From March through October 2014, I lived and worked on a few different coffee farms on the Big Island of Hawaii. This story comes from the second farm I worked at, where I was given a little RV to live in down at the bottom of the coffee fields, in a clearing completely overgrown with five-foot high cane grass.
Living with giant spiders isn't nearly as horrifying as you would expect. After the initial few heart-thumping surprises as it parachutes from your bath towel after a shower, or is caught stalking not so secretively across the kitchen counter, the thing gradually moves from being a source of terror to a source of incredulous amusement. It's amazing how guileless something as gruesome and macabre as a six-inch-long, furry, painted brown spider with immense, waving mandibles can be.
The first night I moved into this trailer, I was under the blissful assumption that a little elbow grease was all that was needed to clear out its collected grime. That was before I noticed the curled brown corpses that littered the floor. I spotted my first live one as it crawled into the TV nook over the dinette. Huge, lithesome, grotesque, saw me staring and attempted a hasty retreat. I took every opportunity to whack it with my shoe, over and over, as it ran, under fire, for cover. It made it, barely, quivering with rage and intimidation. I felt a twinge of fear. I could not sleep knowing that this abomination was alive and stalking around my home. What if it crawled across my face as I slept? What if it laid its eggs in my ear and I didn’t realize it until its babies had eaten their way out through my brain?
So, out came The Big Guns. I selected a can of Raid out of the arsenal of toxic chemicals conveniently stashed under my kitchen sink. I sprayed, tentatively at first, then with increasing conviction when I saw the little legs sticking out from under the window shade begin to twitch and curl as the wet spray destroyed its nervous system in seconds flat. Elated by my success, it took a moment to recognize that I, too, had breathed in that chemical spray, and suddenly I could not stand to be near that fetid pile of scrap metal and spiders. I ran out the screen door and into the humid night.
I discovered the next day that cane spiders, as these fearsome creatures are commonly known, are actually quite helpful and shy. They will do everything possible to stay out of sight as they go about the business of eating all of the insects that make life in a little trailer so miserable. And here I was, ignorantly murdering my benevolent housemates. I vowed, then and there, to not harm another one of these spiders, no matter how much I feared them. My vow was tested after work, when I returned to the trailer to find one creeping along the ceiling in my shower. I practiced restraint. The spider practiced its statue pose.
Later, I startled it on a stalk across my kitchen counter. The way in which it fled, legs akimbo, to hide behind the barbecue sauce, was almost comical. As was the ‘If I can’t see her, she can’t see me’ attitude it seemed to assume as its legs splayed out from behind the jar, compromising its position. Before I knew it, I was giggling as I shooed the little animal out from behind the condiments and back into my shower.
I won't ever say I enjoy living with these little monsters, but I haven't had to use my can of Raid since that first night, thanks to the quiet hunters that haunt my trailer.