So, I haven’t posted one of these in a long time, but True Story Time is back! I think it was haunting me, because last night I dreamed (a.k.a. had nightmares) about both giant spiders AND cockroaches. You might know from a previous installment of True Story Time that I just love spiders and cockroaches. (Sarcasm.) Actually, I don’t mind spiders up until a certain size. The cutoff point is roughly about the size at which they could eat your face.
And that was roughly the size of the spider that leapt at my face in my lovely dream last night and caused me to sit bolt upright in bed, gasping. The cockroaches were just there in the background of the dream, for some reason, as party guests.
My dream vividly reminded me of another time that giant spiders (yes, plural) had been much too close for comfort to eating my face. My husband and I were in Mozambique for three months, heading to the north to investigate a small fishing village. If anyone has tried to get from southern to northern Mozambique by road, you know this isn’t an easy task.
The coast is as long as the western coast of the United States, and the roads are far, far worse. In the course of this three day trip, we took two twelve hour bus rides, a three hour crammed-like-sardines-in-the-open-back-of-a-truck ride, a two hour motorcycle ride on sand paths through the jungle, a canoe ride, another two hour truck ride that was cut short when the truck bed literally split at the seams because of all the people in back, and then a nice long walk through coconut palms to get to a town. And we hadn’t even made it to our village yet.
Day one of the trip, we were crammed on the first bus for six hours before it even pulled over for anyone to go to the bathroom. So when it did, on a grassy highway shoulder that was surrounded by dense trees on both sides, everyone stampeded off. To my mild dismay, everyone started doing their business, men and women, in the short grass that concealed absolutely nothing. At least most of the women wore sarongs that make sort of a tent around their legs… but I had some breezy wrap-pants that would conceal about as much as the short grass once unwrapped.
So that’s when I started feeling smart. “I’m no sheep!” I told myself. “I don’t have to pee where everyone else is peeing and all of the already-staring-guys can see my bare bottom! I’m going to cross the road and head into the higher grasses and trees.”
Well. I did that. And I was in the middle of doing my thing, pants down, feeling pretty pleased with the privacy I’d secured for myself, when I suddenly noticed a glistening white… string… about two feet in front of my face. It looked about as thick as dental floss. And I suddenly noticed lots of other strings all around me, like I was nestled in an enormous cat’s cradle.
It was around this time that I started wondering if people peed in the short grass for a very fine reason. And that maybe I wasn’t so smart after all.
Because, really, there’s only one sort of creature that could make a silky-looking string like that of impossibly thick dimensions.
I shouldn’t have looked up. If I know anything, it’s not to look for giant spiders, because you will find them. I should have just squeezed my eyes closed, whistled a happy tune until I was done, pulled up my pants and backed away slowly. Instead, I followed the thread to its very nasty conclusion—a giant black spider, about as big as an outspread hand, only a couple feet above my head.
And yet, I didn’t panic then. I actually took the time to glance around and count six, seven, eight, nine… NINE other giant black spiders in close proximity, hanging in their webs below the trees like hideous Christmas baubles.
Then I panicked. So badly that I don’t even remember what happened next. One minute, I was in the bushes, surrounded; the next thing I knew, I was screaming my head off, running with my pants DOWN, batting at my hair wildly, right into the middle of the highway. Only then, when I was safely out of the trees and free of any possible hitchhikers, did I stop to pull my pants back around me.
Upside: I made it out of the trees without getting bitten and didn’t get hit by a semi-truck.
Downside: the majority of my fellow bus passengers were looking my way and laughing their heads off.
So, I learned a valuable lesson, one to add to my growing cache of wisdom that I mostly ignore (i.e. “If you look for giant spiders, you will find them”)… And it was:
“When in Mozambique, do as the Mozambicans do. They’re smarter than you.”
Even when it comes to something distasteful like peeing in a giant group, animal behavior teaches us that it’s best to be a part of the sheep herd so giant spiders… er, predators can’t pick you off. Because, really, at the end of the day, I’d much prefer to be in uncomfortably close quarters with my fellow bus passengers than monstrous arachnids. Wouldn’t you? And if the lack of privacy is still a problem, then I can add one more piece of wisdom to the pile:
“Wear a skirt.”
I wore a skirt for the rest of the trip. Even when I had to hike it practically to my hips to straddle the aforementioned motorcycle on day three, causing a big group of boys to cheer at me, I had no regrets.