For a long time my daughter’s favorite song was “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” because my wife is a twisted wackadoodle. I tried to tell her that we didn’t want our daughter thinking spiders were friendly, but she didn’t listen. It isn’t as though we sing songs about how fun it is to juggle knives and guns, or how cuddly packs of starving wild dogs are, or how it’s fine to get into cars with strangers. Spiders are the enemy–they’re small and deadly–why make them sound so adorable (albeit stubbornly stupid)? The last thing I wanted was for my daughter to see a deadly bug, squeal with delight, and run toward it to pick it up. (Then, depending upon her mood, she would either eat it or start to eat it and then force feed it to one of us.)
I even tried to change the lyrics to something less objectionable: “The Itsy Bitsy Turtle.” Not only are turtles cuter, but more importantly, as a family of animals, they’re entirely devoid of necrotizing venom. I figured that that was an advantage that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s true that the occasional species of turtle has a frighteningly powerful bite, like an alligator without the menacing smile, but those could be avoided pretty easily. As long as I didn’t throw my daughter into any strange lakes, she would be ok. Spiders, on the other hand, are everywhere.
One day my wife found a spider in our kitchen. That fact alone was disturbing, but unfortunately typical; our house had always been a haven for the little blighters. Some people say that they’re helpful, because they kill other bugs, but that’s just wrong-headed. I wouldn’t let a serial-killer into my house just because he might discourage thieves. Frankly I’d rather have the thieves. For thieves I have the stick. (For non-spider bugs, I have a vacuum cleaner with an extendable suction hose.)
The unique problem on the day of this story was that our daughter had just woken up from a nap. To this day whenever she wakes up from a nap, she becomes a dynamo of attention deficit. She runs around the house in a frantic zigzag, touching everything. Thus, since my wife didn’t want her to see the spider and decide to play with it, she reacted with her ninja speed and snatched our daughter up into the relative safety of her arms. Then she retreated and called me.
My wife has a completely understandable fear of bugs. I don’t begrudge her any requests for my intervention, even if they’re caused by something relatively harmless like a ladybug. Even more, I entirely approve of keeping our daughter away from fell beasts, so if she’s retreating with our baby, of course I’m fine if she calls me. There was really only the one problem.
I hate spiders. Actually, since I’ve mentioned before that I’m not always masculine in classical ways, I’ll go ahead and say it: spiders terrify me. They’re little assassins. They ignore the only asset I have–my gargantuan size–hide where I might not be able to see them at all, and can kill with a bite that I may not even feel at first. Worse still, some of them kill in disgusting and unconscionable ways. If I wanted to die in a disgusting and unconscionable way, I’d move back to the pit of swampy despondency where I grew up.
Nevertheless, I ran to the kitchen to fight the eight-legged beacon of death. The battle went as follows.
Phase 1: Reconnaissance
The first thing I like to do when I have to fight a spider is identify what sort it is. I don’t mean to suggest that I know anything about spider species; I use a more practical taxonomy that’s based off of five critical questions. Is the spider chunky? Is it hairy? Does it look spry? Does it have bright colors? How many centimeters in diameter is it? I take the answer to that last question, then multiply it by the number of “yes” answers I gave to the first four. The result is how many meters away from the spider I want to remain at all times. You’ll notice that for large, bright, brawny spiders, I essentially want to be beyond the horizon. If I had the authority to call in air strikes, I would.
Fortunately, our kitchen spider was smallish, although it otherwise had the general appearance of a surly mobster. My hasty calculations yielded a safe distance of about two meters. Unfortunately, that was about two meters more than the arrangement of our kitchen allowed.
Phase 2: Skirmishing
Naturally I decided to attempt a precision strike, to rush within the two meter perimeter, swing with all my might, then quickly withdraw before any potential counter-action. All I would need was nerves of steal, lightning reflexes, careful aim, and a sturdy weapon. Of course what I actually had was a napkin, difficulty focusing on something so small, the nimbleness of an anesthetized elephant, and a strong urge to hide in the restroom.
Shockingly, my first attack didn’t kill the spider. I delivered a glancing blow instead that launched the thing into the air.
Phase 3: War Dance
What’s worse than having to fight a freakish little doom critter? Knowing that one is nearby by not knowing where it went. As soon as I knocked the spider airborne, I lost track of it. It might have dropped to the floor, or flown behind something on the counter, or even latched onto me. I think I handled the mystery well, though.
I shook my trembling fists in front of me, stomped my feet, and screamed. My wife joined me in the screaming, because she’s generous like that. Afterward we pretended it was a battle cry. At the time I was more like one of those wind-up band monkeys, the kind that clap their symbols and vaguely dance, except that someone had set me to overload.
Phase 4: Final Push
Then I saw the spider on the floor in front of me, and it was still moving. I knew that I needed to finish it quickly before it could get away, but I still only had a napkin. Bravery required a lot more screaming. I slammed the napkin down on top of it, yelled at it a lot, and kept pounding on the floor until I felt crunching. Then I pounded a bit more, for certainty’s sake.
Because she was still generous, my wife kept screaming through all of this. Our daughter watched us with a bemused expression, clearly judging us, but eventually laughed at what she probably figured was an inscrutable adult game.
After Action Review
The most important takeaway is this: the spider did actually die. You might suspect that my pride suffered due to my somewhat outlandish comportment, but you’d be wrong. I figure that if I walk away and the spider doesn’t, I’ve done well enough. Luckily, my wife seems to agree, because she’s never mocked me about my oafish battle dance. I’m going to believe that this is because she loves and respects me. It’s possible though that she doesn’t want me to say to her next time, “Fine, I’ll hold the baby; you fight the spider.” It’s also possible that she just doesn’t want me to try to call an air strike on our house.