The Best Laid Plans – How a Single Spider Ruined a Thai Meal
I have a confession to make. This is sure to change everyone’s idea of me. I’m supposed to be this masculine type of guy: climbing rocks, scuba diving, mountain biking, skydiving; it’s all child’s play to me. But I’m stalling. The truth is, I’m, um, afraid of spiders.
When I was about ten my parents wanted to head off to Europe, and being practical types decided they would have much more fun without me. I was sent off to Camp Spiderwonda in the forests of Southern California (yes, there are such things as forests in California; you just have to look a little).
Things were going along just fine. I made those little plastic woven key chains, strangely colored ceramic ashtrays for my parents who didn’t smoke, and sang Kumbaya around the campfire – everything was a picture of camping tranquility. Then came one warm August night that would change the rest of my life: “The Polar Bear Swim”.
I like to think this was not the idea of some pedophile, but rather a well-meaning camp counselor who thought young boys should get used to the idea of being naked around each other, but the whole thing bugged me from the start. I clearly remember having to take off all of our clothes, shower, and stand in line for ‘inspection’ by the also naked counselors (who were much more mature than we were, something that left me scarred for years). So here I am, standing in a nervous line of naked boys when one of the counselors grabbed me and said: “You have a big spider in your ear!”
I remember that moment like it was yesterday, suddenly forgetting I was naked and jumping around screaming “Get it out, get it out”. The counselors all laughed and one of them said, “I bet it has laid eggs in your ear and the babies will eat your brain”. Little did he know that comment would scar me for life.
Fast-forward to college. I spent a summer fighting forest fires. Forests are full of spiders. When a fire gets hot, they tend to panic and drop from the trees on silken parachutes. Frequently covered with small spiders, I could deal with it because I was wearing a mask over my face and a heavy layer of fire-retardant clothing. I’m not saying they didn’t bother me, but caught up in the moment, adrenaline pumping, one tends not to notice such things. However, my nonchalance doesn’t carry over to home. Let’s jump to a recent warm July evening.
I was feeling particularly proud of myself. I had taken a hard mountain bike ride through loose gravel and mud for over 30 miles. Not only that, I pushed it hard, working off my stress for the week. I decided I needed a reward and stopped for takeout food on the way home. Not just average Thai food, but from an out-of-the-way place that sells some of the best in town. I knew it would be worth the extra drive, and there was a video store next door. I’ve always had a tradition of renting a movie every time I get food to go.
When I got home I laid out a whole spread. Rice, a couple of curries, an appetizer; everything was set. The only thing needed was a cold beer to wash it down. Digging in the back of my refrigerator, I found a cold Delirium Tremens. I carried it back to my carefully arranged table and ceremoniously popped the top. A Vesuvian geyser of foam shot from the bottle, arching over my plate and into the bowls of curry. The almost empty bottle clunked mysteriously. It seemed the bit remaining in the center was frozen.
I sat and looked at the rice floating on a layer of cold beer, considering for a moment that I may have stumbled upon a culinary masterpiece the likes of which the world has not known since the invention of the peanut butter cup. With a shaking hand, I dipped out a small spoonful and rolled it around my tongue. Cool, nutty, and a bit watery; would it sell in Ohio? I spit it out and glowered at the pool of foam dripping off the dining room table and onto the wood floor. At the same time, the DVD player mysteriously ejected my movie before the opening credits rolled. God obviously didn’t want me celebrating tonight.
Most people would have rolled over at this point. Looking back I realize that this would have been the only reasonable option for me. My food was ruined, all the beer was frozen – I briefly considered microwaving a couple on defrost but fortunately decided against it – and my movie wouldn’t play. Unfortunately, I am stupidly bull-headed. Fighting back the urge to bang my head against the wall, I browsed my wine collection looking for a bottle that called out to me. A sexy little Italian number caught my eye and even though it was an expensive bottle, I knew God wanted me to have it, as there was a little label reminding me to drink it by 2005.
Once again I sat down at the dining table, this time with a sad frozen pizza, and carefully, oh so carefully, opened my wine. It gurgled lovingly into the glassware but filled the base with a brownish hue. The wine tasted somewhere between a cross of sulfur mine and decaying road kill.
I’m not as stupid as I sound. Knowing I was beaten, I did the only thing I could think of doing and went to the bathroom. After two mostly-frozen beers and a few sips of bad wine, nature was calling in a loud voice. So there I was, standing doing my thing when the biggest spider I have ever seen outside of the Deep South ran up my bare leg and into my boxer shorts. A yellow trail marked my leap from the bathroom and out of the front door. Once again I was jumping around screaming to myself, “Get it out, get it out”, and swatting at my shorts. It was like I was at camp all over again, and I wondered how quickly (and where) it might be laying eggs.
It took me a few minutes to realize that it had jumped off during my mad dash to the front door. Why I ran outside still isn’t clear to me, though I do have this rule that I don’t kill things unless extremely provoked. All I knew was the spider was inside the house, and the door had swung shut and locked behind me during my flight. Something was out of balance in the universe tonight. I had become the spider.
Fortunately, I wasn’t wearing some kind of embarrassing underwear. Nothing with big hearts or silly sayings, but still I scuttled along the wall toward my patio where I had hidden a spare key. Of course, that was the moment a large passenger van full of high school kids pulled up and stopped hard, its headlights glaring at me in the darkness. They were just back from a rally of some sort, “Go Beavers” and such painted on the side windows. There was nothing but stunned silence from the vehicle. I sucked in my gut and tried to look nonchalant, retrieving my key and acting like I always walk around outside in my underwear, before turning the corner and going back into the spider’s den.
I feel very vulnerable. Did Frodo have pants on when he fought the great spider Shelob in Lord of the Rings? Two hours later and I’m still wearing boots, jeans, socks tucked over my pant legs, a long sleeve shirt with a Stihl hat pulled tightly over my ears, and a rolled newspaper at my side. The spider so far eludes me, no doubt waiting for the next time nature calls. I sit here typing away, constantly feeling things running up my legs. I refuse to drink liquids – nothing will bring me back to the bathroom tonight. All because of a smart-ass teenage camp counselor.
June Reynolds says
Oh my gosh, that was so funny! Thanks for making my laugh out loud. Keep on writing!
Ryan W says
Great story! Really enjoyed reading it.
Marshall Manning says
That was funny, and it almost seemed like a dream, or a bad nightmare.
Funny that you mention the “telltale color” of a wine that was corked. I’ve never seen anything written on it, but I swear that TCA not only ruins the aromas and flavors of wine but also makes red wines more brownish.
This is the best morning laugh I have had in so long! I recently found this site and have been devouring your restaurant reviews but this piece was a meal in itself. You’re a great writer.
Heather Kiok says
I wish you’d stick with the food. I really do enjoy your reviews and your point of view.
I really enjoy it when you mix in other writing. It keeps your site interesting!
Hillary Johnson says
That’s about the funniest damned thing I’ve read in a million years. You are a Kitchen Quixote. More digressions, please!
At least there are no black widows or spotted brown recluses in Portland. I, too, have an extreme fear of spiders. I often think spiders are going to crawl into my ears and lay eggs in my brain. Really. But, I have never peed on myself (not yet, anyway).
– From a relatively new reader of your blog
Mrs Soup says
Oh goodness, my severe arachnophobia kicked in just reading this. *shudders* You need a Spider warninng on this post!!
No just kidding- that was hilarious. Although, I am from the South and the spiders out here are much larger than there. Roaches are another story, however…
Food Dude says
One hot summer night, I was standing in a phone booth (back in the days of phone booths) at a rest stop in Louisiana. A green and yellow spider dropped down across the open doorway. I was pressed against the back glass, letting my life pass before my eyes in slow motion. I swear, it was the size of a small plate.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I’m not a big fan or eels either, having been trapped in a cave by a large moray eel one time while diving with my father off the coast of California.
Strangely, roaches don’t bother me in the least, though I have never had them in my own house.
This is too on point. It actually sounds just like me and my fear of spiders; the result of a couple bad bites in elementary school, some teasing, and growing up in a basement. Sometimes it helps to kill them but not dispose of them. Leaving a leg or crushed torso around helps to warn other spiders that this is not where they want to be. So far this is the ONLY way I have been able to deal with my fears…
Food Dude says
I’m never looking in your refrigerator!
That was so well written and entertaining. Of course today those camp counselors would have their bare asses sued and probably for good cause. One wonders about their perversity.
Food Dude says
Thank you. I should say that the camp episode took place in the late 50’s early 60’s; things were a bit different then.
I had to forward this to my arachnophobic husband, who was freaked at an early age by what he described as “a tarantula as big as a catcher’s mitt.” I am the spider-removal wallah in this household, you betcha.
That… was the most amusing and terrifying story I’ve ever read. Spiders are one of the few things in this world that I am truly afraid of. So! From one arachnophobic person to another: You did NOT overreact at all. Hah! =D
Thank you for sharing your conglomeration of life-scarring scenarios for our entertainment.
Dude, I rarely comment, but wanted to say how much I love these stories! I’ve never noticed this part of your site before and the wife and I are enjoying them. Please write more!!!