Free-Floating Hostility

Friday, April 08, 2005

More about Local Wildlife, and Not so Cute

I was paginating a grant proposal at work today when Keith, the programmer with the office across from mine, poked his head through my door. "Have you seen any black widow spiders around?" he nonchalantly inquired, in a tone more appropriate for asking to borrow some tape flags. "No," I answered rather stiffly. "Perhaps you could order some from the Storehouse."

One of the consequences of being notoriously gullible is that it makes me paranoid, so when people come around talking about poisonous arthropods, my first instinct is to protect myself from mockery. But it turned out that Keith had stopped by because it occurred to him that being (relatively) new to the building and nonnative to California, I might not know about the black widow spiders that are endemic to Davis, and specifically to the CHE building. I still refused to believe him until Diane the postdoc and Cindy from maintenance had confirmed his story, at which point I yielded far enough to admit this would have to be an extraordinarily well-crafted prank. Cindy in fact pointed at the underside of my desk and said, "Hey, you've got a web right there," and cheerfully fished it out for me, only slightly disappointed to discover it was only a dust bunny. She went on to reassure me that people don't die from Black Widow bites unless they panic, because that gets your heart rate up and the poison spreads faster. She said this in a tone that indicated that only a real loser would panic at a spider bite, but I began to get the feeling I was a real loser when it came to spiders.

Because Keith is not the sort to brook insults to his honor, and isn't necessarily the sort to blanche at the idea of researching spiders on the clock, he was not satisfied until he had printed me out some pictures--one of a black widow and one of a brown recluse. The brown recluse, though not endemic to Davis, is apparently far deadlier. To make his point, Keith helpfully included a picture of a man's thumb after being bitten by a brown recluse. I do not recommend clicking on that link unless you have a strong stomach and some curiosity about what thumb bones look like. I have pasted the black widow's picture onto my monitor for reference, though when actually presented with a black widow my first reaction will probably be to ask Keith to kill it.

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