspicion, but I was granted points for ingenuity.

When the release wraps up smoothly, they’ll have to acknowledge the power of my panda pendant.

Spider Attack in the Fish Store

Okay. So there weren’t spiders, and they didn’t attack, but that’s what my brain thinks happened. It may as well be true. At least the part about what didn’t actually happen taking place in a fish store — that is undeniably true.

Wendi wanted to get some plants for a new tank she’s setting up, so we went to a fish store in Ypsilanti after work. While she picked out plants, I wandered the store looking at the fish and other underwater critters.

I wound up at staying at one tank for a few minutes, watching an electric blue crayfish drag and shovel gravel out of its nest. At one point, while it was dragging a particularly large piece, it lost its grip and the stone slid back down into its nest.

The crayfish stared at the escaped gravel, and I swear to you it sighed!

Feeling embarrassed for the crayfish, I moved on into the salt water tanks. Here’s where the neat stuff is: corals, urchins, anemones, and other bizarre life forms.

The paths through that section of the store are narrow, so I was almost touching the tanks as I peered into them. That’s where the spiders attacked. Rather, that’s where I was not in any danger from things that were not spiders.

I looked into the tank at the level of my upper chest and saw a spider. An underwater spider with a tiny body and spindly legs about 4-5 inches long. Immediately panic set in, and although my eyes calmly pointed out that the label identified this as an arrow crab, the portion of my brain responsible for spider identification mustered all available wiggens units.

Desperate to avert an outright panic, my eyes veered to the tank on the right, where they had previously noticed a nice, safe sea urchin. What could be scary about a ball? “Spider!” shrieked my brain, and the troops of wiggens coursing through my body echoed “spiders!”

Not only was there an arrow crab sharing space with the sea cucumber, but there was another one in the next tank after that. I’d have to squeeze past all three crabs (spiders) to get out!

By then there wasn’t any choice. My eyes had thrown in with my faulty spider-detector and the wiggens were rapidly seizing control of my limbs. They guided me swiftly to the cash register, where Wendi had just bought plants, tank goodies, and a few more platies.

She handed me the bag to carry to the car. I didn’t look inside. If there spiders in there, I didn’t want to know about it.

Spider Farm

I don’t remember when I began to fear spiders. I can remember playing with cellar spiders and holding them in my hands, but at some point I became convinced that they were plotting my death. My mother blames Scooby Doo cartoons, with their spider webs hanging over everything. I’ve never been the manly sort, but I refuse to believe that anything the Scoobies encountered ever frightened me.
I have theories of my own: the scene in “The Incredible Shrinking Man” where Grant Williams fights a spider over some cake; the thought of brainless, instinctual hunters; the obvious fact that spiders are downright terrifying.
The actual source of my fear is purely academic. When I see a spider on my steering wheel, I don’t think “My, my. An arachnid! I wonder if mayhap the giant cave spider episode of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ planted the seed of unease that has grown into my current pants-shitting terror.” Rather, I think “AAAAAAAGH!” and try to avoid crashing while I crawl into the back seat.
Oddly, tarantulas don’t inspire the same fear in me. I’m sure one would scare me if it appeared on my steering wheel, but no more so than would anything else — say a koala bear or a presidential candidate. I made a study of tarantulas when I designed a crochet pattern for the Mexican Red-knee species, and I don’t consider them to be spiders anymore. For them, I have only the wariness I feel of any non-domesticated fangy creature.
An ordinary house spider, though — clearly part of the vast anti-hominid conspiracy.
One night when I was very young, I awoke to find myself surrounded by dense webbing. I wasn’t certain what would happen if I touched it, largely because the phrase “immediate desiccation” resided outside of my vocabulary, but I knew that I shouldn’t move. Looking to my left, I saw something incredible. There was a clear path to the door! It wasn’t very high, but I could make it if I was careful. I slid gingerly out of bed and crawled slowly out of my bedroom. Then I ran to my parents for help.
My mom was less than sympathetic to my plight when no webbing was evident in my room.
Clearly, I’d been set up. But how? By whom? The answers came quickly. As I glared sullenly at the ceiling I caught movement in the corner of my room, where the walls before and to the right of my bed met the ceiling. A light twinkled there, dim but observable in the darkness. At once I realized that the spiders had a holographic projector. Jerks!
Those deceptive spiders got left behind during the first of many moves in my childhood, and I’ve not encountered any with that mastery of technology since. They appear to be local to Kent County, Michigan. If you’re in that region and experience horrific visions in your bedroom at night, you should check the corners of your bedroom ceiling. Or pull the mask off of old man Jenkins.
What worries me more than spiders with technology are social spiders. Working alone, even the venomous ones are at a disadvantage against humans. But a group of spiders that will not attack each other can even take out William Shatner — at least until his character is miraculously resurrected for the final reveal.
In Australia a few weeks ago, wolf spiders escaped rising floodwaters and took over nearby farmland. Pictures showed webs covering everything; in one a dog wandered through tall grass under a canopy of webbing. None showed any victims drained of all body fluids, but when ‘Australia’ and ‘spiders’ share a sentence I’m pretty sure that those are a given.
Back in 2007, conditions at a Lake Tawakoni State Park in Texas created an overabundance of insects. Food was so plentiful that the spiders didn’t have to compete for resources. Quite the opposite, their response was to work together and share in the bounty! This incident involved spiders of different species, although the majority seemed to be Long-jawed Orb Weavers. The pictures showed white curtains wrapping and connecting trees. White curtains, filled with hungry, cooperative death machines.
John Wyndham, most famous for the novels that “The Day of the Triffids” and “The Village of the Damned” were based on, left behind an early draft of a book upon his death. Called Web, it told of an island where a group of idealistic settlers encounter a species of spider that form battalions and swarm like army ants. The infested scenery Wyndham describes matches precisely the pictures from Texas.
If that’s not enough to remove arachnophobia as an official diagnosis of mental disturbance, consider the series “The Future is Wild”. Aired in 2002, the show explored evolutionary possibilities put forth by a team of scientists that included mostly biologists, botanists, geologists, and zoologists. Different landscapes in one of three future eras were examined each episode, with descriptions of a few potential species that would be suitable to the environment.
Episode 9, “The Great Plateau”, takes place 100 million years in the future and focuses on the region where Australia, Japan, and Kamchatka have collided. Here dwell poggles, the cute descendants of hamsters. They are the last mammals on Earth(!), and they eat seeds in tunnels along the cliff tops. How do they get the seeds? Well, a community of silver spiders collects them from the wind with giant webs. The seeds are provided to the poggles, and if once in a while a poggle becomes spider food, that’s just the rent.
That’s right. Spiders. Farming mammals. In Australia.
Now if only I could make my fear of telephones seem that reasonable.