Monday, October 8, 2012

Mom, Why is Mark Screaming?

The basement here at ye olde homestead is of the unfinished variety. It features a cracked and impossibly sloped concrete floor, bare stone walls, and unflattering lighting. It's not the kind of place where one would like to spend a lot of time. When we first moved into the house I made a few feeble attempts to make it not so much a "man-cave" (which is a horrible term by the way but it does define the concept fairly accurately) but perhaps a place that wasn't so dank and unpleasant to be in. We even had a ping pong table down there for a while. It wasn't an ideal set up for one because of the giant pipe that runs floor to ceiling on one side that inevitably a guest would run full speed into while trying to return one of my vicious volleys (That's straight-up home turf advantage. Visiting players get the pole side for the first game. You best respecig-nize), but it was a fun distraction for a while. The cat piddle palaces are also located in the basement and good lord it is difficult to keep the dust and kernels under control. There are some shitty windows down there but of course only one of them actually opens so proper ventilation can be a problem.

Since no one hangs out down there on what I would consider a regular basis aside from the cats, the basement has become even more unwelcoming. This makes chores like laundry and the aforementioned cat box maintenance very undesirable indeed. Throw in the occasional cat barf and/or house centipede (a.k.a. Demon Spawn) and I think I have succeeded in painting a picture for you. Basically I go down there, do whatever it is I have to do as quickly as I can and then I bug the hell out of there ASAP.

On Sunday I was down there doing some cleaning (the fucking cat litter just gets EVERYWHERE) when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I glanced over to my right and saw a big, fat black spider walking swiftly and dare I say confidently towards my foot. I did what any grown man would do in this situation: I froze and emitted a slight squeaking sound. Eventually the flight instinct took over and I moved rapidly backwards tripping over the broken dehumidifier that has been sitting stoically in the middle of the basement for going on 2 years now. I somehow did not immediately fall over but instead managed to maintain not only my balance but also my retreat. Surprisingly, the spider did not see all this movement as a threat and continued its journey across the basement floor.

I looked around to find something sufficiently heavy with, hopefully, a very long handle to use as a weapon against the intruder but all I could find within reach was a 20lb barbell. I thought about using it but dismissed it as a bad choice when I realized just how accurate I would have to be hit a smallish moving target. Also it'd be too much like exercising. By the time I found a decent option (a crumpled piece of a cardboard box), the spider had disappeared. Where did it go? How is this even possible? It was RIGHT THERE a second ago! OMG is it above me now? What is that tickle I feel on my neck? IS IT IN MY SHIRT?! AHH! I'M COVERED IN SPIDERS!! Holy shit it's in my ear and burrowing into my brain right this very second! I decided that the only thing to do was to freak out and bound up the basement stairs while trying not to cry. I then took a Silkwood-style shower. I am not kidding.

Why do spiders freak me out so much? As a kid I actually liked them. My sister Mary and I formed a little group and we called ourselves "The Spider Club". We'd go to the basement stairwell and look at fat ugly spiders and marvel at their weird webs. We even fed ants to them sometimes. It was just a thing we did is all. Don't hate. No big whoop. [A little tangent here if you'll indulge me: Mary and I also formed another club that was called "The Spinning Club" (or was it "Spinners"? I forget). Our meeting place was a corner of the kitchen on the worn-out linoleum floor near the bathroom where we would spin around in circles on our hands and knees. You had to have your long PJs on so that your knees were covered and while balancing on one knee, you'd just spin yourself in a circle as fast as you possibly could until you fell over or got sick (sometimes both). It was pretty fly. This probably resembled a rudimentary form of break dancing although it was a good 8-10 years before either of us had even heard of that dance genre. Spinning in a circle is basically the kid version of getting high if you think about it.] But there is a direct cause that I can point to as to when my relationship with spiders turned from mild curiosity to abject terror.

I must have been about 12 or 13, and by this time, I had finally secured my very own bedroom which was located right off the kitchen and sported a ridiculous accordion door (y'know, for zero privacy). The room was small but it was all mine and I loved it. The main light for the room was one of those square light fixtures which seem to be a staple of tiny bedrooms (we just recently changed out the ones in our house). It was after dinner and had retired to my room to read. I didn't have a light near my bed so the overhead light was on. Those types of ceiling fixtures are typically a flying insect graveyard in the summer time as any bug that found its way into the house would eventually fly towards the light and roast itself on the dual 75 watt incandescent bulbs blazing away a mere 4 inches from the ceiling. Think double Easy-Bake Oven power here. I had noticed earlier that there was what appeared to be a bunch of crispy bugs casting a shadow towards the center of the square diffuser but being both lazy and a kid, I chose to ignore them.

As I was lying there totally lost in my reading, I felt something lightly touch my face and I sort of just brushed it away without really thinking much about it. As I did this, I happened to look up and noticed that pouring out from the center of the light fixture and spreading rapidly across the ceiling were HUNDREDS of tiny spiders. Several of them were already starting to cascade down on their whispery threads of evil to land on me and all of my things. I looked wide-eyed at the horrifying scene for another second and then I just started screaming. My mom came rushing in (LIKE A BOSS) and assessed the situation. She returned seconds later with a broom and swung that thing wildly and with deadly force. I have no idea if she actually was successful in killing all of the freshly spawned spiders but I choose to believe that she did.

I must have passed out or gone into a fear coma or something because I can't for the life of me remember anything else from that night. I don't know where I slept that night but most likely it was right back in that room with the covers over my head and tucked tightly around me. Oh man, I didn't even have a closet in that tiny room so all my clothes were hung up on this modified coat hook system all exposed to the goddam spider assault. I probably wore spiders-infested shirts for a week after that. So yeah, that's why I fucking hate spiders and I think I have earned this phobia.

I just realized that the basement spider is still roaming free down there somewhere. Maybe I'll ask the Wiff to go kill it for me.