very month or so, my teenaged daughter, Divya, screams for my help while she’s in her bedroom or bathroom. “Come quickly!” she yells, and I know exactly what I need to do: grab a weapon.
This weapon is usually a fly swatter, broom or rolled-up magazine – anything to take care of an uninvited guest. It could be a centipede, spider, ant or other insect.
I don’t mind being the resident exterminator, but I can’t help wondering what my daughter will do when she’s all grown up and living by herself. Will she call the emergency number?
That’s what a woman in the UK did recently. She called the British emergency number, 999, after encountering a spider in her home.
“Hiya, you’re probably gonna go mad at me right but I’ve literally tried ringing everyone and you’re my last hope,” the woman said, according to a recording of the call released by the West Yorkshire Police. “I need someone to come and get this spider out of my house. It’s absolutely massive and I’m not even joking!”
Unfortunately the call operator told the woman that there are some intruders that the police are not keen on arresting. In fact, the West Yorkshire Police used the woman’s call as an example of the frivolous calls that are made to the emergency number, calls that don’t qualify as life-or-death emergencies.
But while many people ripped the woman for calling the emergency line, I’m sympathetic with her for two reasons:
(1) Many people suffer from arachnophobia – fear of spiders and other arachnids. I don’t like spiders myself. While some people have pet spiders and allow them to crawl on their arms, I make it a point to stay away from
(2) Some spiders are truly dangerous. If you are bitten by a widow spider or recluse spider, for example, you’ll want to seek medical attention as soon as you are done screaming.
You: “Help! I’ve been bitten by a widow.”
Operator: “A widow? Are you sure?”
You: “I’m pretty sure, but maybe it’s a recluse – or even a reclusive widow. Is there such a thing?”
Operator: “Yes, my mother-in-law is a reclusive widow. She never leaves her home.”
If you’re skeptical about spider bites, just ask Jo Kenyon, a radio producer in West Yorkshire. The 34-year-old woman shared her experience with the Daily Mail last November, describing how she was hospitalised three times in one week and needed months to fully recover. It all began when she felt a strange burning sensation while using the toilet. She jumped up and looked under the seat, where she spotted a huge spider.
“I screamed instantly at the sight, managed to knock it into the bowl and flushed it straight away,” she told the Daily Mail. “It was so huge, it was a real big bugger! It completely freaked me out.”
When the bite marks started stinging, she decided to call the British non-emergency
“The doctors said that if I hadn’t come in straight away, then the bite could have led to sepsis and possibly killed me,” she said.
Kenyon has some advice that we all might want to heed: “I’d just tell everyone to always check under the toilet seat — you never know what could be hiding there!”
Yes, you never know. That’s why it’s important to have a special phone helpline. Many countries have helplines for specific concerns, including domestic abuse, suicide prevention and missing children. It might be time to introduce a “scary creature helpline.” There are so many creatures, not just spiders, that cause people to scream for help. These include snakes, lizards, rats and even alligators. My daughter might one day be truly grateful to have a number to call.
Divya: “Please send help. There’s a scary spider on my
Operator: “I’ll send the insect squad right away. Can you tell me your exact location?”
Divya: “I’m under the bed right now.”