A bowling ball would also work, Fred . . .
Spiders have been around for 400 million years, but only two opinions are ever expressed about them in print.
One (the more common): “Ew! Ick! I saw a spider and I’m scared, but it’s kind of funny how much of a coward I am! And I got my man to kill it!”
Two (less common, generally in response to the first): “ * Sigh * Spiders are good and not scary. They eat bugs and amaze scientists with their silk.”
(News sites also say this: “Somebody found a spider in a bunch of grapes. Nobody was hurt, nobody ever is—just the spider. An unqualified local person offered a quote about how narrowly this boy/girl/person/idiot avoided painful death.”)
I feel left out because I don’t write any of those things. And no, writing about certain Marvel comic books and the movies derived from them is not a third thing, at least not today, fanboy.
The second kind of essayist has her or his heart in the right place: spiders are good to have around, and the mysteries of their little parts—not only the silk glands, those are just the marquee organs—does lead to fascinating research, some of which will affect human lives. These writers are smart gardeners and animal lovers, scientists and fans of science, and I salute them. It’s just that framing an animal solely in terms of what it gives us grasping, meddling humans is a back-handed compliment at best. Look—we can milk it, harness it, put it to work, therefore it deserves to live!
Again, I must point out that nobody goes out polling the local bald eagle’s nest to see whether the birds are keeping up their numbers at the call center, or have met their quota of feathers for the pillow factory, or anything ludicrous like that. We don’t even question their patriotism, though they pay suspiciously little in taxes. No, bald eagles get to soar along, secure in their own merits, unlike that silk-spinning little indentured servant out there guarding your tomatoes.
The news writers reporting on the Great Grape Massacree? They’re just lazy, or British.
But as for the first type of opinionator, surely there’s a special place in blogger heck reserved for the writer who follows the ancient, ancient path laid by Wilma Flintstone herself, who left, carved into stone six feet down from the top of today’s Grand Canyon, a fluffery account of domestic drama headlined, “Eeek: A Spider!” I’ll let her tell it:
“Today I was stirring the Pterosaur Pstew—Betty’s recipe, sez it puts even more hair on a man’s chest, wink—and minding my own business when sha-REEK! The most IMMENSE Arachnosaurus came rappelling down into the kitchen (how do they get in? is it through those holes in the rock we have instead of windows??) and landed on the counter!
“What could I do? Here was this, this, THING, a centimeter long if it was a millimeter (can’t be sure because the metric system hasn’t been invented) that had the gall to exist! And aggressive—running around almost as if something was trying to kill it! I grabbed Pebbles and stuffed her under a boulder, chucked Dino out the window, and picked up a flaming torch and waved it around like a majorette, since all those things would make the situation safer. Well, obvo!
“To my surprise, panic and stereotyped behavior didn’t help. So I doubled down—on the stereotypes, I mean, and must I remind you which of the genders carries the club in the natural-history diorama?? Not this blogger in the mammoth-fur coat!—and hollered for Fred.
“Actually, Fred’s as scared of spiders as me, don’t let that slip, but you know how this fossilized melodrama is gonna play out. Barney was watching and smirking. Betty was helping me hyperventilate; neither of us had the strength to scoot the spider into a cup but we had no trouble leaping on a table and standing on tiptoe. Pebbles needed to get out from under that boulder, and the pstew was getting pscorched. So dear Fred played his part. Good thing there’s never a shortage of rocks in this house! Or thick skulls!
“So WHEW, now that’s done, and we can get back to our cozy life dodging asteroids, blaming diseases on invisible forces, and dying at 30. Dead spiders, ladies, am I right? I’m writing this down alongside the creek to show the wusses, wimps, and hacks of the future that Wilma got here first and she PWNS your scary spider story, plus its headline, too, regardless of whether you pick ‘Along came a spider …” or “No itsy-bitsy spider …” HA! Cenozoic out!!”