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FAMILY   -   FAMILY FEATURES
A Fear of Spiders, Eight-legged and Otherwise
March, 2007 - Issue #29
Is it unmanly to admit I fear spiders?

Probably. But there it is nonetheless, on the printed page for everyone to see.

A risky confession? No doubt. But a risk I'm willing to take for you. Laugh if you want. Call me a sissy. Send me rubber spiders through the mail and make me the butt of your water-cooler jokes on Monday.

If, in inviting your scorn, I can rescue you from sharing my fate over the past few weeks, I will consider it a fair trade.

We are, after all, neighbors.

My fear of spiders is born out of respect - a respect learned over a long and storied history with my eight-legged adversary.

The spider in the bed or sleeping bag? The spider skittering across the hand in a dark corner? The spider suddenly dangling from a web in front of your nose?

I endured those particular jolts to the nervous system.

"Not since the days of HIGH SCHOOL and mailed report cards have I so dreaded the sight of the MAILMAN."
Then there's the spider hidden under the washcloth while I'm in the bathtub incident, the black widow hiding on the towel incident, and the spider nesting in the bathing suit incident.

Once, a black widow found its way inside my children's viewfinder. My 6-year-old daughter stuck her face into the thing expecting to see a picture of Ariel the mermaid. Instead she saw a real-life (and alive) monster magnified by about 10.

How I have survived my most chilling run-ins with the arachnid - at least with most of my psyche intact - escapes me.

There have been times of modest success against my arachnophobia (if that is indeed the right term here). Two years living in bug-infested Oklahoma took some of the edge off. The sheer density of crawling and flying pests forces a sort of numbness on you.

The fear doesn't go away entirely, but it does hibernate for a season.

So what does any of this have to do with helping you?

No, this is not a cautionary tale about the black widows I'm certain are nesting in the pile of wood in your backyard. I'm not writing this to protect you from the venomous vermin lurking in your bathroom towels, or under your bed or in your child's pile of toys.

I'm not even writing this to warn you about spiders - at least not directly. Most of us in Santa Clarita have seen enough black widows creeping along the outskirts of our own homes. We already understand the need for caution.

People are smart enough to respect what they already know can be painful. The fear I want to instill in you is of something you may not have considered.

It's not a spider, but it operates a bit like one. On the surface it appears benign. Like the spider, it promises the benefit of ridding our community of other pests.

Avoid it and it will avoid you. Forget to respect it, however, and watch out. This thing packs powerful venom and it does not hesitate to strike.

This is a cautionary tale about our community's traffic-enforcement cameras.

You've seen them at several high-profile intersections around town. They were so obvious when the city first installed them. But over time they have melted into the landscape, drawing little more special notice than the traffic lights themselves.

But don't be deceived. They see you all too well. I know because a vehicle with my name attached to it drew its gaze last month.

My wife Debbie was following a car in which I was a passenger when said car pushed through a yellow light at Orchard Village Road and Lyons Avenue.

Fixed as she was on the car ahead of her, Debbie didn't notice how stale the yellow light had become. She dutifully followed.

Seeing that she has gone through, I called her cell.

"Was the light red before you entered the intersection?"

She didn't know, but admitted seeing the flashes of several camera bulbs.

Thus ensued several days of anxious trips to the mailbox. Not since the days of high school and mailed report cards have I so dreaded the sight of the mailman.

About two weeks after the incident, an envelope arrived from the Traffic Enforcement Office, P.O. Box 15485, Scottsdale, Arizona. Just under the return address were the words: "Official Government Business - Response Required."

Also "required" was a cool $351. We had been bitten; this was the delayed, but painful result.

I'm not writing to complain. A set of pictures (so kindly included) proved our violation with a surgeon's precision - four green-tinted images taken from three unique angles and at various stages of the intersection crossing.

There are many eyes at work here.

Not eight, but not two, either.
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