A Tale of Two Insects, part 2

For me, there’s nothing quite like facing down a Huntsman. Since I’ve been in Sydney, I’ve had about 5 or 6 run ins with the tarantula looking creepy crawlies, and each time, I’ve been caught completely off guard. And each time, they’ve been increasingly bigger. And each time, I’ve run away from them while squealing and shuddering. Really.

My supervisor at work has told me, “Learn to love the Huntsman, and the Huntsman will love you back.” And it’s true, from what I’ve heard. While they are huge, hairy, huge, fast, scary, and huge, they are non-venomous. And they don’t make webs. And they’re scared of people, so they try to avoid humans. And since they love to eat mosquitoes and gnats and other annoying bugs, I’m sure if I let one live with us, I wouldn’t wake up with new, itchy bites every other morning. So Huntsman spiders are good. They’re really like Daddy Long Legs… except fucking terrifying.

eueughhhh
There aren’t enough shudders in the world.

As I’ve mentioned before, Joel promised me before I moved here that he would always take care of scary bugs for me. He’s delivered on that promise about a million times, from the small moths to the giant roaches to the hand sized spiders (above). He’s basically an insect hit man, and I love him for it.

But, even with my protective service, I still live in fear of spiders. When I come home from work or errands, I open my front door slowly, imagining seeing a giant spider on the living room wall. Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I turn on the light and carefully inspect the walls and around the toilet before I go in. I shake out each towel and bang my shoes together before I put them on. I shut the windows the second it gets dark. Spiders are present on my mind every day. And every time Joel comes to my rescue, I think to myself “one of these days Joel won’t be home, and I’ll have to take care of this myself.” And then I do what I always do when faced with a terrifying possibility that will happen and that I should plan for it accordingly–I quickly file the thought under “AVOID AVOID AVOID” and I forget about it. You know, what you’re supposed to do.

So then came that Friday night when I stayed in to write and Joel went out with his friends. I wrote a short essay and decided to reward myself with going to bed. This was around 10 PM, because that’s just the kind of wild creature I am. I walked into the bedroom, and my eyes immediately zeroed in on it. Right in between the mirror and the laundry hamper. A big, fat, Huntsman.

Without even thinking about it, I NOPED right out of there. But then I thought, No, I won’t let this spider defeat me. I grabbed a flip flop, and remembering how poorly it performed in the Battle of Giant Grasshopper, put it back down again. Instead, I picked up one of my Chucks and went back to reclaim all my dignity. And my bedroom.

I pushed myself into the room, and the spider was right where I left it. As I held the shoe, I thought, “I need to get close to the wall and actually hit the spider with the shoe. I should not throw the shoe, because that will only scare the spider. Do not just throw the shoe. Do not just–WHY DID I JUST THROW THE SHOE?!” Of course I threw the shoe. As I got closer to the wall, I was blinded by fear and surging with awkwardness. So I flung the shoe at the wall, somewhere in the vicinity of the spider. And as soon as the shoe left my hand, I saw the spider move, and I beat feet out of there, closing the door behind me. As I stood in the hallway, trying to catch my breath, I tried to convince myself that my shoe had somehow, magically, crushed the spider.

I texted Joel and let him know what happened. He reminded me to spray it with bug spray, which I hadn’t even thought of. Also, because he’s a lovely human being, he offered to come home and kill the spider for me. I thought that was nice gesture, and I’m pretty sure he actually would have done it if I asked, but I also know that I would have punched myself if I had insisted that he come home just to kill a spider on the one night he is able to go out with his pals.

So I gathered the bug spray, and I sat on the couch, gearing myself up to go back into the room. I knew that with every second I stayed out of the room was one more second that the spider had to run away from me, but I also knew that every second I stayed out of that room was one more second I didn’t have to deal with the spider. It was complicated.

15 minutes later, it finally happened. I carefully opened the door, my eyes closed, hoping against hope that I’d find a curled up spider on the floor near my shoe.

But I didn’t.

And do you know what’s scarier than seeing a giant spider on your wall? It’s seeing a giant spider on your wall and then not seeing it a minute later. I didn’t see it anywhere near where it was. It could have been behind the laundry hamper. It could have been INSIDE the laundry hamper. It could have been behind the dresser–hell, it could have been INSIDE my dresser drawers, hiding in my clothes and underpants. Or, it could be squatting in the pile of dirty clothes that was on the floor in front of the hamper (because of course that’s where the clothes go). AGHHHH!

GAHHHH
GAHHHH

I was out of ideas, and my situation had gone from scary to My Worst Nightmare. Not only was there a spider in my room, it was a huge spider. And I had no idea where it was. And it knew I wanted to kill it. And it was angry.

I turned out the light and closed the door. I sat on the couch and weighed my options. I could take Joel’s advice and move the the clothes, the hamper, and pull the dresser off the wall so I could find the spider and kill it. I could sleep on the couch and wait for Joel to come home. Or, I could just move out. Joel and I could start a fresh, spider-less existence. We could buy all new furniture and clothes and memories. The Huntsman could have this apartment. I probably spent another 15 minutes weighing my options.

I got up to move the furniture in the bedroom, but that wasn’t happening. I couldn’t convince myself to go back in there. I tried to sleep on the couch, but I couldn’t relax knowing that spider was on the loose. All I could imagine was the spider crawling under the door and lurking around the apartment. And unfortunately, I couldn’t move out without my laptop, which was in the bedroom. ugh.

I knew I had to track down the spider. So I gathered up some tools that I thought would be useful:
-Spider spray-Large tupperware container (for trapping)
-Kitchen tongs (for grabbing)

I entered the room, jumped onto the bed, and started strategizing.

photo 3
SHOW ME YOUR BATTLE FACE

The next hour was just me being nervous and moving like a scared cat. I sat on the bed and moved the clothes on the floor piece by piece using the kitchen tongs, shaking each piece out to see if a spider would fall out. It took me 20 minutes to coach myself into moving the furniture from off the walls so I could spray, but I did it. I moved everything and sprayed everywhere. And I still couldn’t find the fucker.

Choking on fumes and frustrated that I couldn’t find the spider, I retired to the couch. I knew I’d done–and did–everything I could, but that spider was still MIA. It was beyond frustrating. I sat down on the couch and started to figure out how I could move the bed and see if the spider hid behind the headboard. At this point, I was too tired to be scared, and I felt like I was really just over the spider. But, the next thing I knew, Joel was home and waking me up. All the trauma had wiped me out.

I marched Joel into the bedroom, and of course, the spider was right there in the middle of the wall. He trapped it with the tupperware and sent it back outside. Easy, two step process, even after a night out.

It took me 3 hours to convince myself that sitting in the room with a spider in it wouldn’t kill me. It took him 3 minutes to shoo the spider out. Whatever dignity I had left after I convinced my neighbor I was insane was completely tapped out.

Adjusting to life with insects is hard. It’s harder than the adjustment to living with no air conditioning. But I’ll keep trying, though. When I lived in North Carolina, I never thought I’d be able to kill the spider crickets that lived with us. But after a few months, I was smashing them without a second thought. I told Joel that I need to be the one who kills bugs from now on*. I feel like I need coaching and exposure therapy in Bug Self Defense. Like, that’s the only way I’m going to get over them. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable living with them in the same room, but maybe I’ll get to the point where I can get close enough to trap them and throw them outside. Or at least to the point where I can do more than fling shoes.

One day.

*this is still a work in progress, as last night I wailed for Joel to come kill a tiny spider that was sitting on the toilet paper rack.

A Tale of Two Insects, Part 1

I am pathetically scared of large insects. Like, embarrassingly scared of them. And if there’s one thing my American friends like to continuously remind me of, is that Australia is the land of large insects.

The things I do for love.

Because, as a large insect-o-phobe, there are few things more jarring and/or butt hole puckering than waking up to pee and seeing this in your hall way:

OH HELLO
OH HELLO

Or opening your bathroom door and seeing this against the window pane:

WHAT UP BIG GUY
WHAT UP BIG GUY

Or, standing on your balcony and seeing this crawling on the rain gutter above you:

NOPE NOPE NOT EVEN
NOPE NOPE NOT EVEN

So, I have a most definite case of large insect fear. And it’s not like this fear is justified. Huntsmen spiders are non-aggressive and are harmless to humans. Same with grasshoppers. And cock roaches, even thought they’re gross, won’t hurt you. But they’re all SO. DAMN. BIG. And their large size gives them an other worldliness that I just can’t handle. Can’t handle, like, I get the shakes and the nervous sweats and heart palpitations and I lose the ability to speak when I see them. I basically feel as unglued as I look, even though I’m about 100x taller and 600 lbs heavier than them, with every tool at my disposal to murder them. I see 1 and I can’t stop seeing 500 of them, crawling all over me (and I know that won’t kill me–a roach crawled over my foot once and I’m still alive). I’m just a whuss, with a completely irrational fear of large insects. And I’ve accepted that.

My whussiness and paralytic fear in the face of large insects is bearable though, because one of the agreements that Joel and I made before I moved here was that he would be in charge of dispatching giant insects. And he’s been my night in Mortein armour. Except for those two times.

Those two times where my nightmare of “What happens when Joel’s not here and they come?” They being scary, knife wielding giant insects.

The first instance came on a particularly sweaty Sunday when I was coming home from the grocery store. I had my hands full, and I was out of breath from walking up the hill and up the stairs with heavy groceries. I walked up to my apartment door and there it was: the dreaded giant grasshopper, and there was no way I could step around him or over him. It stared at me. I stared at it. I took a step toward it, and it took a step toward me. I froze.

Seriously, my immediate instinct was to call Joel, who was at work, followed by thoughts of “I guess I could wait outside for 5 more hours until Joel gets back.” I turned to retreat down the stairs when I realized quickly that was crazy (because my ice cream would melt, not because of how obviously crazy is the notion of hiding from a grass hopper), and I tried to contain my panic. I thought I could shoo it away with my bags, but I couldn’t get myself close enough. As I stood there, frantically trying to strategize, the bug remained unphased. It knew as well as I did, that it would come down to him or me. I decided to use what I had at my disposal: my flip flops.

I put my bags down, brushed away the fears of WHAT IF IT JUMPS INTO MY BAG OMG, and took off one flip flop. My goal was to hit the shoe near the bug, just enough to scare it into jumping toward the neighbor’s door. While it was disoriented, I would grab my bags and run inside and never leave the apartment again. I aimed carefully at the grasshopper, and let my shoe fly.

It hit the door above the grasshopper, and landed a few inches away from it.

But the grasshopper didn’t move.

Are you kidding me?

I took off my other shoe, aimed more carefully, and let it fly. Same trajectory. Same result. This time, the bug moved. He crawled up the door.

Are you fucking kidding me!?

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At this point, I didn’t know what to do. I could go downstairs and grab the broom from the walk way, but the broom was outside in Spiderville. And I didn’t have any shoes because they were dangerously close to the grasshopper. I thought of grabbing my shoe and just swatting it off the door, but I also thought of that moment I bend down to grab the shoe and the grasshopper leaping off and flying into my hair. So I couldn’t do it. Also, I feared the longer I stood barefoot on the gross carpet outside in the gross hallway, the greater my chances of catching Hep C or something else terrible. Also, it was just getting hotter by the minute in our non-air conditioned building. Which meant I was roasting.

I was contemplating what groceries I could toss at my door to scare the grasshopper when I heard the blessed sounds of the front door opening downstairs. I held my breath as I heard whoever it was come up the first flight, and then the second flight, and my heart almost stopped when I saw one of our construction worker neighbors coming up toward me.

Now, I have very little dignity to begin with. And whatever was left was quickly cashed out when my neighbor saw me: red faced, sweat stained, shoeless American digging through her groceries and looking panicked at the sight of a grasshopper. He gave me a strange look and walked by me, but before he could escape, I meeked out “Excuse me but do you have a broom or a towel or something I could use there’s a giant grasshopper on my door and I’m terrified of it and I can’t get inside my apartment.”

I might as well have been 7 years old and wetting my pants while I explained this to him, because that was the extreme look of pity he gave me. He laughed a little and walked over to my door, saying “Oh yeah, I can get him for you.” I thanked him profusely as he took off his flip flop and chased the grass hopper down off the door, attempting to tell me they scared him too. He chased him off the stair ledge, and I finally felt safe. I introduced myself (which, in hindsight, I might have done first), and tried to explain that the grass hoppers aren’t that big in the States, and he laughed and tried to get away from me as quickly as possible. Understandably. I grabbed my groceries and my shoes and dashed inside. Vowing never to leave again.

The ordeal felt like it lasted 3 hours. It was probably only 15 minutes, but time stops when you’re alone and petrified. And while I’m beyond thankful our neighbor showed up, I hope I never have to see him again. Unless it’s while I’m doing something really heroic, like saving a bunch of orphaned kittens from drowning.

Tune in next time for Part 2, the Huntsman.