As I was getting ready for work yesterday morning, a small movement toward the end of the bathroom counter caught my eye. I looked, and among the bottles of lotion and deodorant I keep on the counter was an ugly, brown spider. It was not very large, though a spider need not be very large to frighten me. I've been known to scream like a girl at the top of my voice and dash to far corners of the house when confronted with spider, no matter what the size or type.
Unfortunately I was alone, my husband having already left for work. I was going to be forced to deal with this nasty little spider on my own (not my favourite thing). It was moving in short spurts -darting forward a few inches then stopping for a moment, then darting forward again. Spiders make me itch all over, and this one moved too fast and seemed too observant for my taste. Surely it saw me; I was positive it was getting ready to jump the length of the counter, land on my face, and begin eating my eyeballs out of my head at any moment.
I screwed up what courage I thought I had in me and reached over to the toilet paper, spinning off a large quantity. I was going to crush the life out of the spider and flush it down the toilet. Then I was going to let all my anxiety out by dancing around the hallway on my tiptoes and flail my arms about (proven de-spidering technique).
But as soon as I started spinning the toilet paper roll, that damnable spider scurried forward and off the edge of the counter. It moved so fast it looked like thick liquid poured across the counter and down the side. I was certain it was coming for me, headed right towards my vulnerable naked feet. I won't describe for you what I did then, but it was girly and embarrassing.
It took me a moment to realize it was afraid. I had scared that awful spider, triggered its flight mechanism, probably with the noise from the toilet paper roll. In its fear, it ran straight for the edge of the counter and launched itself to the floor. It was only a few feet, being counter-height, but to a spider-body it must have seemed like a terrible distance.
I think this is an amazing fear response in animals, this flight into the unknown. Humans don't generally do this; we ponder and we worry and we think: What will happen to me? What will I do? How can I control the outcome? We stay where we're afraid, because we're more afraid of what we don't know than we are of what we do know. In fact, we plan for it. We know that certain actions will create a situation of fear, so we avoid those actions. We even have cute phrases to describe why we stay where we are afraid: "better the evil you know than the evil you don't".
Watching that spider's flight response made me want to give in to a fear, any fear. It made me want to experience the absolute freedom of jumping into the unknown to escape a terrifying thing. Damn what I don't know, and screw planning for it. I wanted to flee, and not only because I hate spiders.