Dealing with the unpleasant gracefully

There’s a creature-wrangler in every home. Depending on the part of the world you live in, the creatures in question might range from the small to very large, the innocuous to the life-threatening. I’m the designated spider-evictor/creature-wrangler in my house. Despite my best intentions, I don’t always do the job with good grace.

I am fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where the creatures that need to be dealt with are usually completely benign (if sometimes gross). At the upper end of the spectrum, I may have to deal with rodents. I have had to trap and dispose of rats on more than one occasion as a result of construction work in the neighbourhood. Unpleasant, but not life-threatening unless very poorly handled. Recently, I had to remove a moribund caterpillar from the fridge which had toddled out of a bag of salad and very visibly expired against the white of the fridge floor.

When we travel (and hopefully we’ll all be able to again) the creatures are often more exotic. I’ve had to deal with hornets in Italy – intimidating, but no match for a well-wielded flip-flop. In Florida, I had the great joy of removing a seemingly massive cockroach from a bathroom which was both novel and disgusting. There have been lizards and other oddments – a noisy gecko in Australia, for example. Funnily enough, the weirder ones don’t irritate me as much as the regular, common or garden spider removal at home.

What tends to happen is that I have just sat down after a long day at work, maybe with a well-earned glass of wine, and there is a shriek from somewhere in the house followed by a high-pitched repetition of “Dad, Dad, Dad!!”. If I don’t respond immediately, the shouting/shrieking usually escalates rapidly in volume and tempo. Invariably, the spider (because it will almost always be a spider) is practically invisible to the naked eye. I will have to get my phone torch out, and sometimes get up on a step ladder to remove the poor, inoffensive creature (the spider, not the complainant) from a ceiling.

Sometimes this will happen 2-3 times in an evening, particularly in September, when the weather is just beginning to turn. I have been woken from sleep to deal with creatures that are about as inoffensive as you can get. As I’ve indicated above, I don’t always deal with these incidents with the best attitude. Sometimes I give vent to muttered “Oh, for God’s sake” or equivalent phrases under my breath. Sometimes I might even throw in a “You’ve got to be kidding!”. On one occasion, I may have told the daughter in question to “Man up”, which is, frankly, stellar parenting.

So what’s the point of all this? The spider wrangling is a use case, a stand-in for when we might all be tired, out of sorts, or generally not feeling particularly gracious. I sometimes have to remind myself that some of the people in my house are genuinely afraid of spiders, while I think of them as beneficial. When I was growing up, I was told by older relatives that I shouldn’t do something at all if I didn’t do it with good grace. And that’s the point I’m really trying to make. We are all asked to take on tasks that we may not feel are ours, or that are odious in some fashion, or are just tiresome, as with the creature wrangling. And my suggestion is that they will go infinitely better if we can be gracious and thoughtful while doing them. That’s going to be one of my aims for 2021. Happy New Year!

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