I’ve picked up a new hobby which conveniently addresses two important psychological needs: the need to deal with my arachnophobia and the need to play around and be immature.
Late spring is hunting spider season. Those big black bastards appear on your walls or beneath your furniture when you least expect it. They’re lean, they’re always faster than you expect, and they get so big you can almost hear their footsteps as they scurry along the corners of your bedroom. Thankfully they’re pretty rare above the ground floor, but when they do appear up here, there’s only one possible course of action: get out the vaccuum cleaner. I’ve recently picked up a tip from fellow arachnophobes and started sucking up half a handful of uncooked rice afterwards just to make sure the beast is proper dead.
Then comes the second problem. Early summer is web spider season. And web spider season is on all summer, it’s a non-stop party all night in those webs, and your face is invited if you’re not really careful when you come home tired and have to put your bicycle in the shed in the dark. The bicycle shed outside my apartment is a wood canopy, and last summer got pretty unpleasant once two or more spiders had accumulated at each pillar, making it impossible for me to park my bike without passing right beneath a huge, hairy, upside-down arachnid. Last summer I turned the other cheek, so to speak – I dealt with it by looking straight ahead and thinking about kittens. But I’ve had enough. This year I’m doing things a little differently.
I bought an airsoft gun a few years ago. The kind that looks like a real pistol but uses propane gas to propel 6mm (bio-degradable) plastic pellets at about 300 feet per second. My reasons for getting it betrayed an immaturity that some people might expect from a guy who makes videogames for a living but which I usually try to keep repressed. I used it for target practice for a while (it’s cheaper than the shooting range) but now I’ve found a much better use for it.
At 2-3 meters, it usually takes me about 3-6 shots to hit a spider roughly twice the diameter of the projectiles. My hunting trips need to happen after it gets dark because the spiders only come out at night, so I bring a flashlight to help with target acquisition – as an experienced arachnophobe my ability to locate spiders borders on the psychic (as you might imagine it’s not the most exciting superpower to have), but it’s difficult to hit a 1.5 cm target when you can only vaguely make out its outline against the wood backstop. The angle of attack must be carefully chosen to minimise the risk of a ricochet sending dead spider parts back at me, while also minimizing the damage to the canopy itself (I made some serious dents in the rain gutter before I realised this) not to mention damage to the cars parked in front of the shed.
Unfortunately the gas, the cycling mechanism of the pistol, and the impact of the pellets make a fair amount of noise, and I have managed to disconcert some of my neighbors on a couple of occasions. Since these forays are a somewhat embarrassing way to pass the time, I try not to get caught – the first time I alerted my neighbors, I managed to duck behind a parked car until they closed their window again (years of stealth games finally paid off). The second time I merely hid the weapon and shone my flashlight up and down the rain gutter as though to say “what the hell was that noise? I’m as puzzled as you!”
Embarrassment or not, however, there’s no denying it’s an entertaining and above all remarkably satisfying way to deal with my fear of spiders. And every night when I come home to find the canopy completely free of arachnid infestations, I am filled with the satisfaction of a job well done.
(Kill count so far this year: 5 fat, nasty spiders. Web spider season is only just getting started.)