Columnist

Mike Buzzelli is a stand-up comedian and published author. His book, "Below Average Genius" is a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column here in the Observer-Reporter.

Back in the Before Times, I was sitting outside in a café in Melbourne, Australia, with my friend Brian in March 2020. We were finishing up our lunch, talking and laughing, when Brian said, very calmly, “Don’t move.”

Of course, I moved. My eyes widened and I lifted my feet up, fearing a rodent was crawling around beneath me. There was nothing on the ground, but I kept scanning the street for any possible danger.

“Stay calm.” He insistent. “Do not make any more sudden movements.”

The order, “Stay calm,” is one of those reasonable requests that works best theoretically, but has little-to-no-real-world applications. When someone tells you to stay calm, your instinct is to NOT stay calm. I felt like jumping up and running from the table, screaming like a banshee. Instead, I actually decided to trust Brian and remain quiet, motionless.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to tell you,” he whispered.

“I think you have to,” I whispered back. Then, I added, “Why are we whispering?”

“I don’t want to scare it,” he spoke in a hushed tone.

Hello, Panic. It’s Mike. My friend is freaking me out right now. Yes, I’ll hold. But not for very much longer.

Brian said in a soft voice, “There is a spider the size of my fist crawling on your shoulder.”

Side note: Just about everything in Australia can kill you. They have freshwater sharks and saltwater sharks. They have freshwater alligators and saltwater crocodiles. They have lethal jellyfish. They have poisonous snakes, poisonous frogs and, for some unknown reason, poisonous trees (the stinging nettles, Dendrocnide Moroides). Of course, there are several killer spiders in Australia.

But I digress, like I do.

“Is this a prank?” I asked.

“I wish.” He replied.

OK. Now. Panic.

I jumped up. Brian jumped up.

“Where is it?” I asked.

“I don’t know. You moved.”

Another friend of mine has a theory about the locations of spiders: “Not knowing is worse than knowing.”

As luck would have it, we paid for our meal in advance because we both fled the café and ran down the street.

We got to an ATM vestibule and I asked, “Is it on me?”

“Spin around.” He ordered.

I pirouetted around as Brian searched for any wayward arachnids that could be stuck to my person.

Then, he asked me to do a body check on him, in case the spider had hitched a ride. He circled around, but I only found a loose thread on the back of his Izod. No spider, no web.

He was clean.

I am sure we looked ridiculous spinning around in circles in the ATM vestibule during our spider check, but I was more worried about tarantulas than Lookie Loos.

I spun around one more time, just to be safe. I was footloose and spider-free.

It wasn’t until I returned to America that I did research on the deadly spiders of Australia.

It’s too late to faint.

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