Swimming with Spiders

Phoenix summers are not for the faint-hearted.  The stifling heat, skin-burning pavement, fiery hot winds are brutal to visitors.  As they exit the jetway at Sky Harbor, they quickly realize they’ve arrived in a place Satan vacates in July.


When my eldest, Annie, was also my only child, I established a summer routine.  We’d don our swim suits around 11:00 AM, play in the backyard pool for an hour, change into dry clothes, eat lunch, watch a video, and then she’d toddle off to nap time, while I worked on my dissertation.

Unlike high humidity states, wet towels and swim wear were draped on patio chairs; they dried instantly and were easily accessible for the next pool frolic.  On Tuesday morning, I gathered up the swim suits from the patio, pulled up Annie’s suit, and put on my two-piece.  (Yes, I realize I never did/have/will cause men to ogle at my body in a two-piece.  I simply prefer them to those tight one-piecers that hurt in all the wrong places.) And just like every other morning, we frolicked in the pool.

Fortunately, the bathroom had an outside door from the pool.  I helped Annie strip off her wet suit and pull on her shorts and t-shirt.  She ran off to find a Barbie doll as I began my disrobe routine.


When I tossed my wet bra on the floor, I saw it.  Right there.  In the bra cup.  A big bug.  On closer examination, not an insect…a spider.  And not just any spider.  A FEMALE BLACK WIDOW!



OMG!  It appeared to be alive.  I swished my bra in the toilet and flushed the arachnid away.  Oh, sweet baby Jesus, did I just spend an hour in chlorinated water with a spider on my chest?  Am I like the princess and the pea?

Thankfully, I just laughed off this encounter and didn’t bother to research said spider species.  Had I knew then, what I know now, I would have died from my own imagination.

Female Black Widows, unlike males or juveniles, have a red hourglass shape on the underside of their abdomens.  Unlike males or offspring young, female venom is 15 times more toxic than venom of a prairie rattlesnake!  (Be still my heart.)  While death from a Black Widow bite is extremely rare, human victims are nauseated, experience  muscle aches, and may have difficulty breathing.


In retrospect, I will never know why Wilhelmina, the Widow, didn’t bite me.  Perhaps, she took pity on my flat chest; she saw first-hand I needed to make up with cotton what God had forgotten.  Perhaps, she was weary of sweating in the relentless sun, spinning a web, and yearning for a splash in the pool.  Or perhaps, she had mated with Wesley the Widow, ate him for breakfast, and wanted to chill.

Regardless of your motivation or lack thereof, I want to belatedly thank you, Wilhelmina,  for sparing me of poison, vomit, pain, and gasps.


Coming next week:  Spider in my ear….






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