Saturday, July 5, 2014

Man vs. Spider

Author and comedian, Mike Buzzelli 

Once again, it was time to mow the grass. I opened the toolshed to find a large spider, about the size of my fist, hanging on the door. It was the biggest spider I’ve ever seen, outside of a glass case in a museum or zoo. My options were limited to swearing or screaming at it. I took the more masculine approach and swore at it.

I was determined to kill the spider, but before I attacked, I took a picture of the terrifying creature. If he was poisonous, I wanted people to see the face of my killer. I grabbed a broom from the shed and tried to kill it. After I swatted at it with the bristles of the broom, it fled to parts unknown. I should have just left him alone; because, once again, not knowing where the spider went was worse than knowing where he was. Now, I angered him.

A friend of mine saw the picture of the spider and told me it was a brown recluse, a frighteningly powerful purveyor of poison. I couldn't rest until I determined the spider species.

I consulted spider expert Jonathan Pruitt, assistant professor of behavioral ecology at the University of Pittsburgh. I met up with my spider specialist over a game of bingo. Where else would you expect to find an expert on arachnids? I wasn't going to go visit the biologist in Costa Rica, where he studied aggressive spider species. Heck, I wasn't even going to go see him at the university. Parking in Oakland is atrocious.

Pruitt whipped out his iPhone and showed me pictures of Western Pennsylvania spiders. It was a lot like identifying a suspect in a police lineup.

Mike Buzzelli is an author and stand up comedian. His book, "Below Average Genius," is a collection of essays garnered from his humor column  at the Observer-Reporter. For more information go to 

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