Go ahead, spider — make my day

After a swim one morning last spring, I climbed onto a floating dock and inadvertently snapped a spider web that had been strung between the ladder rails.

Instantly, a daddy longlegs scurried from behind a rung, likely thinking, “Oh boy! Chow time!” — only to discover that instead of a fly or moth helplessly snared by silken threads a two-legged monster had trashed its trap.

“Son of a …” I imagined the arachnid grumbling, “I’m gonna need a bigger web.”

Sure enough, the next morning, newly woven stands stretched across the top of the ladder. Try as I might, though, I couldn’t avoid plowing through them — well, I suppose I could have if I squirmed awkwardly onto the dock like a seal instead of clambered easily up the aluminum steps. That wasn’t going to happen.

Once again, the spider darted out and stared at the wrecked web. If it had ears smoke would have been billowing from them.

“So…” it might have said, “That’s the way you want to play?”

In truth, I wasn’t trying to start a fight — I just wanted to get out of the water and dry off in the sun. Besides, the spider had plenty of places nearby to build a web, whereas I had only one straightforward route onto the dock.

That’s the trouble with most critters, big and small. You can’t REASON with them.

I know that may sound sinister, like what Don Vito Corleone would say as he threw up his hands, but it’s true: They refuse to compromise, even when you are prepared to make an offer they can’t refuse.

“Listen,” I would say, “I will put a couple sticks up right next to the ladder, and I’ll even coat them with honey so they’ll attract all kinds of bugs. That way you can build an even BETTER web, and I can go on using my ladder in peace. Kapeesh?”

Of course, those would be wasted words, and now months have gone by, during which the spider has stubbornly rebuilt dozens of webs, and I don’t even try to steer around them.

“Oops,” I say. “Sorry.”

I should admit here that spiders and I have kind of a checkered history. Let me be clear, though — I’ve never deliberately squashed one on a sidewalk, even as a kid, nor have I ever flushed one down the toilet while it was still wriggling.

That said, I have on more than one occasion used a tissue to grab a refuge-seeking wolf spider — a thick-legged, menacing bruiser almost as big as the palm of your hand — and tossed it far into the bushes, even in the dead of winter.

Hasta la vista, baby! (Well, I never actually said that.)

And years ago, one of these creatures had decided to take a nap in a running shoe, which I didn’t discover until I had loped along for a couple miles. When I eventually figured out that something was amiss and tore off the shoe, the dazed spider staggered out and wandered into the grass by the side of the road. I can’t imagine how it survived.

But honestly, I have no real grudge against spiders. If it weren’t for their efficient predation, swarms of mosquitoes, gnats and other pesky insects would be everywhere.

As for the ongoing test of wills between me and the dock spider, it can’t go on much longer — but not because either of will give in, mind you.

As colder weather approaches I’ll be swimming less frequently, and the spider will be looking for a place to hunker down for the winter. As for next spring, both of us may be making the same vow: “I’ll be ba-a-ck.”

If you want to know the truth, I’ll be happy to see the spider then, and may even consider detouring around its web. Who knows — it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.




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