Oliver: Some battles leave arachnophobe buggy

I have a love-hate relationship with spiders.

Who am I kidding? It’s more of a hate-hate relationship.

When I was a kid, spiders fascinated me. I was a tomboy, and I grew up in the country. My family tended a big garden and raised chickens, geese, goats and the like.

Spiders – beneficial creatures that they are – just came with the territory.

Somewhere along the line, my feelings toward the arachnid population changed from fascination to fear.

Maybe it had something to do with their declaring war on me. Or at least that’s what it looks like from my side.

I trace the hostilities back to a seemingly innocuous night in the mid-1980s. I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom studying for a high school class.

Across the room I spied a dime-sized black spider. I was feeling generous of spirit. If it doesn’t bother me, I won’t bother it, I thought to myself.

I went back to reading.

Minutes later, I felt something crawling on my arm. Ack!

My mother rushed in to check on me after I let out a blood-curdling scream.

That was the opening salvo in a decades-long conflict.

The arachnids nearly won a few years later when I was in college.

I spent a summer living near Wrigley Field in an apartment I shared with a friend and her boyfriend.

Since there was only one bedroom, I slept on a mattress in the living room. 

One night, I must have been bitten by something, because I wound up with a swollen left hand.

Of course, I did not notice this fact until a couple of days later … when I finally woke up.

I was unconscious for about 36 hours. My roommates checked periodically to make sure I was still breathing.

When I awoke, I remained weak and groggy for at least another day.

Am I sure it was a spider bite? Nope. But I have my suspicions.

Thankfully, I’ve never experienced anything like that since.

Still, it definitely ratcheted up the hostilities. Nowadays, my husband likes to say that I defend myself with “extreme prejudice.”

What that actually means is that I often wind up hurting myself in the process.

Occasionally there are periods of détente, when I go back to a “live-and-let-live” policy.

If the spider is outside, it’s where it ought to be and I leave it alone. Inside, well, it depends on my mood.

The latest incident last week ended in a draw.

I was doing some cleaning in our semi-finished basement, and I made the mistake of flipping over a small shelving unit.

A large spider with a bulbous body was none too happy as I rousted it from its lair.

I know, I know, it was probably scared of me, too. My shriek of horror might have had something to do with that. Anyway, it scurried off as I tried to compose myself.

No doubt we’ll meet again.

I might win a few battles, but I’m convinced the spiders will win this war.

After all, I’m woefully outnumbered.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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