A few people have asked me recently how I became so deathly afraid of spiders.
Was I born an arachnid wimp who always screeched like a frightened school girl at the site of an eight-legged beast, or did it take time to become such a fraidy cat?
It happened one fateful day when I was in elementary school.
Up until that day of infamy I was not a huge fan of spiders, but I was not the trembling super wuss I am today.
Like every little boy anywhere in the world, I was interested in gross stuff like bugs, snakes and other such critters. We used to catch grasshoppers by the handful and chase dragonflies every chance we got.
I can even remember grabbing some of those big, ugly, nasty looking water beetles from out of our pool.
As I grew older, my fear and dislike of insects grew – that will happen when you catch a biting or stinging variety one time too many – but I had not yet developed the mind-numbing terror I feel as an adult.
Spiders were never one of my favourite bugs to play with, but it was on a camping trip in school that my stark raving fear of spiders was tattooed onto the psyche.
It was day two of a four-day trip when some friends and I (yes, I had friends in school) were goofing around and running about the campground.
I can remember being chased by buddy of mine for some reason or another when I turned hard off the roadway and into the surrounding woods.
I was ducking and dodging branches and bushes like a woodland sprite when I cut between two trees.
It was then that fate took its cruel turn in an incident that would scar me for life.
You see, strung between those two poplar trees was a spider web. A big spider web. A big spider web that was about head high.
I hit the web at full speed and it wrapped around my face like a mask. Of course spider webs are sticky, so it didn't just hit my face, it super glued itself to my entire head.
Now the thing about spider webs is they often contain a spider. And often the spider will sit in the very centre of the web and wait for an unsuspecting insect to get caught in its trap of doom.
When I hit the web, the spider, which was roughly the size of a small Bassett hound, ended up in my left eye socket.
As of that wasn't bad enough, the beast then scampered up my forehead, over the top of my head and down my back – into my shirt.
To say I freaked out is to say the Titanic had a bit of a mishap.
I clawed at the web to get it off my head even as I felt the spider run down the back of my neck.
I was spinning and turning and thrashing like a mad man having a standing seizure.
This is known as the spider dance – an uncontrollable, panic-driven set of moves designed to rid yourself of any possible intruder. This works for bugs of all description, but is most enthusiastically done with a spider.
Anyway, after doing the spider dance to the amusement of my friends, I tore my shirt off, slammed it on the ground and continued to twist and gyrate like I was on fire.
Once I calmed down, I stomped on the shirt repeatedly in case the spider was still in its cottony folds.
I don't recall if I ever wore that shirt again, but to this day I can still recall the feeling of that massive, prehistoric-sized spider clambering across my face and head.
Even thinking about it now sends a shiver up my spine causing me to do the spider twitch (a much more subdued version of the spider dance.)
And that, dear readers, is how I became terrified of spiders; and really, who could blame me.
Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh