The Spider and the Vinyl

I caught a spider tonight. Which says a whole lot about me, considering “spider” and “caught” generally just serve as preludes to “squished” and “flushed”.

I’ve got a problem with spiders. Not on an extreme phobic level, but certainly in terms of the willies. Better safe than sorry, better it than me, that sort of thing. I like to think that I’ve grown more compassionate towards spiders and bugs and insects over the years – catching and releasing them if indoors, avoiding if outside, instead of killing. But the willies are the willies. It’s just instinct.And yet, as I write this in a café not many km’s away from my home, this particular spider remains alive, trying to scale the walls of a translucent blue little plastic container I use more for storing change or hair product than food. I can see the curious fiend now: it’s one of those spiders whose fore-legs are somehow longer than the rest, arched up and reaching rather than spread out in the even circle of the rest of its limbs. In fact I wasn’t entirely sure this was entirely a spider. Its torso seemed long, thin and segmented, like an ant. And I could distinctly make out a head, with two eye-like black orbs side by side. I’m no biology expert, but it didn’t seem normal in any sense of the word.

All the more reason to just kill it and run.

And yet there it sits, vacuum-sealed in hard plastic. I don’t know enough about spiders to know if it’ll die over the next few hours, or even days. I kind of hope it will. But at the same time, I don’t. Or maybe I just want it half-dead, less likely to attack me (even if that’s not likely to begin with). I want to examine it later, alive or dead.

It dawned on me as I was sealing it up, just why I was doing this: it seems like a rare opportunity. The very thing that freaks me out about the spider – its weird and unfamiliar appearance – now strikes me as rare and unique. Visions of putting pictures online and trying to track down its exact breed and species filled my head more than nightmarish visions of mutant ant-spiders burrowing through plastic walls to track down and kill their tormentors in the night. No, I wanted to know more. What is this… spider-like thing exactly? I can’t let something like this go to waste just because it makes my skin crawl.

Then it hit me: this is just like how I am with record collecting.

So often when I dig for vinyl records I’m out “in the wild,” pursuing the random dusty bins and boxes of thrift stores and garage sales. Looking for vinyl like this, nothing is for certain. Some stuff is a bit more common – in Alberta there’s no shortage of used pop and rock hits, polka, classical. But there’s some far more unique stuff mixed in too from time to time. For every fifty Nana Mouskouri and Roger Whitaker LP’s there’s the odd experimental synth-pop band on an independent label. There are the diamonds in the rough. You may not know what it is or what it sounds like, but that’s what makes the rarity of the moment all the more thrilling. You know you have something somehow unique, and you best not let it pass by.

And so it is with the tiniest of living creatures. I can only imagine what it must be like for an insect or arachnid expert: for every fifty Grass Spiders you might suddenly find one Hobo. I can only imagine how rare the spider I’ve captured is. Or isn’t, for that matter. But as I picture the ant-like little thing trapped in portable plastic, I can at least relate to arachnologists who capture and hold such rarities for later inspection rather than dismissing like some strange record in a record store.

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