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The itsy bitsy spider... (05/20/2007)
By Cynthya Porter

Nothing is quite as character-building as being a parent, especially during those moments when your kids think you can solve any problem, and you think you should be running away down the road and you hope they can keep up.

On an excursion through the back roads of Wisconsin we had one of those little character-building episodes as we were meandering our way through the countryside with the windows down and the radio up.

Piled three across in the back seat were my daughters McKenzie and Mallory, 10 and 14, and my very young sister Amanda, 15, who was visiting from California, and as I chauffeured them along we were all laughs and life was good.

Then something strange happened. Freakishly strange. Horror movie strange.

Something flew in the window, hit Mallory in the chest and disappeared between the mash of legs and purses in the back seat. It was small, like perhaps a dragonfly or a twig or something, and after a curious look around no one paid it much mind.

About a half-mile later, all hell broke loose.

In the rearview mirror I saw Mallory, bewildered, brush off her chest. Then Amanda did the same, and then the girls started to scream.

But they weren't just screaming, they were screaming words that make my blood run cold. "HELP! I'm covered with SPIDERS!"

More screaming. Now McKenzie's screaming too, and I'm trying not to crash on the tight bend of the narrow country road that doesn't even have a shoulder to speak of. Oh yeah, and I'm screaming too.

Anyone who has followed my columns knows I hate spiders, they are like Kryptonite for Superman to me. And now I have a few hundred of them in my car.

In the most unsafe fashion possible, I screech to a halt in the middle of the bend, two tires still on the road and the other two on the edge of a deep ditch.

Completely hysterical, we fight the tangle of seatbelts and scramble out of the car. Two of the girls end up in the ditch and Amanda, her foot caught in the seatbelt of my two-door car, ends up sprawled in the middle of the road with her I-Pod player, the only thing she saved from the car, skidding across the road into the other lane.

I wish I could have a movie of us just then, running around the side of the road frantically brushing off what turned out to be literally hundreds of tiny spiders.

After a couple of minutes we calm down, we catch our breath, and we start to laugh. And laugh. Almost as hysterically as we were with spiders on us. It was just so crazy, and after it was over it seemed awfully funny.

But then we realize, with dawning dread, that it's not really over at all.

The car.

"I'm not getting back in there," the three say in unison. I agree with them, wondering abstractly how we will make the last hour of our trip home now that we have to abandon my vehicle forever.

Reluctantly I accept the fact that I, the grownup, will have to be the soldier who goes back into the car to fight the spiders, and I wonder how I'm going to do that without any bug spray or at least some vodka.

A pleasant teenage girl stops to see if we need some help. I'm tempted to ask her if she kills spiders, but I decide it's time to pretend I'm the grownup these three girls think I am.

On the floor in the back seat I find the apparent culprit, some sort of bright yellow and black grub that came in the window absolutely covered with spiders.

Fascinated and horrified at the same time, I couldn't tell if they were attacking it or merely riding piggyback as it mysteriously flew through the air, and I wondered for a minute how exactly a worm flies anyway.

But with itsy bitsy spiders still all over the back seat and floor I didn't really have time to care, working frantically to smash them all lest they find good spots to hide only to crawl on me later.

Several minutes go by. I'm sweating and twitching, quite certain I'll have nightmares for a long time. But at last I am convinced that the spiders are gone.

After several more minutes of coaxing I manage to convince the girls to get back in the car and we are off again with lessons under our belt.

My daughters learned that I am willing to be brave when I have to be, and they eye me with new respect after our little episode.

Amanda has learned that the Midwest is a really freakish place, and she is silently wondering about moving up her flight home.

And I have learned, with the windows tightly shut, that country breezes are overrated and that air conditioning is worth every penny no matter how nice it seems outside. 


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