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I’m With Stupid – February 18, 2011

by Todd Hartley

All right, folks, I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news. The good news is that if you have rancid foot odor, and you’ve been wondering how you can cash in on it, you may be in luck. The bad news is that if you hate spiders, two of your worst nightmares have come true.

I’m not really scared of spiders myself, but boy-howdy is my little boy. He once woke up in the middle of the night screaming because he thought he saw a spider on the ceiling. Turns out it was just a moth, but he was terrified of that, too.

I understand why people might be freaked out about spiders, though, because I remember how scared I was when I saw a huge insect called a walking stick creeping down the wall of my hotel room in Kenya. Suffice to say I still lose it every time I see a walking stick. It just doesn’t seem to come up all that often in Colorado.

So as much as I’m not scared of spiders, I can see why people might not want their houses crawling with them. Outside of Charlotte, their portrayal in literature and the media has been overwhelmingly negative. We see them as icky, creepy, potentially deadly monsters. Of course, we don’t live in places like, say, Kenya, where they have things that actually pose a threat to be scared about.

One of those things is the very real scourge of mosquitoes, in particular the Anopholes gambiae mosquito, which can transmit malaria. Malaria kills thousands every year in East Africa, and people will go to extreme lengths to try to keep themselves safe from mosquitoes.

How extreme? Well, it’s so bad that soon the world’s tropics might start smelling like feet, and you’ll have a mosquito to blame for it.

British researchers reported recently on a study into the habits of Evarcha culicivora, a jumping spider that feeds on Anopholes gambiae. Apparently, the little guy just loves the smell of sweaty socks, and the researchers think people might be able to recruit the spiders to come live in their homes.

Yes, you read that right. They actually want spiders in their homes. Soon the day will come when a woman chooses a man not for his wealth of cows and goats, but because he has the hut with the most spiders in it and can provide the best home for her children.

Here’s where you people with the rancid feet come in. Most folks in the tropics who are at risk of malaria don’t own socks themselves. They’re going to need plenty of them, the smellier the better. I would encourage you to be good Samaritans and donate your pre-stunk socks, but if you think you can squeeze a few bucks out of some Maasai tribesman from Tanzania, I won’t judge you.

Now, regarding my other spider-related tidbit, I have a confession: I’m not scared of spiders, but I am terrified of spider crabs.

The spider crab, if you’ve never seen one, is horrifying. It looks a lot like a daddy longlegs, except it’s huge and tastes better. Last month, fishermen in Japan caught a spider crab, nicknamed Crab Kong, that has a claw span of more than 8 feet and was captured at the top of the Empire State Building, where it was knocking fighter planes from the sky.

Such a colossal crab may sound like a treat to your stomach, but it makes me sick to mine. When I was young, my brother and I had a business scrubbing boat bottoms using scuba gear. This one guy hired me to use the gear to try to find his mooring, the chain of which he’d accidentally dropped into the murky, polluted depths of Long Island Sound.

With the visibility practically nil, I knew I’d have to locate the mooring some other way, so I tied a rope to the bottom of my anchor, held onto the other end and started making a big circle, hoping the rope would catch on the guy’s mooring.

I was half swimming, half crawling through the sunlit filth at the bottom of the harbor, unable to see more than a couple of inches in front of me. Every few yards, a spider crab would suddenly appear, brandishing its claws right in my face. It was terrifying. I still bear the emotional scars of that episode, and I have a phobia about spider crabs to this day.

Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to come up that often in Colorado.

Todd Hartley climbed up the water spout, but it broke because he’s not itsy-bitsy.

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