There are no scary photos in this blog, I promise.
The year was 1962. I was 6 years old. My cousins (ages 8 and 5) and I were sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyes glued to the black-and-white TV set at my house, watching the James Bond movie, “Dr. No”. In one of the scenes Bond is laying in a bed and you see something moving up his body under the sheets. That something turned out to be a tarantula (henceforth to be referred to as the t-word). When the hideous thing finally emerges from under the sheets, Bond waits until the monster crawls off his body, and then, in typical heroic fashion, beats the thing to death. The scene was scary enough in its own but, at that age, I probably would have survived the fright and forgot about the scene in time. Except – my older cousin Norman (evil child that he was) decided, at that precise moment, to tickle the hairs on the back of my neck with his fingers. I swear I shot 2 feet up off the floor and thus began my life-long bout with arachnophobia. I was so traumatized by the fact that the t-word might have actually been in our house and crawling on my neck, that I never recovered from the terror. The sight of any spider, except for the teeniest tiniest ones, were enough to induce a panic attack. But the t-word remained my nemesis, to the point that I can’t even say the whole word, because of the horrific images it conjures up. As a matter of fact, I can’t believe I even spelled it out at the beginning of this story, but I couldn’t leave you guessing as to what the t-word is.
Fortunately, living in New York City, one doesn’t have to worry about encountering any t-words. Nevertheless, I still had nightmares about the t-word, and if I had ever seen one in the house, I probably would have moved immediately. Don’t laugh – I have a friend who packed up everything and moved out of an apartment because she saw a “m-word” (rhymes with “house”). I don’t want to write the word in case she is reading this blog (I don’t want to be guilty of adding to anyone’s trauma). I did encounter some medium-size spiders in Queens, but fortunately the maintenance men at my co-op were more than happy to come over and dispense with the offenders (probably the highlight of their work-day). However, I never worried about the t-word, figuring my chances of actually seeing one were slim to none. And indeed, months, even years, could go by without any fear of the t-word raising up.
Then, a client of mine moved to Arizona; his yard backed up against a nature reserve. He talked about the t-words that he frequently found on his property. I made a mental note to never step foot in the state of Arizona.
Fast forward to Costa Rica. You know how they say “Ignorance is bliss”. You know what else is bliss? Selective reasoning. I knew there would be a variety of creepy-crawlies here, but somehow my brain managed to convince itself that our chances of coming across the worst of them was also slim to none. Plus, all the t-words and other similar critters were likely to be in the heart of the deepest, darkest jungle – certainly nowhere we would EVER venture.
HAH! Nothing could be further from the truth. But, in all honesty, I’m kind of glad we didn’t really dwell on the subject of what aliens we might encounter, because then we might have chickened out and not made the move. And realistically, the scary encounters are few and far between, and eventually you do learn to cope (with most of them).
The first town we lived in, we only saw really tiny spiders, nothing that the duct-taped flyswatter couldn’t handle. Plus, we have geckos in the house (a.k.a. Border Patrol) and they keep the spider population way down. But then we moved to somewhere a tad more remote. A neighbor mentioned a “Brazilian spider” (I was too afraid to Google it for a photo and I don’t suggest you do, either). Okay, it sounded to be about 6 inches wide, but so what, it wasn’t the t-word.
Another closer neighbor freaked out after he saw a rather large spider in his driveway. But he used the s-word, not the t-word, so again, I didn’t give it a second thought. Plus, his house was down the street, and what did I think – that it wouldn’t walk down the block to my house? Yep, that’s exactly what I thought.
I only ever heard one guy mention the t-word “that ran across his foot”. I remember my eyes glazing over and my brain completely tuning out the rest of the conversation, so disturbed was I to actually hear the t-word. Later, when we had gone our separate ways, and my brain resumed functioning, I was able to rationalize that he lived in a rather remote area, not like us.
And once, when Gary and I were driving on a paved road, we saw something rather large in the middle of the road. Now, that’s not uncommon, since wildlife is always around, so we are used to seeing iguanas, snakes, etc. either squished or crossing. But this thing was HUGE – must have been at least a foot across — clearly a spider. Gary and I both just turned and looked at each other, our eyes wide as saucers. Neither of us could speak; neither of us wanted to make any comment. Selective reasoning at work: that thing was so enormous, it must be one-of-a-kind anomaly, never to be seen again. And if you don’t say anything and give it a name, maybe you really didn’t see it. (Yeah, right).
After 3 years of no personal encounters with the t-word, I began to believe we were safe. So, imagine my surprise, when one night on the back deck, what was that in the shadows, on the wall???? Something large, round, hairy, multi-legged, black – okay, I can’t even go on with the description. My first thought was to grab my camera and take a photo. But, if I took a picture, then that would have been irrefutable proof that it was indeed the t-word. If I don’t take a picture, then perhaps it might not really exist. (Selective reasoning at its best). So I did the next best thing – picked up the garden hose and blasted it off the wall, into the darkness of the shrubs. There – now it doesn’t exist anymore. Hah! Aren’t I clever?
Except the monster survived the water blast and made an appearance two days later. Fortunately (for me, not it) – on its back, legs up in the air, against the wall by the front of the house. Some other predator had solved my problem for me!!! Still, it was disgusting to look at, and I found I couldn’t even properly look at it. So revolting.
Anyway, the gardeners came by the next day. I thought – good, when they cut the grass, they’ll see it and pick it up. But noooooooooooo – we now have nicely cut grass and trimmed bushes, but THEY LEFT THE T-WORD THERE. Aaaaaarrrrggggghhhhhhh!! It’s about a foot away from the front garden hose, and every time I turn on the hose, I have to avert my eyes, so I don’t gag at the sight of that thing. Hopefully, some other predator – I’d even welcome a snake at this point – will come back and just eat it. Ugh – there goes my appetite. I hope you’re faring better than I am, at this point.
It’s been very traumatic, to say the least. I am consoling myself: It could have been worse – it could have been in the house. But then I would have just had a heart attack, and that would be the end of that. Fortunately, the dogs seem to be able to sniff out anything that moves (although they didn’t see the t-word). I make sure, whenever I am outside, that they are close to me.
The upside to this: Now that I have actually encountered the t-word, it’s not as bad as I expected. Okay – I did think about something moving up under the sheets in bed last night, but the thought only lasted for a few seconds, as I pulled Mister Chan closer. Plus, now I can convince myself – it will probably be another 3 years before we see another one.
It’s still Pura Vida! And since I promised no scary pictures, we will leave you with this pretty one.
Cheryl, Gary, Kaia and Mister Chan
p.s. Please feel free to share our blog with anyone considering a move to Costa Rica. We are happy to share ALL our experiences with them.