I remember it like it was yesterday . . .
I was barely a decade old and pure boy. I had already broken both arms from falling out of trees or off of walls and I’m pretty sure there were several stitches in my chin from a random “monkey bars” accident at school. I loved dirt, and my BMX, and baseball. I was a typical boy doing typical boy things and living the typical boy dream and on this particular day my father was feeding my boyness by taking the family to a place I had always wanted to go. Today we were going on a family trip to a brand new place. Somewhere new and fun, a place better than Disneyland, today my father was taking the family to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. A Place where the animals roam free, a place where I could feed Giraffe’s by hand and take a tram ride through the preserve and watch Lions as they roam about. It sounded wonderful and I couldn’t think of a better place to go. Needless to say, I was very excited about this trip. Of course, had I known then that I was about to have a life changing traumatizing experience, I would not have been so excited.
It was a warm summer morning. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, “Wolfgang” the family Rottweiler was barking, and my sister was crying. My sister was always crying and it drove me nuts. I remember sitting on my bed ready to go listening to my mother begging my sister to stop, but all attempts failed miserably. She just wouldn’t shut up. It was apparent that she did not want to go and she was making it known to the world. But I did what I always do when my sister was in one of her fits. I closed my door and turned on a video game. It seemed to me that this was the best way to not only drown out the ear-piercing screams of my sister, but also pass the time until my father spoke the magic words. The words I could not wait to hear and within no time at all they came.
“Come ‘on guys’ time to go!” My father yelled as he exited the bathroom. Steam flowing in the wind behind him.
I wasted no time. I bolted out the front door stood impatiently next to the family Volvo station wagon and waited for my father to unlock the car. My heart raced and my eyes were wide with adrenaline. I could barely contain myself. My only worry was the drive. San Diego was an hour and a half away and I was pretty sure I couldn’t make it. I waited there, by the car, watching the front door wondering why everyone was taking so long. Eventually the rest of the family came out with my sister lagging behind and full of tears and we piled into the car.
As expected the car ride was awful, but somehow I managed. Even though the long drive was pushing the limits of my ability to sit still, I did. It wasn’t until the moment my father pulled the car off the freeway and up into the hills did I lose my composure. As my father maneuvered around the twisty road I began to jump in my seat. This did not please my father and he yelled at me demanding that I sit stilled. I apologized and complied with his request.
“This is it! We’re here!” I exclaimed. My mother looked back at me and smiled and my sister shot me a dirty look. I just ignored her. (Okay, maybe I spat my tongue out at her but that really doesn’t matter right now. This is about me not her.)
My father took his sweet time finding a parking spot. It felt like another hour had passed before we were parked and out of the car. We slowly made our way across the parking lot towards the front gate. I skipped most of the way while my sister cried.
While my father stood in line waiting to by the tickets my mother pulled us off to the side for a little talk.
“Do not wonder off.” She said. “You don’t want some bad person taking you and touching you in the privates!” This is my mothers’ favorite technique. Scare us into behaving and it worked . . . it caused some serious damage! But it did work.
My mother gave us a hug as my father walked up with the tickets. He handed them out to everyone and we headed towards the gate . . . only moments away from a life changing event.
The four of us walked through the turnstiles and followed my father off to the side by a large planter. He pulled out a map of the park and proceeded to figure out where to go first. He exchanged a few words with my mother then motioned to my sister and I to follow them. My sister, who was no longer crying, but still pouting, shot me a dirty look then ran next to mom. I stood next to my father.
We followed the path down a slight hill towards the innards of the park and as we rounded a small corner I noticed a bunch of people standing in a crowd staring at something.
“Dad, what’s goin’ on over there?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Let’s go find out.” He said patting me on the head.
My dad and I walked quickly over to the crowd to see what the commotion was about. At first I didn’t understand what I was looking at. All I could see was a group of people standing around and laughing. A few people where making “eeewwww” sounds and a few children seemed scared. This made me all the more curious at what was going on so I politely pushed my way to the front of the group and my dad followed.
As I broke through the front line of the crowd I found myself looking at a person holding one of the biggest spiders I had ever seen. It was huge and barely fit in one of her hands.
“Dad! Do you see how big that spider is? What kind of spider is that?”
“She just said it. Some kind of tarantula!”
“I can’t believe how big it is!”
It wasn’t until years later did I find out the actual breed of tarantula I was looking at, but now I know. It was a Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula and it was huge!
Here is a picture of it.
I stood there and watched this giant spider sit quietly in this person’s hand as she continued to talk about it. I was mesmerized by the thing. It was cool!
Then the person stopped talking and asked if anyone would like to hold it. I got excited. I wanted to hold it. So I looked up at my dad and asked if it was okay if I held it. He said yes.
So I anxiously threw my hand in the air and yelled “I do!”
“What a brave boy you are!” She said as she motioned for me to step closer to her. “Now put out your hands and put them together and I’ll gently place her on your hands.”
“Okay” I responded and the nice woman placed this humongous spider on my hands. It was so big it barely fit on both of my hands. I remember it being surprisingly light for its size. It was hairy and prickly and its eyes were as black as a starless night. But there was something different about its eyes. They displayed an emotion I had never seen before. There was nothing there. No sense of thought like looking into the eyes of human, or personality like looking into the eyes of a dog or cat. Just blackness – hallow and empty, only a sense of survival shined through and it scared me and I became nervous. It was at this moment that I was about learn several things about spiders. Things I never asked to know, things I wish I could forget.
This creature, this spawn of Satan and everything that is unholy in this world, must have sensed my fear, because it was at this moment it decided to stand up on its hind legs. I had no idea that spiders could stand up on their back legs, but I learned that this day and it’s scary as shit.
Look! Here is a picture of one in the act of standing up! No thank you, please stay on all eight legs!
It was at this point I zeroed in on its head and saw its fangs (or whatever they’re called). I could see them writhing back and forth, up and down, in and out and I watched in terror as its hick juicy saliva dripped from its mouth onto my hands and it began to hiss. That’s right, fucking hiss. Like a cat or a snake. I had no idea spiders could hiss, but I learned that this day and it’s scary as shit!
The sound of this creatures hissing immediately over loaded my fear threshold and my trembling turned into a violent shaking. Unfortunately for me this spider did not care too much for my shaking and it was at this moment that I not only experienced one of the most frightening events of things my life, but it was the single event that caused me to be forever afraid of spiders. Because the moment that my little 10-year-old hands shook I scared the spider and it decided to attack! That’s right, the moment my hands shook, this huge, hairy, spawn of Satan leaped from my hands and flew in the air directly at my face!
I can still see it! All eight legs turning in the wind as it came flying at my face with juicy saliva ridden fangs. My heart stopped and I froze. All I could do was watch as it flew through the air at me . . . and piss my pants! (which I did and I’m not ashamed to say it).
In a last-ditch effort of survival, I turned my head to the left and it landed on my right shoulder continuing to hiss in my ear. I cried out in fear and was about to brush it from me when the worker snatched it quickly off my shoulder.
All I could do was stand their – crying – with wet pants trying to figure out just what happened to me.
It didn’t take long for me figure out that spiders are assholes. I hate them and their hind leg standing, saliva dripping, fanged mouth, hissing evilness.
I will never forget it for as long as I live.