I hate crumbs on the floor.
I like to walk barefoot for as many months of the year as possible and few things are as gross as stepping on crumbs and scraps of wilted lettuce and that one Cheerio that rolled away.
So I like clean floors.
I also like clean sofa cushions. I hate it when the crevices accumulate cat hair and little bits of dropped popcorn kernels. I’m perpetually washing and vacuuming my sofa cushions.
Mold is one of the grossest things of all. It’s black and it’s pink and it’s orange and it’s in my sink and my shower and sometimes on the baseboard in my boiler room closet. Give me a bucket of bleach and I’ll kill every speck of it dead.
But I’m totally ok with spider webs.
When I was a kid growing up in suburban Mahopac, New York, I used to have spider webs in my room all the time. We didn’t have central air. We didn’t even have window air conditioning. What we had was an attic fan and a lot of open windows. You never shut the shades on a summer night. Otherwise you got no air.
So creepy crawly things and flying things often made their way into our living space. And the spiders took up residence in the corners of the ceiling where they would then make short work of the rest of the creeping, flying things.
And that was ok with me.
I remember once a spider shacked up right over my closet door. It wasn’t too big or too small. It was exactly what you’d expect a spider to be, all eight legs and black body. And as the summer went on, the web got darker with the carcasses of leftover dinners. It sounds disgusting to my rational adult ears but I never thought of it as disgusting. I actually quite liked that spider and was grateful to it for keeping the flies and mosquitos and other more disgusting things from interfering with my sleep.
I’ll tell you, that was one well-fed spider.
I used to walk into my room at the end of the day and glance up into that corner just to see how my spider was doing. Was it eating well? Catching the ugly bugs? It never occurred to me, not once, to “clean” the spider web. No vacuum ever made it to the far reaches of the corner of my ceiling.
I guess my mom was ok with spider webs, too, because to be honest no vacuum cleaner made it into my hand ever, so I probably had no say over what was or was not in the corner of my ceiling.
I do remember that it was a “thing”. My mom or my brother and I would occasionally watch the web together and comment on how awesome a job that spider was doing.
When I was a very young kid, my mom used to read me a book called “Be Nice To Spiders”. The story is about a spider who took up residence at a zoo and did such a good job getting rid of pesky flies and keeping the animals comfortable that when the zookeeper “cleaned up” and swept away the spider web, all hell broke loose at the zoo.
I guess that stuck with me because to this day, spiders are one of the few insects that I will let go about their business wherever they may be in my house. Well, that and Charlotte’s Web, I suppose.
It’s a shame that centipedes and roaches never got their own hero story because those poor bastards could really use one.
I’m not a bug killer. They’re pretty gross but that’s just my human brain making a judgment call. Bugs have just as much of a place on this planet as I do. It’s not their fault that I built a house on their dirt and now expect them to avoid me or get squashed.
So unless it’s a bug that can harm me, I pretty much leave it alone.
Take bees for example. I love bees. They pretty much keep our civilization from extinction and they make some damn good honey. But I take a zero-tolerance approach toward bees in my house.
I know they have to eat, but they can’t eat me.
As a kid I had an obnoxious allergic reaction to mosquito bites. Whenever I got bit, the spot would swell up to the size of a dinner plate, a giant, round, red, itchy welt that wouldn’t go away for days.
I grew out of that but apparently not out of being a very tasty choice for mosquitos. If I’m outside at a party and there are 20 people around me, I’ll be the only one bitten every time.
So when a mosquito gets in my house: zero tolerance.
I’m kind of at a 50-50 tolerance with those nasty billion-legged centipedes. If they’re sitting on my sofa or hanging out on my curtain I race for the vacuum, put on the long extension and suck them up from about ten feet away.
But if they scurry under a cabinet or into the woodwork I will leave them there.
Spiders I will leave to their own devices, to spin webs wherever they please, to come and go at will, to feast on as many other insects as their little spider hearts desire.
When I vacuum my floors I avoid the corners. I’ll suck up crumbs like nobody’s business but I don’t want to disturb the spiders there.
When I find a spider wandering aimlessly, I shoo it to a corner so it won’t get stepped on.
Once in a while an unacceptable spider makes its way inside. Those are usually the big ones, the hairy ones, the ones that have colors on them other than black and freak me out because they look like they come out of a sci-fi movie.
Then I go into the small cabinet above my stove where I keep the leftover jars and mismatched glassware. I take a jar or glass out and find a bit of sturdy junk mail. Then I trap the spider in the jar, slide the junk mail carefully under it and carry my ward outside into the garden.
I don’t know what happened to the spider that lived in the corner above my closet. Maybe it lived out its days there then quietly died. Maybe it went off for another corner when summer ended and we shut the windows and pickings got slim.
I do know I missed it. I never had another one quite like it.
But to this day I walk, vacuum and work around spiders. And if you visit my house and see the webs in the corners, it’s not because I’m a bad housekeeper. It’s because I want it that way.