I have a secret that you can’t tell my kids. I don’t like spiders. My kids don’t know this because I don’t want them to pick up my phobia, so for them I manage spiders without screaming. I knock them off walls and I kill them if necessary. I lie and say spiders aren’t scary, and that they are only living their lives, just like us. Leave them be, and they’ll leave you alone right back. But here’s the truth: Spiders are creepy and crawly and you never know where they are going to pop up. I don’t remember a time when I liked spiders, but I definitely remember the event that gave me the nearly thirty year heebie jeebies.
I was in second or third grade, and was riding the bus home like I did every school day. Our town was so small, even though almost everyone rode the bus, it was never full. I was sitting near the middle of the bus, slouched down, with my knees propped up on the forest green pleather bench seat in front of me. Bouncing along on my short ride home, something pinched me. In my pants. It hurt and startled me enough to make me cry out. Rosa, our driver, looked back through her rear view mirror, and saw me jump up.
“What was that?” she hollered. By this time I was crying and couldn’t answer. My overreaction prompted her to investigate, and she pulled over quickly (not hard to find a place to stop in our town that boasts one church, one post office, and one restaurant/store.) She lumbered back to my seat, her hips rubbing on the seats as she passed. She saw my obvious distress and asked me what was wrong. “I don’t know,” I answered, because I didn’t. Something hurt my butt, but like hell I was going to say that on the bus with everyone looking at me. Instead I went with “Something hurts inside my pants.”
Now, I don’t know how this story would have gone if my bus driver was a man, or if it happened in today’s culture, but here’s how it went down in mid 80’s: Rosa took me to the back of the bus, made everyone face forward, and I dropped my jeans. There, in the back of my Levis was a spider. A spider that bit my ass. I was on the way HOME from school. Was that spider next to my skin all day, just waiting for me to sit in that awkward, knees scrunched up position? I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to consider that probability until later. All I could wrap my adolescent mind around was the fact that I was on the bus, with my pants around my ankles.
We got that spider out of my pants, and I pulled up my britches and slunk back to my seat. To my peers’ credit, they never spoke of the fact that while they heeded Rosa’s warning to face forward, she never told anyone not to watch through that big rear view mirror.