My life at times feels like one long experiment in whatever the reverse of “aversion therapy” is in regard to bugs. Particularly spiders. I can tolerate spiders up to 3/4″ in span, but once they get bigger than that I start to hyperventilate. Which makes orb weaver season here in Virginia a challenge. One of the little dears will invariably, overnight, make a web across the back door. When I open the back door, I’ll almost get spider-face.
My favorite, if one can call it that, bug story started when I was eleven, and had its big finish when I was twenty. At eleven, I was living in Coronado CA, in a house that’s still my favorite-I-ever-lived-in. A stucco and tile hacienda-style deal, with a central courtyard that had an olive tree and an entire wall of morning glory vines.
One night, I was in my bed reading, when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. On the other of the twin beds, a bug built like a combination between ant and grasshopper – three-segmented body, long articulated back legs – and the size of a woman’s size five shoe was making its way along the side of the spread.
Like the good eleven year old Girl Scout I was, I screamed my head off and bulleted out the door to the courtyard. My parents didn’t see the bug and chalked up my screaming fit to imagination.
I slept on the couch in the living room for two weeks.
Nine years later, I was living on Mt. Davidson in San Francisco, in a basement apartment with two other girls. I awoke one night to banshee screaming – my roommate was dancing around her room, waving her (extremely long) hair around like one possessed. Once she was coherent, which took a while, she stuttered out that “it..it..was on my foot, and..and..then it ran up to my neck and it was in my hair!” “It” was an insect.
I didn’t see “it”.
A week later, I was standing in the door to the screaming, long-haired roommate’s room. She was sitting on her bed. She stopped talking and her eyes bugged out looking at something near my feet. I looked down. It was the bug from my room in Coronado. Or at least its cousin. In a fit of sangfroid, I grabbed a large plastic bowl that just happened to be handy and put it down over Bugzilla.
About twenty minutes later, a male friend arrived for beer and skittles (or at least tacos) – we three maidens did the “oh, we need a big strong man to kill the bug” dance. He puffed up his chest, smirked a bit at our girlish fright, grabbed an old magazine, and proceeded to the bowl.
He up-ended it, screamed like a Girl (Scout), and then the sound of furious smacking ensued. For at least three minutes.
When he finally reduced the magazine to pulpy shreds, he was pale and sweaty. His only comment was “f*ck, that thing was HUGE!”
I later found out said bug is called a Jerusalem cricket, or a potato bug. Here’s a picture. I still have trouble looking at it…