When I was a little kid, like eight or nine years old, my grandparents took my brother and me on a road trip to Ottawa to hang out with some of our Canadian relatives. We were in town during Canada Day, and one of my cousins rented out a hotel suite downtown for a big party. The place was huge, I remember lots of rooms, a giant balcony overlooking the city, it had the perfect up-close view for fireworks.
Everyone was having a great time, but, and I remember this vividly, as soon as the sun set, all of these giant spiders started crawling out from everywhere, from under the furniture, from inside the vents in the ceilings. I’m not even exaggerating, there were hundreds of them, big brown ones, probably the size of a quarter, and they took over the suite. The balcony got hit especially hard, it was like you wouldn’t notice them, not just by looking out the window, because their dark bodies blended in with the night sky. But by shifting the view, or just by walking close enough, you could see they were an omnipresent force, hanging from their invisible threads, it looked like, if they wanted to, they could have covered the whole sliding door in a sheet of thick webbing.
I’m creeping myself out just thinking through this twenty-year-old memory. Actually being there, a little kid in a foreign country on a hotel floor that was being slowly overrun by spiders, I was freaking out big time. But what could I do? I looked around, all of the adults were acting like it was no big deal. I gave my grandma a nervous face and she dismissed my concerns, like I was being a baby, like I shouldn’t be afraid of a few spiders.
And now looking back, I still don’t understand what was going on. Because if I were there right now, of course I’d be scared, at the very least I’d be visibly uncomfortable, squirming around, swatting away at imaginary itches and tingles I’d feel across my body. What was going on here, are Canadians exempt from the near-universal fear of a spider infestation?
Or was everybody just being super polite? I’m having this imaginary scenario play through my mind, it’s my Canadian cousin, he’s in the hotel lobby booking a room with the receptionist. “Well sir, our standard rooms do fill up pretty quickly, especially on Canada Day,” and he’d be like, “I see, well, I guess I’m looking for something kind of affordable. What are your standard rates?”
And she’d lure him in, “Actually, we do have an executive suite available, it’s got plenty of room for all of your guests, plus there’s a great balcony overlooking the center of town. The rate is exactly the same as any of our standard rooms.” My cousin would be skeptical, “I don’t know, this sounds a little too good to be true. What’s the catch?”
Of course there would be a catch. “You see sir, the suite, again, it’s fantastic, but there’s a little bit of a spider problem.” And maybe my cousin would hesitate. But that’s a hard offer to pass up, suites are expensive, surely a group of adults would be able to handle a few spiders. “All right, I’ll take it.”
Cut to the party, people are inches away from being devoured by arachnids, but nobody wants to hurt my cousin’s feelings, after all, he was the one nice enough to pay for the entire party. It would be extremely rude to mention the spiders, or even acknowledge their existence. So everybody put on a show of having a great time, all while trembling on the inside, counting down the minutes until it was OK to make an exit.
I don’t know, I have trouble believing the accuracy of these old memories, even though I can still see them, congregating in spider clusters in the corners, by the legs of the furniture. Maybe my traumatized childhood mind embellished what actually went down. Who knows? But for real, there were a lot of spiders. I’m not making it up. Sometimes I still get nervous in hotel rooms, even if I’m nowhere near Canada. I’ll run down to the receptionist right before dusk, I’ll be like, “You guys don’t have any sunset spider problems, do you? Because if you do, just tell me, I won’t get mad, I promise, I won’t even ask for a refund, I’ll just leave, you can still rent out the room. Just, come on, no spiders, right? Promise?”