Saturday, April 21, 2007

New housemate

Last night when I got home the first thing I did, as always, was to wash my hands. I was pretty well sleepwalking by that point. It was Friday. (My Friday schedule is a tiring one, as I have probably mentioned before, and probably not only once.)

However, when I sleepwalked to the basin in the hallway I was galvanized to one hundred percent alertness by the large furry spider sitting on the wall right behind the tap. It was not a very fun way to find out that my reflexes keep working quite well even when I'm tired.

(In case you're wondering, I used the word furry after some consideration. I had written hairy, but I have seen hairy spiders, and this one is not hairy. It is furry. And although it is quite large, it is not as large as some of the huntsman spiders I've seen here, so I got the impression that it is a bit of a baby still, with baby fluff, although it could be a fully grown spider with tucked-in legs and a problem with unwanted hair.)

I informed the spider that if it stayed there it was going to get splashed. It didn't seem to mind that idea, so very carefully, without taking my eyes off it, I reached out and turned the tap, not making any sudden movements. I lathered up thoroughly, and then rinsed. The spider got splashed so I said, "See? I told you so." It tucked one leg in a bit, but otherwise didn't respond.

"Stay there," I told it. I was feeling a little more comfortable with my new companion now. "I want to take your picture."

But when I went back with the camera it had gone.

I was a little worried. Where did it go? I don't mind sharing the house with a large spider, especially with the mosquito season coming up (they eat cockroaches, too!), but only as long as it doesn't give me surprises. These spiders are really good at providing surprises. They have two main ways of doing this. One is when the spider sits somewhere absolutely still, looking fascinating, You lean in to get a closer look (because it's SO still you think maybe it's dead. Is that a REAL spider? you think, because surely they don't get THAT big) and then it suddenly moves, at incredibly high speed. They don't seem to have a setting anywhere between motionless and lightning fast, and since by then you have convinced yourself it is dead it's a bit like the effect you'd get if you were at a funeral and the corpse sat up briskly and said, "Hi!"

The other way these spiders provide surprises is when you think you're alone, sitting peacefully typing an email, and suddenly this huge thing sprints vertically up the side of the bookcase beside you. It's too fast for your eye to follow properly, so you just get a glimpse of something shockingly large shooting up the bookcase. The last time that happened to me I sat here for a good five minutes afterwards, unable to move at all, breathing heavily.

When either of these things happen you learn what 'startled out of your wits' really means. You and your wits part company so thoroughly you're not sure whether a reunion is even possible.

You may wonder why I tolerate these things in the house (besides the mosquito and cockroach thing, I mean). There are two reasons for my wonderful tolerance and hospitality. One is that I don't see them very often - maybe once or twice a year, and most of the time it's possible to forget they're here. They are shy creatures, and I suspect our odd encounters upset them as much as they do me.

But the other reason is that really, what is the alternative? Small spiders can be helped out the window if you want them to leave, but these are not the kind of spiders that it is possible to help in that way. And while I would never hit a spider with a slipper anyway (unless I were in Australia, perhaps - I've heard things about Australian spiders), these are not the sort of spider you want to do that to. Even supposing you were fast enough (which I doubt), the resulting mess would be too horrible to contemplate. You would probably have to move out afterwards.

I did try to catch one, once, in the bathroom, where it was decorating a tile. I approached it very slowly and sneakily with an opened (empty) milk carton, hoping to sweep it into the bottom of the carton and take it outside. It was completely motionless. I swooped in and thought I'd succeeded, but when I turned around triumphantly holding the carton up high and ready to run for the door, I came face to face with the spider, which had miraculously relocated itself on the other wall. It then shot up to the ceiling and I screamed and dropped the carton. The carton was, of course, empty, but as is usual in these situations my wits were elsewhere, and anyway I was so sure that I'd caught the spider I got the idea that there were two. I did a panicked little shuffly dance away from the carton, fully expecting the other spider to jump out, and terrified that I would step on it with my bare feet. It did not help that I'd dumped a pile of washing on the floor and there wasn't much space to move. Picking up the washing to put it in the machine later on was a bit hair-raising, too, even though by then I was pretty sure there had only been one spider. A part of me still didn't really believe that I'd missed.

I don't think either of us enjoyed that particular episode, and since then the spiders and I have maintained a respectful distance, aside from the occasional accidental encounter.

It is now Saturday morning. I just went to check, and the spider is now sitting half under the soap dish. I am not sure that it is a healthy spider. When I approached the basin it did not move. I prodded one leg (with the edge of the dish) very gently, and it twitched but did not do anything surprising, although I have to admit that I was so braced for the more usual bolt up the wall that I jumped when it didn't.

What to do? What to do?

Updates will follow.


kenju said...

Under normal circumstances, I cannot tolerate cockroaches and mosquitoes, but if it comes to choosing between them and spiders, the roaches and skeeters will win out every time!

Ms Mac said...

I thought when I read this post the other day that you had a quote from somewhere about what huntsman spiders eat. It went along the lines of, "The huntsman eats cockroaches and flies at night..."

I should have commented at the time that I misread it and thought how hideous it was that all those huntsmen we had in our Aussie houses could have been flying around the house when I was sleeping.

But now I've had nightmares about flying huntsmen- Eeeeek!

Badaunt said...

Ms Mac: You were right - it's the link at the beginning (this one), and that's exactly what it says. I can't believe I didn't notice that myself! It IS a disturbing idea.