Janice Crow

Stroking the Spider

Janice Lloyd Crow - Songwriter, Singer
Janice Lloyd Crow – Songwriter, Singer

The older I get the more my life is divided into chapters. Instead of one long continuous story that has a beginning, a middle and an end, my life seems to be more like a series of O. Henry tales. (For those of you under forty who have never heard of him, William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910, or “O. Henry”, as his pen name designated him, was a brilliant short story writer. You owe it to yourself to check out some of his works. My all time favorites are “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief”.)

Where was I? Oh…..chapters. The chapters of my life are not so grandly titled as those of O. Henry, but bear names such as “When I Was a Kid”, “When I Was Single”, “When I Sang with Sunday Edition”, or “When I Was a Court Stenographer”. There are literally dozens of chapters of my life, and my kids groan when I begin a sentence with “when” because they know a story is not far behind. So to set the stage, the chapter I’m addressing today is “When I Was a Legal Assistant”. Let the yawning begin.

When I stop to think about it, it really is amazing that I spent so many early years in a field where there is so much emotional “hand holding” required …..a job for which I am ill-equipped. I am more of an investigator. Let me find the smoking gun and turn it over to you. What you do with it or don’t do with it is up to you. But there I was….legal assistant and chief client hand-holder.

The unvarnished truth is, I don’t like dealing with other people’s issues. You know, the very fact that someone has hired a lawyer means, “Houston, we have a problem.” People don’t generally wake up one morning and say, “You know, I think I’ll find me a good lawyer today, because you never know when you’re gonna get rear-ended.” No. You hire a lawyer after you get out of traction, after you slip on a grape at the Piggly Wiggly or after the neighbor’s pitbull takes a chunk out of your gastrocnemius. The job, by its very nature, is dealing with someone else’s stuff.

I say all this to give you the setting. I’m in a cramped little basement office with a one foot clearance to shimmy through every morning between the wall and my desk. There is constant transfer of dye from my jeans to the wall and powdery paint residue from the wall to my jeans. It’s tight. The tiny window is so far above my head, I look up and can see only pea gravel peeking over the window well. Is the sun shining? Who can tell? Down there it’s dark, damp, gloomy and concrete gray.

The phone rings again and it’s one of my clients…the same guy…for the umpteenth time. This is before Caller ID, so there’s no escape. His work comp checks have been cut off. What will he do? What does the lawyer plan to do about it? I’m so sorry, sir, let me look into that. Yes, we need to file a 19(b) Petition for Immediate Hearing to get your benefits reinstated. Yes, it could take months to get an “immediate” hearing. Yes, I agree, clearly, the State of Illinois does not know the meaning of the word “immediate”. But I have no money. What will I do now? The one-sided conversation droned on. It was actually more of a soliloquy, minus Macbeth. It’s not that I didn’t feel sorry for the man, but there wasn’t much I could do…the system is the system….and he had already eaten up hours of my time earlier that week. I couldn’t be rude. I couldn’t just hang up on him like I wanted to. I wanted to be somewhere else……anywhere else.

While the man talked on and on, my mind was drifting away like an unmoored boat. I was staring off somewhere into the water-marked acoustic tile imagining myself in Aruba when I noticed out the corner of my eye a good size piece of lint, from my dark sweater no doubt, contrasted against the bright white of my desk blotter. The boredom overtook me. I reached over and began to fiddle with the lint, still staring off into the ceiling. I nudged it from side to side….I rolled it around under my fingers like Play-Doh…. squished it into a ball and then flattened it back out again and again…..all the while praying the man would either shut up or that there would be a meteor strike and put both of us out of our misery.

Finally….he started making wind-down comments, like “well, I guess I’m tying up your line here” and my breath caught in my chest like I’d just seen a Waffle House after 100 miles with no exit ramps….but then he thought of something else he needed to tell me. So, Mr. Lintball, here we go again.

At last, after twenty-five minutes or so of inane monologue he hung up. I took a deep breath and settled back in my chair. After gathering myself for a moment, I reached for a pen to write yet another phone message from the gentleman. As I pulled my hand back to the page to write, that ball of lint uncurled its legs and staggered confusedly across my blotter toward a crack in the concrete wall. Yes…for the better part of half an hour I had played gitchy-goo with some sort of black spider. I’m not altogether certain I didn’t give him a Swedish massage. (Note to self: Wear your contacts.)

I can’t tell you how it made my skin crawl when I realized what I had done. I HATE spiders! I am amazed that I didn’t get bit! Of course, I guess from his standpoint the day wasn’t all that great for him either. I can imagine him going home to the web and the little woman reporting on the day. “You go out, try to bring home a couple of fruit flies and you get mugged.”

I hadn’t thought of that in years. I can assure you this: Had I not been exhausted, distracted, detached and blind as a bat without my glasses, I would have recognized Mr. Lintball for who he was… Mr. Arachnid.

How many times does the same type of thing happen to us as Christians? That’s a stretch, you say? We deal with the same old, same old problem, day in and day out, year after year and it seems like it will never end. We do just what the Bible tells us not to…we “grow weary in well doing” because it’s been so long. We want to hang it up and just go on with life. We begin to look elsewhere to find some distraction…. working too much, a new relationship we have no business getting involved in, maybe some relief in a bottle. Before we know it, we’re playing patty-cake with the devil, and we never, ever intended it. We’re just so tired of it all!

Whether you feel it or not, God is concerned about every aspect of your life….including this “THING” that just won’t stop! He’s there for you. Talk to him, and I guarantee he won’t be staring off into space wishing you’d go away. You’ll have His full attention.

Being able to see it all more clearly ……that’s the answer. You can put on your spiritual glasses by reading The Word of God. You will learn to see your problems, your difficulties, your heartaches, through God’s eyes, and maybe most importantly, you’ll learn to recognize the devil’s devices so that you will not put yourself in harm’s way on his territory just because you’re weary and nearing the end of your rope.

So…..what have we learned here? Don’t stroke the spider…..it’s just too risky.


Janice Crow

Janice Crow is an accomplished singer/songwriter.
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