Arachnophobia 1 Dave 0.

I like to catch and show spiders to people, because I think they’re interesting.
One evening I was at a political meeting when a largish specimen 8-legged it into the middle of the carpet, then realised it was surrounded, and froze. A proportion of the gathering leapt onto chairs and started screaming in high-pitched voices — some of the women did the same. I moved smoothly to intercept the spider and held it in my cupped hands. I started describing it: “Spider, obviously… some sort of House Spider… probably Tegenaria gigantea…”
By this time a few people had calmed down, and were edging closer. “Probably two years old,” I went on, “…and male.” Now everyone was very curious as to know how I could sex a spider, and the bolder members were trying to see for themselves. I gave a little explanation (most people look at the wrong end of the spider), during which I could feel something odd… I peered again between my hands, and could see the spider had a pinch of the pad of my thumb in its jaws… “Oh, it’s trying to bite me,” I announced. This provoked another round of screams and chair-mounting, with dismayed cries of “Oh no, I didn’t know they bite!”
Despite some clutching at logical straws (“FFS, if you didn’t think they could bite, why were you frightened?!” — through gritted teeth), the obvious result of my performance was to take some happily nervous people and give them scientific proof that they should be bloody terrified.
(Inspired by Mark Blackmore’s recent encounter.)

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Filed under political, science & natural history

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