When we got home from Maine, the mailbox was stuffed almost to overflowing with catalogs and bills and the weekly neighborhood newspaper. I pulled out the giant mass of it and placed the bundle in the crook of one arm so that I could leaf through it while I walked back to the house. As I scanned the return addresses, I felt the unmistakable tickle of tiny legs - too many tiny legs - scrambling over my shoulder. With a shriek, I threw the mail to the ground and shook my arms as a brown spider with a sizable abdomen dropped to the ground at my feet.
I jumped back and stared at it, secretly pleased to see that it was large enough for my hysteria to be warranted. It didn’t move - likely catching its breath after being hurled from the equivalent of a skyscraper, and I called Navah out of the house so that she could witness the horror to which I had been subject. She grimaced appropriately, and I shuddered as I picked up each piece of mail and inspected it for other eight-legged creatures.
I have checked the mail twenty-four times since then, which I consider a sign of great personal maturity.
I know there are those who love spiders and laud them for their excellent insect-killing abilities and their beautiful webs, but try as I may, I am not one of those people. I cannot explain to you why spiders terrify me. I can only tell you that they do. I have screamed about spiders. I have cried about them - specifically, in a hostel in the jungle in Guatemala where Navah and I slept with the covers tucked in around our bodies and wrapped over our heads because the spiders just would not stop appearing. When I've been able to recover from my own hysteria and they've been inside my house, I have killed them. Once I see one, I cannot forget its presence, and I live in fear that it will quietly sneak up beside me.
Off course, size is a major consideration. Along with location (i.e., far away on the other side of the room versus crawling on my person), ratio of body size to leg size (bigger body equals bigger shriek), and furriness (fur is bad, obviously). The spider that crawled out of the mail and onto my bare shoulder (very bad) was bigger than a quarter (bad) with short legs and a body bigger than a nickel (bad). It had fur (bad).
So you will probably want to run over to my house right now and give me a huge pat on the back and perhaps a medal or a small trophy when you learn that each and every one of those twenty-four times that I have checked the mail since my run-in with the brown hitchhiking spider, an enormous quarter-sized black spider with a nickel-sized body and a funnel-style web has peered at me from the back of the mailbox.
We have a system.
I warn her that I’m about to open the mailbox by gently tugging on the handle without actually opening it. This gives her time to run back to her web. (Once she was resting on an envelope, and we almost came to blows. But I closed the mailbox door, went back inside, and when I came out again later, she had re-considered the situation and made a better choice.) So she stays in her little web watching me as I slide each piece of mail out of the mailbox with one finger while watching her.
So far, we have each held up our side of an unstated agreement not to touch the other. I assume that every afternoon after I check the mail, she breaths a sigh of relief and congratulates herself for her courage and exceptional moral character.
Just like I do.