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In This Place

An apology to the daddy longlegs in my shower


I’m feeling guilty about the daddy longlegs in my shower.

She was living peacefully in the upper southwest corner but started tip-toeing down the tile as I stepped in and turned on the spray. I flicked a few drops of water her way so she would stay in her penthouse, but apparently I created a wave that was the insect equivalent of a tsunami. She was washed to the shower floor, where first she seemed to land successfully. She began to skitter away, but then she stopped moving and collapsed, her long, threadlike legs akimbo.

If I went before the judge, I think I could argue accidental death rather than murder but I still felt that I had let down the universe. Daddy longlegs, sometimes called cellar spiders, don’t bite, according to local bug expert and Barnstable County entomologist Larry Dapis. Mine was possibly feeding on the algae in the shower (ick), although Larry says no one really knows what daddy longlegs eat, since they are so benign no one has taken the time to study them deeply. They are related to spiders although they don’t have silk glands for weaving webs and they have only one pair of eyes instead of four pairs.

Mine was certainly harmless compared to some of the other wild critters that have shared my Cape houses over the years. If you live on here, you know how relentless wildlife can be at getting inside, particularly if you live in an old house that is not, shall we say, airtight?

For example, here are some things besides spiders I’ve had in my various houses: fleas, ticks, hornets, bees, termites, birds, mice, rats, bats and raccoons. Of course there have been deer in the backyard and fox at the birdfeeder but they knew their place. And a possum once peered at me through the deck slider but we each kept to our side of the glass.

The flea infestation happened when we were first married and returned from a trip. My husband went to the emergency room because he had so many bites on his legs. But he was too embarrassed to tell them it happened in his own home on Cape Cod so he said he’d been at a hunting cabin in New Hampshire.

The mice occasionally got into the kitchen snack drawer in our 1840s house but were particularly obsessed with the Q-tips in our master bath, which they would shred for the cotton. The rats found the birdseed that, in a rookie mistake, we stored in a plastic container in a closet near the backdoor. I called the exterminator right away but lived in fear until he got there that they would leap out at me whenever I opened a kitchen cabinet door. The termites ate the front steps, a fact we discovered after I fell through them and broke my leg.

The raccoon had her kits in our second-floor laundry room that was in a gabled attic-like space with badly installed paneling. We were never sure how she got in — maybe through the dryer vent — but she made a nest using the insulation between the ceiling panels and the roof and gave birth before we discovered her. I don’t even know how to describe the smell but imagine the lion pen at the zoo on a really, really hot day.

We had mice last summer who sneaked in through a hole in the pantry wall and went wild on a Reese’s cup. Hey, who wouldn’t? Some old-fashioned traps took care of the problem, which shows I’m not above being cold-hearted when it comes to things that are more threatening than a daddy longlegs. But, I aim to be judicious and, whenever possible, live a peaceful co-existence with the wild things around me.

I suspect that within a couple of weeks there will be another daddy longlegs in the shower, since the last one was not the first. For whatever reason, that corner is prime real estate. This time I will just try to ignore her as she picks her way around, simply looking for the comfort, peace and security that we all crave.