Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On the Classification of Spiders

There was a daddy longlegs in my shower yesterday morning. It was the third species of spider I found in my apartment in three days. The first two were tiny and easy to kill.

Let me stop here. Normally I don’t kill bugs, I transport them. I am very soft-hearted, and since none of these bugs hurt me aside from psychologically, I try not to murder them without provocation. However, when your apartment is the spider capital of the northeast, you learn quickly that you must kill anything you have the stomach to kill, or you will be overrun. Spiders that are smaller than a pencil eraser fall within this category.

Category one: Pencil-Eraser Spiders
Size as expressed by what comes out of your mouth when you see it: “Oh, hello. You are going to die. Sorry.”
Action: Heartless kill mode.

Tiny spiders are not a problem. But a daddy longlegs is a problem. Especially if it is huge. A mother of a daddy longlegs, if you will. The chance of accidental contact is too great to attempt murder. Also, they have a plaintive, harmless look to them. They belong to category two.

Category two: Pitiable Spiders
Size: “Great, now I’m going to be late for work.”
Action: Transport.

Also, they have a great name. Daddy longlegs. The harvestman. Points in their favor. So I got my handy bug-catcher (an old frosting container and cardboard from a box of Cheerios - a winning combination I should probably patent and sell to people who have no common sense) and I caught him and put him outside.

Then I thought, maybe I should spray my windows with spider-cide RIGHT NOW before this becomes a real issue, because I know from experience that it will be as soon as summer hits. So I spray one window. Success. I spray another window. Success. I spray a third window.

Category three: Fat Orange Spiders with Striped Legs that are on the Wrong Side of the Window Screen
Size: “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod YOUARESOBIG ohmygodohmygod WHYAREYOUSOBIG? ohmygodwhy.” [multiply times ten]
Action: Panic. Transport while whimpering. Recover with head between knees.

I would Google this monster that came scuttling out from the window jamb, so I could tell you what it was, but I can’t stand to look at the pictures. I was able to employ my Insect Removal System (yours for three easy payments of $19.95) only because I felt bad about having sprayed it with a substance specifically designed to kill it. Had it not been in distress, I would have stood there saying “oh my god” until one of us died of old age.

You may think this is the highest category of spider. It happens to be the highest category residing in my home as of this morning, but it’s nothing compared to the fourth category. I met a category-four spider during my sophomore year of college. Stop me if I’ve told you this story already.

In the fall of my sophomore year I lived next to a charming fellow who I shall refer to as Hartford, because he was from there, and he loved Hartford like other people love New York or Paris. I have never been there, but apparently it’s quite the place. Anyway, one evening as I walked by Hartford’s door, I saw that he had written something peculiar on his message board:

When I saw this, what did I do? Did I immediately run to Hartford’s aid? No. I took a picture of his hilarious message. Check out the smiley face on the body of the scary, scary spider. I laughed for a while, then I found Hartford and persuaded him that he could not sleep in the lounge for the rest of the semester. The spider had to be dealt with.

When I uttered those comforting words, I didn’t realize that his drawing of the spider was life-sized.

Category four: Stuart.
Size: This is the kind of spider you invent new expletives for.
Action: Get someone else to deal with it.

Hartford had, hiding somewhere in his room, the biggest, fastest, hairiest, nastiest spider I have seen to this day. It was so big it could have enrolled in classes. It could have gotten an A. In biochemistry. It could have gone on all the rides at Six Flags. It was so big, we could read its lips, and it was saying, “I’m big enough to wrap you up Frodo-style and scarf you down like a burrito.” Okay, that movie hadn’t come out yet, but retrospectively I believe that’s the general idea of what he meant.

When we finally found him, and when we were done screaming, we named him Stuart and tried to make ourselves feel sorry for him. Stuart was really down on his luck. Stuart had lost his job. Stuart had no family (we hoped). Stuart was on the brink of psychological meltdown. We had to save Stuart. Hartford wanted to overcome his fear of spiders, which meant transporting Stuart to the outdoors rather than killing him. I was not interested in overcoming any fears, I think some fears are there for a reason, but I felt that Stuart was so big, smushing him would have been like smushing a small child. So we saved him.

We fashioned what else but an Insect Removal System, literally duct-taped it shut, and learned the number one most important thing about an Insect Removal System: do not use the clear bottom part of a sandwich container. When you turn it over, and you clearly see a primeval arachnid scurrying frantically beneath your fingers, gnashing its teeth, trash-talking you, you may scream like a girl and barely be able to resist the urge to throw it as far from yourself as possible. Because that is a blar-garving durm-jurpling crodding big spider. (Yes, my new expletives would be poetry to Vogons.)

Probably half an hour after the drama began, Hartford and I watched Stuart gallop on his stallionesque legs into the dark, wet graveyard across the road from the dorm. We hoped he would find employment other than scaring arachnophobes half to death when they wanted to be sleeping. We were glad we had not killed him. We did not wanted to be haunted by a category-four spider.

So there you have it. Kingdom: Animalia. Phylum: Arthropoda. Subphylum: Chelicerata. Class: Crodding Big Spider.


Ivan said...

::shudder:: Stuart is an excellent name for a spider.

Katie said...

Stuart seems a little boy-next-door-if-i-lived-in-england-ish as a name for a spider. And Stuart the spider sounds like he would be nice and cuddly. Granted I think my brother thinks his tarantula is nice and cuddly, but I thinkof gross and scary spiders as being called Hector or IGOR or
tard-assed baconpuke (as suggested when I typed mean names into google). So there you have it.
I am scared of spiders as well. I also tend to be more on the kill side of things than the preserve side of things. I noticed this as I was killing flies left and right on our supposed "leave no trace" hiking trip...

Simon said...

Well, the point of naming him at all was to make him seem less terrifying, so Stuart worked for that. If we had named him Igor, we would only have screamed louder.

One thing I will kill without compunction is anything that tries to bite me or fly into any facial orifaces. That is mere self-preservation.