Driving home from my friend Dana’s house yesterday, I was reminded of a time I almost died on that very same road. It was about a year and a half ago, and I had gone back to my hometown to visit Dana one hot summer weekend. We’d had a long night of partying like we were auditioning for the Rolling Stones–and paid for it in the morning. I had one of the worst hangovers I’d ever had in my life. I stayed in bed longer than I was tired just because it hurt to open my eyes. Hell, it hurt to even breathe! I could have spent the rest of my life on that air mattress, but I knew I had to drag my rotting carcass home eventually. Everything hurt, so I skipped getting dressed, skipped combing my hair, and skipped brushing my teeth. I just threw on some sunglasses and flip flops, vomited, and was on my way.
I had just pulled out of Dana’s driveway when I thought, “I cannot do this. I am going to die. Must go back to the air mattress.” But then I realized–the fact that I was able to walk to my car meant this was probably going to be the best shape I’d be in all day so I’d better take advantage of it. I rolled down the car windows for some fresh air and kept on driving.
A few miles later something caught my eye. It looked like something had blown in through my passenger side window. I glanced to my right and SCREAMED, slammed my breaks, ran my car off the road, got out, and ran for my life! When I was a safe distance away I stopped to check and make sure all my limbs were in tact. Then I slowly and reluctantly walked back to my car and thought, “You can do this. It’s okay. You can handle this.” Every piece of me was shaking so hard you could hear it, as I cautiously peered through the driver’s window.
And then I saw it.
There, on my passenger side dashboard–threatening to end my life–was a huge spider.
I let out another scream as we made eye contact, and then did the heeby-jeeby dance just to be absolutely sure there was nothing but cotton touching my skin. Now what? I was panicked and didn’t know what to do. I considered calling Dana to see if she would drive out and help me, but my cell phone was on the passenger seat and there was no way in hell any part of my body was entering that vehicle. Not while that spider sat there, ready to attack. I cursed the deserted Wisconsin highway for having no sign of a weapon in sight, but knew even if I had a weapon I wouldn’t be able to use it–even from outside the car. (Touching something that touches a spider is like practically touching that spider yourself. It cannot happen.)
So I decided to wait. Yes, just wait. That was my plan. I waited outside my vehicle, on the side of the highway, in my flip flops, pajama pants, tank top, no bra, ratty hair, and oversized sunglasses. Someone was bound to drive by and realize I was in distress. (And although I looked like hell, the good news is the adrenaline pumping through my veins had instantly cured my hangover–a little fact I was too strung out to realize until hours later.) While I waited, I made sure that spider didn’t leave my sight. Before long someone in a big pick-up truck pulled over. I was thanking God for sending a good ol’ farm boy to my rescue…when out jumped a woman.
“Is everything okay?” she asked as she walked toward me. “Not exactly,” I replied as I took a breath and tried to remain composed while I considered my next move. But then she went and said the magic words that unlock the floodgates of anyone with estrogen:
True to cue, I started BAWLING as I exclaimed in a high-pitched voice I typically reserve for singing Prince songs that there’s a spider in my car and I need someone to kill it, and I know this sounds so stupid, but I’m so afraid of spiders, and I tried really hard to take care of it myself, but I couldn’t find a sledgehammer, and I wasn’t sure if I threw something in at it that I could hit it at the perfect angle to make it go flying out the window, and I’m not usually like this, and I couldn’t call anyone because my phone is in there too, and I considered walking back to town but I didn’t want to leave my handbag, I love that handbag, you can see it through the window, and I don’t know what to do…and on and on and on.
By now the woman is hugging me and telling me it’s going to be okay while digging for a Kleenex and wishing she’d have just kept on driving. Meanwhile I’m snotting all over her shoulder and wishing last night’s tequila really had killed me. When I finish with my breakdown, she miraculously informs me she is not afraid of spiders, and she will take care of it for me.
We walked back toward my car and I was about to point it out to her, although I was certain no introduction was needed, considering the size of that sucker–when my situation went from bad to worse.
The spider was no longer sitting on the dashboard.
I’d lost sight of it!
Which meant it could be anywhere!!
I started crying all over again, but the woman calmly assured me it was okay and she would find it. She opened my car door, and I watched wide-eyed as she climbed inside and told me all about how her best friend is also terrified of spiders so she has to kill them for her all the time, they don’t bother her one bit, but she understands about having a phobia, she’s scared of the dark and knows that’s silly to most people, and I shouldn’t feel bad for how I feel because that’s not something you can help, and try to remember spiders are more scared of you than you are of them…and on and on.
While I listened to her calmly talk me down from the ledge, she pulled out my front seat floor mats and shook them out. Still no sign of the spider. So she moved to the back seat floor mats. Still no sign. Next came the blanket I’d brought with me for my sleepover. And then my overnight tote—which was open-topped. I thought it was possible the spider may have ninja-jumped to the backseat and into my tote when I wasn’t looking, so not only did she visually inspect my tote, she patiently pulled out every last thing inside–including my bra–to shake it out and be absolutely certain. (I considered asking for the bra back, post-shake, so I was no longer the braless hysterical girl in her pajamas on the side of the highway crying over a spider–but by then what was the point?)
In the end, she had taken out and shook every last bit of anything that wasn’t bolted down in my car, inspected every nook and cranny of my empty car, and then re-shook everything one more time before putting it all back in. There was still no sign of the spider, but by then she had calmed me down enough to talk some sense into me, and told me she probably shook him out and we just didn’t see it. I tried believed her–because saints don’t lie–hugged her and thanked her profusely. Then she watched me to make sure I really was brave enough to get back in my car and drive off. The only thing that kept me from having an all-out nervous breakdown was that amazingly kind and patient pick-up driving, spider-killing, phobia-sensitive saint of a woman who took the time out of her day to rescue me on the side of the highway.
In honor of her, I tried really really hard to believe that spider was gone, but my adrenaline was still pumping like crazy as I white-knuckled it the entire drive home–all windows securely up, of course. My heart stopped beating the second anything caught my eye unexpectedly. When I got home, I walked in the house and promptly stated to G:
“We need to sell the car.”