Squishing Spiders

Photo taken from “10 Common House Spiders and How to Identify Them, According to Entomologists” – Prevention.com

We’ve all been there.

For me it’s typically early in the morning. I haven’t had a smidge of coffee and my left eye is still too stuffed with crust to fully open. I’m putting away dishes from the drying rack or turning on the sink to wash my face or reaching for the handle of our back door to let Jasper out to pee when I unwittingly spook a tiny, eight-legged home invader.

I’ve got a split second to make a choice as the wayfarer goes skittering across the floor. Do I reach for a cup or a shoe? Or, against every instinct in my body, do I stand still, watching as it slips under the fridge?

Out of sight, yes, but not even remotely out of mind.

Flies and ants are easier. They’re out for my food, and, as such, they’ll get no quarter from me. Squish on sight. Moths and grasshoppers receive kinder treatment. Lost and confused, they deserve to go on living their lives outdoors where they belong. Capture and release. Crickets, earwigs, and silverfish aren’t going to swarm my kitchen, but I don’t feel any particular motivation to put up with them either. Squish if convenient.

Spiders are something of an interesting case. I’ve always know that a kind of mutualism could exist between us, and yet historically, I’ve been a squish first, ask questions never kind of person. Spiders are pests, right? Plus they freak me out — as just about anything in the ‘creepy crawly’ category does — and I attract more bites than a young hottie in a vampire movie.

But at some point in the last year — perhaps around the time the crane flies mounted their late-spring invasion — I entered into an uneasy armistice with spider-kind. The terms of the agreement looked something like this:

  1. The spiders keep to the ceiling and dark corners of the house, and
  2. In return I, Sebastian, pledge not to take up my Birkenstock against them.

Despite a few predator-prey struggles worthy of Sir David Attenborough’s narration, I’m not sure to what degree the spiders are actually earning their keep. But as long as they stay out of my bed, shoes, and bike helmet, I’m willing to give peace a chance.

I’m tempted, as always, to read into this new paradigm. Perhaps I’ve reached a new echelon of maturity in my twenty fourth year, resisting my amygdala’s attempts to drive me into a fit of rage-fueled aggression. Or maybe a few spiders seem like small potatoes compared to a global pandemic, a long-due (and largely insufficient) attempt at a racial reckoning, and the white-nationalist insurrection that followed.

In all likelihood, the fragile truce will end. A new generation of spiders will try to get cheeky, and I’ll react with all the composure of a season one Prince Zuko. Years down the line, I’ll look back on this time of spider-peace and smile at the sad reminder of how good things always seem to end.

I hope I’m wrong. And if hope was a feature of a spider’s psychology, I’m sure those little suckers would too.

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