Location: Salinas, CA
Age: 40
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"Only two things are infinite--the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt

"I'm not as think as you confused I am." Someone, somewhere, at some time

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Friday, March 18, 2005
The Root of All Fear

Warning:  The following deals with horrors and darkness most likely best left untold.  It is not for the feint of heart or mere mortal men.  Nightmares, shivers, panic attacks and development of phobias are likely to all those who venture on.  Or not.  I may be a bit overly dramatic when it comes to this topic.  Oh, and it probably will be a rather long entry, too, cuz I tend to ramble at times like this.

Most of my immediate friends don't drink.  So, I found myself with quite a quandry on good ol' St. Patty's day last night.  You see, I'm rather introverted.  Sure, once I get to know someone, I won't shut up.  And I know how to have some fun.  But when I'm around strangers, I'm usually the guy standing in a corner by himself with the "deer in headlights" look.  The concept of going out to a bar by myself is very intimidating.  But, in the name of all things Irish, I was able to build up the gumption to give it a go.  So, wandering down to the closest thing to an Irish Pub around here (it's actually Brittish, but it had to do), and plopping down with a pint of Guinness, I happened to meet some nice folks who invited me to join them.  After an hour or so of getting to know each other, laughing, buying each other drinks, etc. I had a little mishap. 

Sitting at the table, I felt a slight tickling on my hand.  Looking down, I discovered a Daddy Longlegs teppidly inspecting my hand.  Now, I'm mildly arachnaphobic.  Generally, I'm okay in the presence of spiders.  But not when they touch me or make any kind of aggressive motions.  Then I just panic.  And panic I did.  Arms flailed, shouts were vocalized, nomads sprung to feet, and more than one drink sacraficed their lives by throwing themselves between me and the vicious arachnid.  Fortunately, the folks around were quite understanding (actually, more amused) and the biggest concern was simply replacing the lost alcohol.

But, it got me to thinking once again why I have this aversion to spiders.  I didn't get much sleep last night as my brain went into overdrive trying to answer that question.  Granted, a phobia by definition is irrational, and can not easily be traced to a logical cause.  However, the logical nomad (how's that for an oxymoron) in me says there must be something in my past to explain this.  And so all night my brain got racked.  And here is what I recall of my negative experiences with spiders.

First, I immediately recalled the most recent traumatizing encounter.  No, not last night.  That was minor.  And more embarrassing than traumatizing.  It occured maybe 10 or 12 years ago.  My brother and I went fishing at a local reservior.  After some time without catching a single thing, we were both in pure relax mode.  I was sitting on a blanket I had brought, with my feet propped up on a basketball-sized rock.  My brother (who, it should be noted, is just slightly more arachnaphobic than I am) was similarly positioned (though without the handy foot rest) about 20 yards down the bank to my left.  I happened to look over to my right briefly, and what to my wondering eyes should I see?  A tarantula.  Yep, a full on, bigger than my hand tarantula.  Walking along.  Straight towards me.  About 5 feet away, and closing.  I believe my first response was yelling "Holy shit!  There's a fucking tarantula next to me!" loud enough for my brother to respond "Dude, don't even joke about things like that."  Since the spider was actually heading more towards the rock my feet were on, rather than my jugular vein, I figured the best approach was for me to stay perfectly still rather than provoke a vicious attack.  As it rounded the far side of the rock, I carefully pulled my legs back, but remained seated to appear non-threatening.  However, my brother was a little less self-controlled.  He ran up behind me to get a closer look and verify that I was, indeed, not completely bs-ing him (making sure to keep me between him and the spider, of course) right about the same time the tarantula rounded the rock and got a clear view of us with it's 30,000 eyes.  And, as you can imagine, it was rather startled by my brother's sudden movement.  It responded in kind, by charging (yes, charging) at me.  Leaping to my feet, I did the only logical thing there is to do when attacked by a gigantic, eight-legged, probably-rabbid, spawned-in-Hell mutant bent on my destruction.  I pulled my fishing knife out.  Now, this is the same knife I had been using for fishing since I was about 10.  "Knife" is actually a rather generous term.  It's a 4" piece of (supposedly) steel with something vaguely resembling a blade.  But it obviously intimidated my adversary, since it halted its charge.

So there we were, in a standoff.  Me standing poised and ready for action (read: almost paralized with fear), "knife" in one hand, fishing pole in the other, and my brother virtually climbing my back; facing off against the most deadly and dangerous demon-spawn ever encountered by humankind.  And he (I'm assuming it was a he, though I never actually checked) was serious about things, too . . . rasing his front 2 legs and waiving them around menacingly.  After what seemed like 30-40 minutes of this (probably more like a couple seconds, though), I decided to take action.  Slowly, I lowered the knife blade in front of him, and attempted to flick him away with the flat of the blade.  Such a show of force, I was sure, would discourage him, and he would flee in terror.  He sailed about 7-8 feet, landed gracefully, then charged back at us.  Stopping a few feet away, he raised up four legs this time and hissed.  Yes, hissed.  I kid you not, it sounded much like (and louder than) our cat's hiss when she was angry.  At this point, I no longer had to worry about my brother clinging to my back, for he had practically teleported about 30 feet away.  Not willing to give up my blanket, release my fishing pole or admit defeat (read:  I was pretty much petrified with terror and shock), I stood my ground.

The spider advanced slowly . . . moved nearer by about 6 inches, raised it's front legs again, and gave another blood-curdling hiss.  I took a step back, and somewhat to my right.  A plan slowly forming in my head.  The spider advanced again.  And again, I moved to the right.  Once more, the spider advanced, and just as planned, he stopped briefly under the lip of the rock I had been using as a foot rest.  So I struck.  Leaping up, I landed on the rock, and tilted the entire force of the basket-ball sized rock and one overweight nomad onto the vile arachnid.  Then, just for good measure, I jumped up and down about 43 more times.  My brother returned as I stepped down from the rock, and we both just stared for a short while.  Honestly, I think we both half expected to see the whole rock shift and move as the beast climbed out from under it.  But nothing happened.

We rolled the rock away, and found the tarantula balled up and unmoving.  Except for one stray leg.  Obviously severed by the attack, the leg lay an inch or so away from the main body.  But it was moving.  Yes, moving.  Trying to crawl.  A last, intimidating and unsettling attempt to continue the fight, I imagine.  Once again, I used my "knife" to flick the creature away.  This time, making sure to land it in the water (which only required about 4 attempts).  And did the same with the leg.  The body floated slowly away, unmoving.  The leg twitched and flicked and kicked as it slowly followed the rest of the corpse with the current.

We went back to fishing, though neither my brother nor I were willing to sit down at that point.  After about 20 more minutes, we both decided that the lack of fish, abundance of tarantulas and heat of the day suggested quitting time.  Obiously, this wasn't the incident that spawned my arachnaphobia, since I had those feelings well before that.  But honestly, it was the most (consciously) traumatizing.  I still periodically have nightmares about it.  Being threatened by, hissed at and locked in heated battle with such a fearsome creature will have that affect.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's episode of the Spider Chronicles.  Same Nomad channel (like, right here).  Same Nomad time (whenever I feel like typing it).

Posted at 3/18/2005 10:46:42 am by PhilM

September 29, 2006   08:01 PM PDT
Oh jeez.. I would have been like your brother when he teleported away. Only I would have done that at the first instance of seeing the spider. Forget the blanket/rod/whatever!!

Here via Michele's :)
September 29, 2006   12:36 PM PDT
Great post!! See, Michele THOUGHT she wasn't running a Meet n Greet this weekend, but we're visiting each other at her behest anyway.

I love the living leg part...that was the best!
June 23, 2006   07:26 PM PDT

Oh I can think of several parts that made me just bust out laughing!!!

Wonderfully written and expressed! Just loved this entry!
January 10, 2006   02:47 PM PST
Oh sure, blame the whole thing on me!
March 19, 2005   05:00 AM PST
Believe me I know where your comming from. I've been in combat, faced down vicious dogs, wild animals, and scorned women. Still if I find a spider or insect on my person it still gives me an attack of the heebee jeebee's. This always seems to amuse people around me.
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