So the other day I am riding my bike back from the grocery store, feeling oh-so-much-hipper-than-thou: I am not burning fossil fuels on my shopping trip, my vintage Schwinn is killer evidence of my low-consumerism lifestyle, a lot of the ingredients for dinner are going to be coming out of our garden or our friends' gardens and thereby leaving a very small carbon footprint. Even the bottle of red wine snuggled into the repurposed Ikea storage basket that Jam Guy nicely wired onto the rear rack of the bike was vinted from sustainably-grown local grapes. Damn, I'm thinking: I should have a freaking halo floating above me. I am so northern Cali, so helping my planet, so down with the 'aina.
All of a sudden this very big yellow jacket loops in a funny, lazy pattern in front of me, then lands on the front of my shirt. Stay cool, I tell myself in my best Wild-Kingdom-narrator voice. I keep pedaling and kind of fluff the front of my shirt with one hand, which is usually all the encouragement a yellow jacket needs to be on its way. I am proud of myself for the progress I have made with yellow jackets since moving here; basically, I no longer run away screaming when one buzzes past me. But this yellow jacket doesn't go anywhere. After a few seconds with it still on my shirt, my bugphobia starts to get the better of me. I am talking out loud now, basically things like "Stay calm. You are ok. It is just a little bee. He doesn't want to bother you." I stop the bike and stand over the crossbar, pull my t-shirt out a little and peer down at the persistent bugger.
And I see that it is not a yellow jacket after all. IT IS A HUGE FREAKING SPIDER. The fact that a huge spider should be no scarier than a yellow jacket doesn't matter; I just haven't gotten to that point in my anti-bugphobia practice yet.
So I totally lose my shit. I leap off the bike, shrieking; the bike goes crashing down, the wine bottle and organic produce roll out of their reusable grocery bag and into the dusty trail. The spider is apparently unperturbed; either that or he's paralyzed with terror and wondering why he had to pick this noisy, jumpy tree to build his new web in. I dance around. I don't want to touch the spider, or hurt him, but I don't want him on my shirt either. I jump, squat, flail, stomp around, squeaking and hollering the whole time--he just hangs out. Finally I kneel on the ground and shake the fabric of my shirt, and he decides he's had enough and makes a little hop onto the ground (which, illogically, makes me scream more) and scuttles off into the brush.
Somehow my wine bottle wasn't broken, and everything else is washable. But as I'm picking up bike and groceries off the creek trail, it occurs to me for the first time to check if anyone else is around--mostly on the trail I'm alone, but I do pass folks here and there.
And as a matter of fact, there is a guy sitting not ten feet away. He is facing towards the creek, politely ignoring me.