Sunday, April 20, 2008

A spider-hunting we will go

The Irish have given us Yeats, Guinness, The Pogues, and some excellent cheese. Now it is time to add the Spider Catcher to that hallowed list.

I am a fan of gadgets, not for the sake of gadgetry -- though cleverness is always to be admired -
- but for their utility. There are successful gadgets, such as the self-opening trash can I bought at Costco last year. It is still going strong and brings a frisson of pleasure whenever it opens its rather odiferous trap.

A less successful gadget is the hand-held, battery-operated "One-Touch Can Opener" -- as seen on TV! -- that I purchased at Bed, Bath and Bey
ond. You place it on the top of the can, making sure it has gripped the rim, then you press a button and it slowly whirs around until it has sliced the lid clean off. This works wonders -- and for some time kept me from despoiling the kitchen with tuna juice -- until the batteries run low. Then it stops in the middle of what it is doing, clings to the lid for dear life, and has to be removed by means of a screwdriver and pressing a less-than-efficient reset button. Cursing doesn’t actually help, though it passes the time faster. Somewhere during this process you realize that the time the can opener has saved you is nothing compared to the time it takes to deal with the battery problem.

One of the simplest yet most useful things Marilyn and I have ever run across is the Spider Catcher, billed as “the world’s friendliest way to catch and release insects.” Here in Arizona we get all kinds of interesting bugs in the house. You’ve got your brown spindly-legged spiders,
which are about two or three inches in diameter. There’s the oblong "house centipede" that seems to breed in our stairwell. There’s Sparkle and Midnight, which are the names we have given to the two colors of Oriental cockroach -- known in polite company as "water bug" -- that make their appearance downstairs in the spring (and, of course, the roach that looks like a mix of the two, which we call The Unholy Love Child of Sparkle and Midnight). Finally, of course, there’s the occasional visit from that most disconcerting of desert dwellers, the scorpion.

The Spider Catcher, which hails from County Cork, is up to the task of managing them all. It’s easy and efficient, as well as humane, for you can walk the offending beastie out to the edge of the street
and release it into the wild. Our old method, the empty yogurt container and piece of cardboard system (photo below), sometimes resulted in loss of limb if the bug ran a little too quickly in the wrong direction. Scorpions, which used to be subject to a relentless pounding by the nearest shoe, are now free to return to nature and infest the neighbor’s house as they see fit.

The Spider Catcher comes with a black plastic spider to practice on, which has been left here and there around the house. Marilyn sometimes stumbles upon it and forgets that it’s not real, which is always good for few moments of a

Inventor Tony Allen presented a Spider Catcher to Prince Charles, who, I imagine, does not personally remove offending insects from his castles. In which case he is missing out on all the fun.

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