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Encountering spiders: One forward, two back

I am terribly frightened of spiders.

When my brother and I were younger, we'd remove the rocks embedded in our garden and play with the unnamed partitioned-bodied bugs beneath them. Beetles were favorites. I also enjoyed watching centipedes squirm their many legs rhythmically, enabling them to get wherever it is insects are always so decidedly on their way to. (Maybe they have conventions? Lunch appointments? Part-time college courses? And all without mass transit!)

But spiders? Not so entertaining, except for in the horror movie sense, which I've never understood. (Tell me again why anyone would want to be scared? Being scared scares me!)

When confronted with an arachnid, I don't even have an ingrained fight-or-flight response. I have no option; knowing they would win, I fly.

For what reason the sight of a spider gives me such grief I have never been certain. Perhaps the legs; I think they have too many, which is in direct confusing contradiction to any fascination with the centipede (I'm a complex individual, apparently).

Maybe the word "arachnid" merely bothers me -- why not a "k" in place of the "ch?" Did the literary powers-that be deem that version too worthy of a punk rock band title? Possibly the relation to tarantulas (nobody should have such hairy knees. Fuzzy old men take note) creates an alarming linkage in my mind. Or perhaps my dad read me "The Hobbit" at too impressionable an age.

Wherever the cause lies, it has resulted in my inability to sanely coexist in close quarters with the species. Thankfully, this condition isn't hereditary, as my parents are not plagued by paralysis when faced with an arachnid.

The system goes as such: whenever I encounter a spider larger than the nail on my pinky finger (my nails are long, so this is a liberal minimum; not just any tiny tarantula-in-training can send me running.) I scream.

"Spider! Mom! Spider! Daddy! Spider! There's a spider!!"

Someone comes dashing in my direction, I eagerly explain in a series of squeals how its presence was preventing me from some essential task (gazing at my reflection in the mirror, dishing up a bowl of ice cream, vacuuming the corner -- which I become especially concerned about being unable to complete -- etc.) while said rescuer eliminates the cause of all my trauma.

Whew. My heart thuds merely at having to type it here.

Recently, my phobia has become less severe, allowing me to live my life with a secondary case of spider-jitters, as opposed to my previous condition, during which I was stricken with a severe phobia that, on occasion, allowed me to live a secondary life.

One night at a stay-over cat-sitting gig, I entered the house's solitary bathroom to brush my teeth, only to discover a monstrous spider in the sink I had previously intended to spit minty fresh Crest into.

Heart a-flutter (and not in the sense of a smitten summer, either), I steadied myself against the door, mind zooming toward any option which would allow me to avoid ridding the sink of its inhabitant myself.

Alas, I couldn't call my parents and ask them to rush over, though they would have, I'm sure. Had he been anywhere I could have avoided him for the night, I may have scurried off to bed, twitching in my slumbers as Indiana Jones-esque scenes of spiders and scorpions traversed my dreams (I feel them on me even now, perched in front of the computer.)

But dental hygiene is so important to me, I felt no choice but to "do away with" the spider myself.

Whew. I feel slightly faint.

Although I know now I can handle such situations, my progress is periodically slowed by a digression. Case in point: driving some friends home after a trip to the movie rental store a few weeks back.

I'm in the driver's seat, three girls in tow around me, and somebody in the back says, "Hey, Paige, look up!" Paige, behind me in back (because I'm ahead in front; oh, redundancy!), shrieks, having a fear similar to mine. Looking up to check out the cause of concern, the spider scurries into position directly overhead, on the closed sunroof.

Thressa stops driving. Braking and entering into some sound effects quite similar to those still issuing from traumatized Paige (Ah, comradeship! What a bond we have!), the car moves no more until Kathryn squelches the spider.

Whew. I'm still slightly nauseous, but, hey, at least I'm not driving!

Now to more recently. I was lying today on my bedroom floor (crazy-comfortable carpeting deserves to be enjoyed), and I see a spider hustling across the ceiling. And he's booking it, really scurrying toward some spiderish pursuit.

I despise the speedy ones. They're going places and you can't stop them. They know this. They are fully willing to take advantage of this. Always proceed cautiously with the quick ones.

In the midst of my carpet-induced meditations, I was in a state of somewhat-tranquility, which was apparently enough. I watched him scuttle closer, circling around in a seemingly senseless fashion (though I'm certain it was premeditated), and closing in.

I watched him cross directly overhead, which is when I would normally begin screeching about how he's going to drop onto me and murder me and rig the presidential election and starve children in Africa and...I didn't.

I took a few breaths, and watched him continue toward his eventual destination (which is still probably in a nook near my bed where he can wait until I dare to dream; I may not live to morning).

I decided to name him Rapunzel, and began talking to him. Praise be to God, nobody chose that moment to sneak upstairs and hear me.

That would have been embarrassing.

Thressa Johnson will be a senior at Detroit Lakes High School this fall.