It has come to my attention that people are starting to wonder about the blood-curdling screams emanating from my house every other morning.
For the record, they sound exactly like this: "WAAAUUUUUUGGHHHH!!!"
The ugly truth is, this is the sound of the involuntary shrieks that have been ripped from my throat in recent mornings when I wander into the bathroom, attempt to fill the bathtub with hot water, then, to my absolute horror, discover that yet another spider — I am talking here about mutant creatures the size of canned hams — has crawled out of the drain and is wandering around the bottom of the tub in a menacing manner.
I know what you are thinking here. You are thinking: "Seriously, Doug, you are a big-shot newspaper columnist who is famously the size of a major kitchen appliance and you are (bad word) terrified of an eensy-beensy spider?"
Well, and let me say this comes from the bottom of my heart, you are a complete idiot! Also, for the record, according to the song I sang as a kid, it is the "eensy-weensy spider," not the "eensy-beensy spider."
Fortunately, it turns out that I am not the only guy of my particular gender who, as medical professionals like to say, experiences a certain amount of discomfort in the presence of creepy-crawly insects.
I discovered this was the case Friday morning when I was driving along, listening to the car radio, and a bunch of morning-show personalities began joking about a recent news report stating a scientific survey had found that more men than women are afraid of bugs.
When I got home, I found a New York Post news item concerning a survey of 2,000 Americans, conducted for the Zevo line of pest control products, that revealed 32 per cent of guy respondents were "very scared" of insects, compared with only 22 per cent of the women surveyed.
I found this report extremely comforting because it was nice to discover that I am not the only courageous guy with steely blue eyes and naturally curly hair who freaks out when he spots a creature that has more legs than a Major League Baseball team.
If I were to make a list of all the things I am most afraid of, it would look like this:
1. Being eaten by a bear
2. Being eaten by a shark
3. Being stung in the eyeballs by a swarm of bees and/or wasps.
I would probably add "having my teeth cleaned at the dentist" and "being chased by zombies," but there is not enough room in today’s newspaper for a complete list of things that cause me to sweat like a Thanksgiving turkey.
The point I am trying to make is that, yes, I am afraid of a wide variety of creepy crawlies, and it is nice that science has finally confirmed that I am not the only guy who bugs out in the face of bugs.
In contrast, my wife is not even remotely distressed when insects invade the interior of our home. Under the rules governing the division of labour in our house, my wife is responsible for liquidating rogue insects; my duties include handling unwanted calls from telemarketers and imposing capital punishment on the seemingly never-ending army of mice that sneak into our basement in hopes of finding muffin crumbs on the floor.
It has gotten to the point that, whenever I emit a blood-curdling shriek, my wife will always calmly ask, "Did you see a bug?" When I demand to know how she knew, she laughs and says, "Because that was your bug scream."
So, yes, I am a six-foot-four, 320-pound, sports-loving guy who has a "bug scream" that sounds like the noise you would get if you put a bunch of your good silverware in the kitchen blender and turned it on.
I am not embarrassed by this. My entomophobia — yes, it has an actual scientific name — stems from my childhood, when I would get together with a bunch of my buddies for sleepovers during which we would watch cheesy movies, such as the 1954 black-and-white science-fiction horror flick Them!, in which key areas of the United States, such as the Los Angeles sewer system, are overrun by marauding radioactive ants that were spawned by secret atomic experiments and have grown to the size of Buick Skylarks.
That movie haunted my dreams until I became even more terrified while watching the 1975 cult movie classic The Giant Spider Invasion, in which mutant spiders from space terrorize a tiny American town. In reality, this movie contained precisely one "giant spider," which was portrayed by a Volkswagen Beetle with artificial black fur and fake legs that were operated by seven crew members stuffed inside the car, which was driven in reverse so they could use the vehicle’s red tail lights as the monster’s glowing red eyes.
I always assumed that I would die by drowning in the tub after falling asleep, but that could never happen now because, as I float in the hot water, my brain is on high alert and my eyeballs are constantly scanning back and forth in case a mutant spider starts swimming through the bubbles towards my head.
I’m pretty sure now that my death will eventually be caused when a large wasp accidentally flies in the window of my car and I do the only thing that a bug-fearing guy like me can do — drive into the side of the nearest building.
I have a lot more thoughts on this topic but —"WAAAUUUUUUGGHHHH!!!" — I’m pretty sure that black spot on my computer keyboard is actually one of those nasty ladybugs, the ones that bite.
I’d appreciate it if you could let my wife know, because I plan on passing out on the living room carpet.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.