Spiders, Real Emergencies, & ‘Mitten Packing’

Anyone observing my erratic behavior over the past week would have concluded that I have gone mental.  I can assure you I will be back to my normal, non-paranoid state quite soon (dear God, please?), but I must first tell you the back story.

It all started with a teeny, tiny spider on our dust ruffle . . .

Michael saw the spider, yelled from our bedroom, rummaged around, and then wham! killed the spider. After the display, he emerged from the bedroom concluding, “It’s nothing dear”.

I’m not a bug avoider per se, but my coworker happened to just have a hellish ordeal with a certain (deadly) spider, known as a brown recluse—so I knew all about the species. I knew just how deadly they were, seen all the gory pictures of people’s flesh decaying, learned how you can kill them but never kill their eggs (!), et cetera.

In listening to her story about this tiny brown spider, I never imagined that so much information might come in handy. Or as Michael would probably say, leave me teetering on the edge of being a total nut job.

So there we were at 10pm on Sunday night, looking up pictures of spiders. Regrettably, I had only seen the spider’s remains, so I wasn’t much help in identifying the species. Eventually, Michael closed the computer and said, “Definitely not a brown recluse. We’re safe.”

Are you sure? I asked, knowing Michael is a glass half full kind of guy (one of the things I love most about him, just not when it comes to deadly spiders . . . or anything life-threating for that matter).

I’m sure. Let’s go to sleep.

We slept. My flesh didn’t decay. We woke up alive and well. Victory!

But the next day I returned from work, and a HUGE brown spider was perched on the edge of the sink and nearly touched my hand (!!). As any normal person would do, I reached for the nearest toxin (bleach) and started frantically spraying the spider.

But the bleach seemed more like a welcome light rain than something that was going to kill him any time soon. He continued to crawl up the sink. GAH.

I sprayed so much bleach that soon I was doubled over choking from the fumes and the spider had the balls nerve to stay alive. After hawking up a lung, I regained my strength and started trying to drown him in the sink.

When that didn’t work, I burst into a squealy cry which sounds just like you are imagining, ran into the next room, restrained myself from calling 9-11 remembering the billboards in Nashville reminding me what is and isn’t a real emergency, and dialed Michael instead.

The panicked phone call landed Michael home in a matter of minutes, where we found me standing barefoot in the driveway looking homeless in my work blouse and running shorts staring up at the sky wondering “why me?”

The spider was thankfully still in our sink, curled up in the fetal position, and Michael took pictures and identified it as a brown recluse.

I called our landlord, an 85-year old puffy haired lady named Barbara, and told her we needed an exterminator. Like, tonight. Exterminators aren’t really on call, so she politely told me she’d get one over in the morning. I promised to take her to Cracker Barrel for my demanding-ness.

Michael and I Googled how to get rid of brown recluses, which in hindsight was a mistake of gargantuan proportion. You can’t get rid of them. They live in the walls, in insulation, and lay eggs everywhere. They won’t die from insecticides because they can slow down their metabolism to where things like say, bleach, won’t do a darned thing to them. Then, of course, you come across the crazies online like the one woman who said she was pregnant and lie eucalyptus leaves around her body every night because the spiders don’t like the smell. Or the man who launched into how it’s not the brown recluses fault that it’s so deadly and provided the genius suggestion to live in peace with the creatures. After reading through the online forums, I promptly shouted, “What is wrong with humanity?!” to which Michael didn’t bat an eyelash. He’s used to this sort of behavior.

I did read they don’t like lemon, so before evacuating our house, I made our house smell like a giant lemon drop with the help of two bottles of Pledge and half a gallon of Pine Sol.

We spent our anniversary at Michael’s friend’s house—me, waking up every thirty minutes two hours pointing to places on my body where I thought I was bitten and asking, “Is my flesh decaying?” We spent a few night’s away dreaming of spiders while John, a very nice exterminator who assuredly thinks I’m a tad demanding, bombed our house, sprayed, dumped white dust everywhere, and put out sticky traps. When I learned John was only going to spray our house, I whispered in my most stern I-work-3-feet-from-ten-people voice, “John, I don’t want a choice of those options. I want all of them. Bomb, spray, dust, and trap—we want it all because these spiders are deadly!” I could almost hear him rolling his eyes.

The thing about seeing and reading about spiders is they start to invade your mind. I have thought they were in my car on the way home from work; in my purse; under my desk; in the locker-room at the gym; at the church; in every box, in the pocket of every shirt; in every shoe, closed toe or open; and inside every wall. You start to notice every little hair that tickles your back and jump and scratch away the imaginary spiders. I’ve had Michael tape up cracks in the ceiling and shake out our blankets in the middle of the night and even asked him to move all our boxes out of our house and put them in storage.

Michael and I are moving this week, so naturally when I read it was a good idea to clean with gloves on, I packed in my thickest set of mittens:


Michael’s description of this week goes something like this: “We found a spider in our house that turned out to be a brown recluse and had to move out for a few days while they bombed our house. But now we’re back in and everything’s good. Who’s hungry?”

Mine? Well, thanks for letting me tell you all the gory details. We close on our first home tomorrow and I just want to squeal in anticipation.

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5 Responses to “Spiders, Real Emergencies, & ‘Mitten Packing’”
  1. Michael says:

    This is probably my favorite post ever my dear! Who’s hungry?

  2. Kate Evelyn says:

    This made me laugh! I also once had an unfortunate encounter with those beasts: last December I picked up a UPS package and a brown recluse spider crawled off the package and ran up my neck. I think I screamed for like an hour even after knocking it to the floor and killing it, and then obsessively checked my neck to watch for decaying flesh, found a red mark which may or may not have been a bite mark, and panicked for the next 24 hours. Thankfully, I was fine, so to this day I have no idea whether or not it bit me (apparently some people don’t have their flesh decay) or whether that mark came from something else. Let’s just say that ever since I’ve been known to carefully check packages before bringing them in my house.

  3. Danelle says:

    This is hilarious Ruthie. I would be a paranoid wreck too!
    So excited for y’all’s move into a house!!

  4. LauraKemp says:

    So funny but I would have been just as dramatic! When we moved into the apartment we live in now I killed 4 spiders in one night – thankfully not brown recluses! Yay for moving and double yay for your first home!

  5. Laura says:

    In Canada, we don’t have poisonous spiders, or at least that I know of… maybe I’m wrong and my ignorance is bliss. Anyway, I react like this over centipedes. I know it’s irrational, because I know they can’t kill me. They’re just disgusting and make me scream and do ridiculous things…… like pouring entire mop buckets of water down a drain trying to force their bodies into the pipes.

    I can’t imagine how I’d handle a poisonous spider. Spiders have never bothered me because I know they can’t hurt me (here), and yet somehow centipedes have escaped that logic. They just have so many legs!!

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