Stuck: The Prequel to the Great Spider Massacre of 1992

The house on Elm Street, where I battled a giant spider during a snow hurricane, was old, square and brown. It had a big front porch and was close to my daughter’s school and all the places we liked to hang out. We loved the inside, which had several sets of French doors leading to and from the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Upstairs there were three bedrooms and above that an attic I had no intention of exploring. The kitchen had a lovely bow window. The best thing about it was that, after years of renting, it was all ours.

The day of our move coincided with business travel for my husband. He stayed as long as he could but late in the afternoon of a beautiful, fall day, he loaded his suitcase and briefcase into the car, wished us luck, and left. I can’t even remember, now, where he was going, and back then I was fine with it, but back then, in that moment, I had no idea what was about to happen. Now, twenty years later, I’m feeling resentful just thinking about his cavalier departure.

I made the girls a snack and decided my next project would be getting the kitchen settled. It was hot so I thought I’d open up the bay window to bring in some fresh air. I started with the window on the left side. I unlocked it, gripped the top of the bottom window, and pushed it up. As I did that, the top window came crashing down because the ropes that allowed the windows to go up and down were broken. When the upper window crashed down, it caught my finger, which was now between the two windows. Not only did it hurt quite a lot, I couldn’t get it out.

This seemed ridiculous to me. There had to be a way to get my finger out. I used my free hand to pull over a chair. I found that if I stood on the chair and pressed against the glass of the upper window, I could alleviate the pressure on my finger, which was great, but then I had zero free hands, and I still couldn’t create enough space to pull out my finger. As dumb as I knew this looked, I was going to need help. Now, you might be thinking, “Why didn’t you just call your husband?”, to which I will answer, “It was 1991. In 1991, there was no way to reach a person traveling in a car. I know that some of you have never experienced such a world, but it’s true. Ask your parents.

I called my girls to help. The eldest climbed onto another chair to reach the phone on the wall and I coached her through the 911 call. In less than five minutes, two fire trucks and a police car, sirens screaming, turned onto Elm Street and stopped in front of our house. Two fire trucks seemed a little over the top but what do I know about window sash protocol? The neighbors ventured outside to see what was going on and immediately formed opinions, I’m sure, of the new people in the old brown house. I sensed it would  take years to live them down. The girls, who up until this point had been fine but were now shaken and tearful, let in the firefighters, who were very good looking which temporarily distracted me from the excruciating pressure on my finger.

By the way, why are firefighters always so good looking? Is that a prerequisite for the job? I can see it now: “Alright, Joe, you’ve completed your training, now smile and strike a pose! Yeah, You’ll do. Next? Smile and strike a pose. Oh. Yeah. Sorry mate, you can’t be a fireman with those teeth. Have you considered the Coast Guard?”

I digress. Back to the story. The head fireman assessed the situation (I  assumed he was the head fireman since he was the best looking) and decided the window needed to be taken apart because I was so firmly stuck that even he couldn’t free me.

One firetruck left, one police car left, and two firemen started deconstructing my broken window while I continued to stand on my chair, princess in peril-like, trying to look cute, as though my finger was not stuck in a window and my clothes were not dirty from a day of lugging boxes and my hair was not uncombed. My children stared at the firemen. The youngest, particularly, was transfixed, her huge blue eyes following every move. I made a note to watch her closely in case she tried to stow away on their truck.

Finally, the window came apart and my finger was free-a little mangled, but with no real damage. After a few days, it was as good as new. The firemen screwed the window parts back together, which was nice of them since, with my luck, I’d otherwise have had a raccoon climbing through that night. Then they left and we continued our unpacking. The whole episode lasted less than an hour but our new reputation as the neighborhood troublemakers lasted as long as we lived there.

Thanks to Jenny/Procrastinating Donkey for suggesting I tell this tale. Have you ever been good and stuck, physically or metaphorically? Do tell.

Chicken out


  17 comments for “Stuck: The Prequel to the Great Spider Massacre of 1992

  1. January 23, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    I worked for my local fire department for four years. It was volunteer, and most of the fellows were firemen on nearby big fire departments, or police, or both. Assuming it was a small town, the fire trucks came because they were the first responders. The reason they all look so good is because they are trained to be in charge. It adds an aura to personality. At Christmas time the local scenic train line runs a Polar Bear Express. A police office stopped a car speeding into town. The driver screamed “I’m Mrs. Santa. I’m late, I’m late.” Mrs. Santa got a police escort. These guys got $12/hour when I was there, early 2000’s. We were their “vacation” money. These guys work hard and professionally, and we expect them to show up and be heroes, which they generally do. Another group to thank for jobs well done.


    • January 23, 2018 at 7:07 pm

      Hi Joanne, yes, I was certainly thankful and I agree with your assessment. A confident aura is a good thing. Well-if you have the chops to back it up it is. Otherwise it’s annoying.


  2. jenny_o
    January 23, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    I’m so glad you told this story – it was every bit as good (good? finger stuck in window, two little kids, just moved in, husband gone on trip? good? no, the OTHER kind of good!) as I hoped 🙂

    I truly LOL’d at the Coast Guard part; do you have a history with them, too? 🙂


    • January 23, 2018 at 7:09 pm

      Hi Jenny-No history with the Coast Guard but I have a friend and former boss who was in the Coast Guard and used to read my posts so I was having a little fun. Not sure if he still does, though, so it might have been for naught.


  3. jenny_o
    January 23, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    And no, I can’t recall ever being stuck, but my brother put his head through the stair bannister when he was little – so little that either I wasn’t born yet or so little I just can’t remember it. And HIS son did the same thing. Oh lord, it’s probably genetic; I’d better warn him (they just had a baby girl)!


    • January 23, 2018 at 7:10 pm

      Ha. That’s funny-little boys. The little girl probably won’t do that. That’s all I’m gonna say.


  4. Doug in Oakland
    January 23, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    Firefighters are awesome. We had a shed across the fence in our neighbor’s back yard catch fire when we lived behind the MacArthur BART station in the late eighties, probably because there were people smoking crack in it.
    There was a lot of paint stored in the old, wooden, shed and it went up so fast that we couldn’t get all three of the cars parked close to the fence backed away from it before the paint on them bubbled from the heat.
    Those firefighters showed up faster than we could move the cars,also, and hosed down the front of one to cool it off.
    They collapsed the shed in on itself and made sure none of the surrounding houses caught fire, which was trickier than it would seem, as one had an outside stairway that was already smoking when they got there.
    I was impressed.
    I couldn’t see how good-looking they were, as they were wearing all of that gear, and some of them had respirators that covered their faces.

    I got stuck out in the middle of the exercise room at our warehouse the year after my stroke, when I was trying to learn how to walk without a cane. I was fine as long as I could run my fingers along the wall, but as soon as I stepped away from it, I froze and couldn’t take another step.
    I don’t know how long I was stuck like that, it seemed like hours and hours, but was probably more like fifteen or twenty minutes. I finally just made myself sort of lunge for the wall, and again, as soon as I touched it I was OK.
    I haven’t frozen up like that for years now, but it used to happen a lot, especially in the dark when I couldn’t see my feet, for some reason.
    I remember thinking that it was good that didn’t happen any more when I went blind and couldn’t see anything at all, much less my feet.
    That would have sucked.


    • January 28, 2018 at 6:18 pm

      HI Doug-I just realized I read this and didn’t respond. Or responded and didn’t post. Not sure which. If you had fallen when you got stuck in the exercise room, would you have not been able to get back up? Is that why you were so fearful? Or did your body kind of freeze up involuntarily? LIke a neurological thing related to the stroke? My neighbor lives alone and fell recently. He was on the floor for a long time before our pizza delivery guy went to his house by accident and found him. I was never so thankful for our Friday night pizza tradition and for the powers that be that steered a new driver to the wrong house.


      • Doug in Oakland
        January 28, 2018 at 7:52 pm

        No, right about then I was practicing getting up off of the floor to make sure I could do it. Somehow I managed to not learn that in rehab, and while setting up my exercise regimen, I included getting down on the floor (on a thin rubber mat) and getting back up again with the laps around the piano I was walking without a cane on the main floor of the warehouse.
        For some reason every once in a while I would sort of panic and not be able to make myself take another step.
        After that happened, I was so rattled by it that I started carrying a cane again, but found that sometimes crossing the warehouse floor in the dark, even with the cane, my heart would start racing and my breath would go shallow, and I’d have to turn sideways and side-step my way to the bottom of the stairs, which I could climb with no problem at all as soon as I got ahold of the hand rail.
        These days, I carry a quad-cane, but once a day, weather permitting, I walk ten laps around the back yard without using it to try and get more normal function back.
        My doctor says he can see the improvement in the way I walk, so maybe it’s working…
        My housemate at the time said it was probably a form of agoraphobia brought on by the stroke, because it only seemed to happen when I was out in the open away from anything I could touch with my hands.


      • February 2, 2018 at 2:59 am

        Wow. I heard something on the radio today and I was only half listening but I wonder if it might be interesting to you. It was on NPR and it was about how they now think that cells in the hippocampus might be responsible for anxiety. Here’s an article I found but not sure if this is what NPR was referring to. I wonder if the stroke changed something?


      • Doug in Oakland
        February 2, 2018 at 9:59 pm

        I saw that article in my news feed, but didn’t read it until just now. Now I feel like I should share it with my friends who struggle with anxiety, but kind of wonder whether they haven’t already read it, it being right up their alley and all.
        I feel like there ought to be a decent joke, or at least some clever wordplay around that article, what with the hippos and mice and campuses and all…
        It was a good article, though, and I have actually been to UCSF a couple of times, to the pediatric gastroenterology lab, once in 1980 on the way to a Steve Hackett concert when my friend’s son had an appointment there, and once in the ’90s when I delivered a refrigerator to the same place.


      • February 3, 2018 at 3:14 pm

        Well, now I’ll be thinking all day about Hippos and Mice on campus. I picture them each in their own fraternity house. Hippo Tai Chi and Mice Chi Phi. The hippos are the revelers, the mice are the geeks. Or is it the other way around, perhaps?


      • Doug in Oakland
        February 5, 2018 at 9:41 pm

        Well, Douglas Adams posited that the white mice were the ones running everything, so who really knows?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. January 27, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Oh my gosh, that was funny. And made me cringe a little – I don’t do well with pain!


    • January 28, 2018 at 6:05 pm

      Hi SAW. Sometimes I cringe just thinking about what might happen the next time I hurt myself. One of the pains I most hate is the classic stubbed toe.


  6. February 6, 2018 at 4:01 am

    Excellent post! Your girls kept cool heads despite their fear. I hope they always treasure what they did right on that unfortunate occasion. I’ve had occasion to take Fire Dept. ambulance rides 3 times in my life and always thought they were the most beautiful people I ever saw –even when I was too blotto to determine their genders. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, especially if the beholder is distressed.


    • February 7, 2018 at 1:15 am

      Why thank you, Geo, and yes they did well. Had they been just slightly more jaded, just think of all they could have negotiated. Now that I think about it, you have a point. It makes sense that people would get better looking in proportion with their ability to alleviate your discomfort. I may have to change careers.


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