Recently I got a call from a telemarketer telling me that all my neighbors were getting together to hire her company to spray about their houses to kill hobo spiders.
I picked up the call because she didn’t phone from a 1-800 number, and she was so pleased that I was being polite that she must have run through three or four pages of script before I could say a word. She was warning me about the dangers of these homeless spiders, saying that they are more aggressive as the football season gets underway because that’s when these railroad vagabonds mate and move in with people.
When she finally did take a breath, I told her the honest truth, which is that I am a poor person, and while I feared all kinds of spiders equally, homeless or not, I could not afford her company’s services.
“How much would it cost to have one of your people drive by my house and yell, ‘Yo, spiders, get away from that house right now!’ " I asked her, using my best Rocky intonation.
That threw her off her rhythm a bit and she switched to the page you read if disturbed people say they are too poor to buy from you.
I am more afraid of spiders than anyone I know, but that is, in part, because I understand all spiders are basically tarantulas.
I do several things at nearly the same time if a tarantula gets on my person.
1. I emit a noise that sounds like several turkeys being electrocuted. Have you ever heard a siren that sounds like a turkey being electrified? Well, that was probably me.
2. As I emit this noise, I slap myself everywhere while flapping my arms and moving around in erratic circles. I try not to touch the ground during this phase.
3. If necessary, I rip off my shirt so that I can shake any spiders that may be hiding in my shirt pocket out of there. (I try to avoid this last step if I am in public because, as it turns out, that alarms people more than step one and two, and that’s saying a lot.)
Now, in order to be consistent, I follow this pattern in all settings, including church, the gym, nice restaurants and elevators. I don’t want to alarm others a second more than necessary, so the moment I realize that I am safe, I try to act as if nothing has happened.
My efforts to be considerate of others aren’t always enough.
I remember one time in college, I took a class and discovered none of my friends were in it. I ended up sitting in the back with an athlete who normally would not have been allowed to talk with me. However, none of his buddies were in that class either, so we became limited friends.
I quickly learned to talk in a tough, low, sarcastic sports voice. We talked about draw option plays, horizontal wing nut passes and bad referee decisions.
All was going well until one day when a tiny baby tarantula walked across my forearm. I leapt to my feet, screaming and flapping about, causing the entire class to instinctively duck and scatter, except for my new friend, who jumped to his feet, assuming a boxer’s fighting stance. He could not see it, but he knew there was real danger in the room, and he intended to punch it as soon as it became visible to him.
I showed incredible restraint and did not tear off my shirt. Then, in mid-flap, I suddenly sat down as if nothing had happened.
He did not sit down, and he looked at me incredulously, breathing hard as if he had just run up the stairs. He seemed to want an explanation.
Then I muttered in my newly developed tough-guy voice, “It was just a spider.”
“Well, have a heart attack why don’t you?!” he said with a surprisingly angry voice.
And he did not want to be my friend after that.
So that telemarketer had no idea how effective her script was when she spoke of the dangers of homeless hobo spiders. My hope is that word will get around the spider migrant community that it is better to risk being put to sleep by exterminator gas than it is to suffer a tarantula heart attack during a violent and loud end-of-the-world event.
I want to be a campfire horror story in the spider world. Maybe they’ll even write a song about me.
The itsy bitsy spider hopped off a railroad train
He came to a house to watch a football game
A large screaming man stomped out all his brains
Now the itsy bitsy spiders are leaving on the train.
Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.