Spiders & Driving: A Public Service Announcement

People are well aware of the dangers of texting and driving or of drinking and driving, but there’s another menace lurking in dark crevices and under closed car visors that we rarely ever discuss.

What is this creeping menace, you ask? (Okay, I know you already saw the title and featured image. Just humor me!)

[Insert dramatic pause here.]

It’s spiders and driving!


As a potentially hazardous threat to public safety, we could all benefit from greater awareness on this issue. For example, what should YOU do when faced with an eight-legged stowaway aboard YOUR vehicle?

If you wait till this scenario happens before thinking it through — before coming up with a concrete game plan — it may be too late!

Keep Calm and Refrain from Freaking Out!

Not long ago I was about an hour into a three-hour drive from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Oregon. That’s when it happened.

Dun. Dun. Duuuun.

The dreaded tickle.

Dear God, NO!
The Dreaded Tickle

They don’t warn you about this in driving school!

They don’t equip you with the tools you need to handle the situation with success. And they don’t mention the precautions you should take when you feel eight tiny little legs crawling ON YOUR FACE.

Or when you then instinctively swipe at your face, accidentally flinging your glasses across the car whilst still maneuvering your two-ton vehicle south-bound on Interstate-5 at 6o miles per hour, just tryna make it to Portland alive.

And they also don’t tell you what to do when you are still able to see the dang spider (even without the aid of your glasses) crawling down your leg, while said glasses are uselessly wedged somewhere between the passenger door and passenger seat. I don’t recall learning about this situation in defensive driving school, and it also wasn’t on the driving test.

This is NOT a hypothetical situation, people! This is for realz. It happened. But, fear not! I’m here to tell you about it and to equip you with tools for successfully dealing with spiders and driving. Lucky for me, I had past experience to draw upon.

Lessons from Two Mallorcan Spiders

It may have been spring or fall break back in ’99 or perhaps in 2000. I was living in Germany at the time and my college boyfriend and I, along with another very good friend of ours, had decided to head to Mallorca for our week-long school holiday.

Woohoo! We rented a car.

The island of Mallorca is beautiful, and we were making the most of exploring it that week. While we were out driving one day, my boyfriend at the wheel, I suddenly noticed not one — but TWO — little spiders on his leg.

Instinctively, I said something to the effect of, “OH MY GOSH YOU’VE GOT SPIDERS ON YOUR LEG!!!”

That was mistake number one.

“OH MY GOSH YOU’VE GOT SPIDERS ON YOUR LEG!!!” is something you should never say to a driver. Instead, try something like, “Can you pull over? I think I’m going to throw up.”

Then, when the driver has safely stopped the car, you can say, “OH MY GOSH YOU’VE GOT SPIDERS ON YOUR LEG!!!”

So anyway, he naturally freaked out and started yelling at me to GET THEM OFF.


Get Them Off!

I tried to swipe at the spiders. There was a big commotion. Those darn arachnids held our attention captive. It wasn’t until we looked up again that we saw where we were: driving on the shoulder of the opposite side of the road with oncoming traffic whizzing by us on our right.

In that panicked moment with our attention fully focused on the spide-invaders, my boyfriend had swerved, and crossed, the middle lane into the oncoming traffic and we had ended up on the shoulder of the opposite side of the road.  

Miraculously, we did not have a head-on collision that day.

The three of us were completely silent. There was no need to say anything. We knew we had just been incredibly lucky or blessed. It was a sobering moment — just a split second earlier or later, and I might not have been able to tell you this story.

Fast forward to my recent trip to Portland.

Sometime between flinging my glasses across the car and seeing the spider crawl down my leg, I remembered the lesson from Mallorca.

I actually think that experience on Mallorca may have spared me a terrible fate on my drive down to Portland that day, because after my knee-jerk eyewear-flinging initial reaction, I was able to remain relatively calm.

So, let’s think about this.

The Three-Pronged Eight-Legged Game Plan

Keep calm. So, you guys! This is your public-service announcement: when there is a spider crawling on your face, up your arm, down your leg, or — God help you — anywhere near a bodily orifice, you have GOT to keep your shit together.

Keep it in perspective. Remember, remaining calm with a poly-legged critter strolling along your thigh is better than being squashed like a tiny bug by oncoming traffic. It’s better for you — and it’s definitely also better for the other drivers on the road.

Heck, it’s even better for the spider.

Carefully pull over. At your earliest opportunity, pull over and get that spider off of you and out of your vehicle!

I eventually made it down to Portland that day. I got off the freeway at the next possible exit to pull over, retrieve my glasses, and also to see where the spider had gone. After I found my glasses on the passenger side of my Passat, I saw the spider run across the driver’s-side mat.

I reached for a paper to scoop it up, but when I looked back it had crawled up into a crevice near the gas pedal. I still had another two hours of driving ahead of me. What could I do?

I had to keep going. Thankfully, that was the last I ever saw of that spider. 

So, remember the three-pronged eight-legged game plan: keep calm, keep it in perspective, and pull over as soon as possible. Yes, spiders and driving is a horrible combination. We want everyone to get out of it alive.

Portland is Cool

Also, Portland is cool. Here are some pictures from my trip:

“The Magic is in the Hole.” Portland’s famous VooDoo Doughnut…
… has a very colorful interior!
And very colorful doughnuts!
Can you spot me? I couldn’t actually eat the doughnuts, but VooDoo’s interesting interior is worth checking out!
VooDoo Doughnut shop, sho’ nuff, it got props.
Everything Zen, everything Zen: Portland Japanese Garden
Portland’s International Rose Test Garden
It’s the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States!
I don’t really know what that means (i.e. “rose garden” as opposed to “rose test garden”), but the roses were very pretty. Do they test the roses? If anyone can clarify, please let us know in the comments section! A girl wants to know!
Rocket Fizz Portland — a very cool candy shop!
Portland street food! So good! So good! So good!
I call this one “Life Imitates Art!” Yep, that’s me! No, not the big one. The smaller one. (Got my “BOOKS not Bombs” bag at Powell’s City of Books in Portland! Yeeah!)
Another cool Portland street mural.

P.S. Today’s very important PSA can be extended to bees, wasps, ants, beetles, rats, and — heaven forbid — cockroaches.

Have any of you experienced a similarly precarious situation? Do you also have a public-service announcement you’d like to contribute? Please share in the comments section! 🙂


10 thoughts on “Spiders & Driving: A Public Service Announcement”

  1. OMG!!! Too funny, Stefanie!!!
    The worst thing that happened to me was while I getting into my car. Raised the garage door, walked under the door and felt something in my hair. Looked up and it was a small SNAKE captured by a big SPIDER. Snake face wrapped in spider web dangling from garage door INTO MY HAIR!!!

    Now it’s a recurring NIGHTMARE!!! AUUUUGGGGGGHHHHH!!!

    1. Oh HOLY COW!! I would definitely have freaked out if I saw that, Karen!! You sure got the double whammy: spider plus snake! I don’t know if I’d ever recover! LOL! It’s a good story though! 🙂 🙂

  2. Oh Stef – very funny! Brought back memories of my own – though I didn’t feel my spider – I just saw him drop from the sun vizor, past my face and down between my legs – never to be seen again….
    Before I got back in, I had to convince myself he was somehow flung out of the car when I pulled over and performed some kind of erratic dance on the side of the road. My dance must’ve looked pretty special though – one passerby stopped to see if I was ok – there was a fair bit of “flailing” going on!

    1. Haha! Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing your story, Lisa!! That is too funny! You must have provided quite a show to passing traffic! 🙂 🙂

  3. Fine writing Stef: up there with the best from Gail Collins, a political satirist for the New York Times. This is also some of your best photography. Thanks for taking your followers along (well…after the spider scare.)

    1. Thank you so much, Jim! What a compliment! And thanks for joining along on the virtual trip to Portland, spider and all! 🙂

  4. Yes, it is a test garden. A nationally known group, the American Garden Rose Selections, judges eleven attributes (disease resistance, vigor, foliage proportion & attractiveness, plant habit, flowering effect/bloom abundance, rebloom habit, bloom form/attractiveness, aging quality of blooms, fragrance, hardiness, general impression). There are 11 such test gardens around the U.S.

    Also, our big arena, the Moda Center, used to be called the Rose Garden, which was very confusing so using the moniker “Rose Test Garden” was very important if you sought flowers instead of basketball.

    1. Wow! Thanks so much for that very detailed explanation, Laurel! That’s so interesting! So glad the puzzle has been solved! 🙂

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