I’ve had some good times with spiders, and some bad times with spiders. This, fortunately, was one of the former.
The other night I was driving home when I noticed a curiously spider-shaped splotch on my windshield. “My word,” I thought, “that brown piece of dirt looks exactly like a spider!” Then I thought, “Why, Ann, that is a spider.”
Then I got to play one of my least favorite games: trying to figure out whether the spider was outside the car on top of the windshield or inside the car with me, waiting for some inopportune moment to crawl its creepy little legs onto my skin, thereby triggering my overactive startle reflex and making me crash my car into the nearest tree.
Turns out it was outside the car. “Well, that’s one bullet dodged, “ I thought. “Now I can be on my merry way!” As for the spider, I figured it would blow off my windshield as soon as I pulled onto the Beltway, and that would be the end of that chapter.
But I was wrong. As I pulled onto the Beltway and gunned the car up to 50, then 60, then 65, my eyes kept darting back to the little spider on my windshield, each time expecting that it would be gone. Not so. That little spider buckled down, spread out each of her eight tiny legs, and clung to my windshield with the tenacity of 1,000 gladiators fighting for their lives.
Suddenly, I couldn’t help but see the situation from her perspective.
“Mmmm… this cool expanse of glass looks like a good place for a nap.”
“Huh? What the–? Am I moving? That doesn’t make any sense. Must’ve been a nightmare. I’ll just close my eyes and drift back off to… ”
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! SWEET JESUS, THE WINNNDDDD, THE HIDEOUS WINNNNNNNNNDDDDD!!!!”
It just didn’t seem fair. But what could I do? I was driving on the Beltway. We were nowhere near our destination. It would be crazy to pull over and let her off. So I kept on driving, but I also kept on checking on my little wind warrior. Every few seconds, my eyes would dart down to make sure that she was still there. Every time, I was rewarded with the image of her brave little body braced against doom and destruction, against all odds, still holding fast against the glass.
God, was I rooting for that poor spider. As each exit passed, I counted down with relief in my head. 33… 31… 30… 29…
“Hold on, little spider!” I thought. “We’re almost there!” It had never occurred to me that she could actually survive this odyssey of terror, but I began to feel real hope for her now. I dared to name her in my head: Xena, after the warrior princess she clearly was.
Finally, after twenty-five harrowing minutes of life fighting death, hope fighting darkness, exit 28B was in sight. As slowly and carefully as I could manage without infuriating the other drivers around me, I eased the car down the off-ramp, praying that the side-wind of the turn wouldn’t weaken Xena’s exhausted grip on the slippery glass.
“Come on, Xena! Almost there! Don’t give up now!” I thought.
The car rolled to a stop at the first traffic light, and I dared to peek down to see if Xena had survived the final turn off the Beltway. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to forgive myself for her death, knowing that unintentional or not, I would still be the one responsible for her loss.
But there, straining against the windshield, valiant as ever, Xena lived!
The rest of the journey home was a piece of cake compared to the horror of the Beltway, a brief 40 mph jaunt. The light at the end of the tunnel was finally in sight.
Heartened, I drove on, composing odes to Xena’s heroism in my head.
It wasn’t until I reached the last stoplight that I glanced back down to reassure myself of her presence. It was then that I saw…
…A clean windshield…
Xena was gone.
I actually screamed, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” to the heavens. I’m not even kidding.
Onlookers stared from their adjacent cars, baffled by my outburst. I didn’t care.
Over the course of our journey together, I had developed so much respect for my brave little friend. She had fought so hard for so long. We’re talking, like, a full half hour here. Thirty freaking minutes of fighting for survival against overwhelming odds. That’s a long time to fight for your life in human time, but spiders only live for like a year. Nuts if I know how long that would translate to proportionately in spider time because I don’t care to calculate it, but let’s just say it’s 30 months. That’s 2.5 years! That spider was a freaking war hero!
And this… this was how she went out? Living through the whole Beltway ordeal only to die a minute away from home? What is this world we live in where something like this could happen?
My faith in the benevolence of the universe obliterated, I pulled grimly into the parking lot and parked the car. I was disgusted with my death mobile, destroyer of lives and dreams. Wanting it out of my sight, I got out of the car, turned my back, and began to walk away.
But then, I stopped, arrested in place by one last shred of hope: What if she wasn’t dead? What if, somehow, she had been blown to some other part of the car and held on there? What if, maybe—just maybe, Xena had made it after all?
Apprehensive, afraid to hope, I picked my way back to the car and scoured the front for any sign of the bravest traveling companion I’d ever had.
And this is what I saw:
Xena clinging to the inside of my windshield wiper! She survived after all! That resourceful little minx! Hero of heroes!
Needless to say, I squealed with glee, and snapped a picture with my iPhone to immortalize her for all of eternity. And then, because that wasn’t enough, I wrote her this blog post.
So here’s to Xena, the spider who laughed in the face of death and lived another day to give another unsuspecting human the heebie jeebies! I feel like there’s probably a lesson to be learned here—something about tenacity and the strength of the human spirit. But Xena wasn’t a human; she was a spider. So maybe the lesson is that spiders are way cooler than us. Or maybe it’s just that they’re better at gripping onto slippery surfaces. Either way, your ass had better be somehow inspired because mine sure was.
P.S. Bonus points if someone actually calculates how long a 30 minute near-death experience would translate to in spider time.