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As I was leafing through The New Yorker, I had no idea within its pages lurked a spider the size of a cheeseburger. Not a real spider, but a photograph of a spider so enormous and lifelike that it was just barely less traumatizing than the real thing. This shocking and blatant display of disdain for the Arachnophobic community came in the form of a print ad for Standard & Poor's Depositary Receipt, listed on the American Stock Exchange as "SPDR."

How clever.

Arachnophobia is no joke. It is a debilitating psychological disorder that afflicts many people; some of whom enjoy intelligent, but

  accessible, literary magazines. Insensitive people do not realize that Arachnophobes struggle with even the simplest daily tasks; for instance, bringing in firewood from dark sheds, pulling up the rotting  

hardwood floorboards of an abandoned cabin circa 1919, and clearing ground to pitch a tent in the Rain Forest. Must the creature-challenged now add reading newstand weeklies to the list?

Clinicians recognize that there are two types of Arachnophobes: Monitors and Blunters. Blunters, like me, avoid at all costs even the most remote exposure to our nemeses. Typical Blunter behaviors include fleeing dark, musty basements as if being chased by Cujo, disposing of book "S" from Encyclopedia collections, and dumping boyfriends who "don't like to kill stuff."

Monitors, on the other hand, seek out their foes. They operate under the assumption that what they don't know will hurt them. To feel safe, Monitors locate, root out, and kill or follow their enemies. Manifestations of Monitor symptomology include activities that I am too scared to think about so you will have to imagine for yourself.

I reacted to the ad in The New Yorker as any Blunter would: By flinging the magazine across the room and running spastically in the opposite direction as if my life were at stake. In typical Blunter form, I left the magazine where it landed-on the floor under my desk-until a friend came by two days later to exterminate the offending page. I waited in the kitchen, just to be safe.

"Found it. It is a trust fund that's listed on the American Stock Exchange as SPDR. And, no they do not sell huge spiders. The ad says 'You can buy and sell spiders like a stock, in fact, you can trade them all day long.'" Disgusting.

SPDR may be the "complete S&P 500 in one share," but that does not give them the right to terrorize Arachnophobes who, incidentally, might also be interested in diversifying their portfolios. That is, if they could stand to look at the horror show SPDR calls an ad. Advertisers are just plain wrong if they think people enjoy being visually assaulted by a spider magnified to 250 times its actual size. According to The Harris Poll #49 conducted on August 8th, 1999, 37% of those asked reported being very or somewhat afraid of spiders. And with good reason.

Unlike those irrational phobias of fire, earthquakes, and terrorism, Arachnophobia actually has a basis in reality. According to Graham C. L. Davey of the City University, London (as he is referenced on the website, the spider avoidance response descends from our European ancestors. The insightful and forward-thinking people of the Middle Ages believed spiders were messengers of the Black Plague. Indeed, spider contact with food may have contributed to the spreading of infection.

If spiders were responsible for wiping out entire villages back in the 1300s, think of what kinds of destruction they might be causing today. Maybe researchers should be studying the possible links between spiders and the epidemics that plague our modern life, such as smoking, reality television, and male-pattern baldness.

So I implore you, SPDR, to stop alienating and scaring me and all the other good citizens of America who would rather be attacked by a large gaggle of rabid squirrels than turn the page of a favorite high-brow rag to find a you-know-what. Don't New Yorkers have enough things to be scared of?



Special thanks to Mom for doing the research for this article. No blunter in her right mind is Google-ing "spiders."