Annie Spyder, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, had the misfortune, to those that did not know her well, of also looking like a spider. Today, bent over her desk motionlessly for an hour her hands nearly touching the floor, she sat waiting for her new client.
Dr. Spyder provided psychological test reports for the school system, physicians and courts in this remote Florida county. She started out as a relaxation therapist, but return visits were rare. Was it the cobwebby office? No matter. Testing suited her and she could quickly turn out a readable and remunerative reports.
Dr. Spyder had complete confidence in her own judgment. Over the years, there was little about human behavior that she hadn’t seen, digested and deposited on a page.
She had the impression that she missed nothing. Dr. Spyder felt as if she sat in a large web– capturing every sensation a client emitted.
At her desk, Dr. Spyder overheard the voice of her receptionist Louise in the waiting room. Louise said the same thing every time. After years of repetition, the cadence of her well-practiced tones was smooth and reassuring. And then there was an unexpected peal of laughter from behind the door. The new client had made a joke, evidently.
“Aha, laughter! mused Dr. Spyder. “Our new client is chumming up to the front office, trying to build an alliance with staff! She needs a favorable report! Watch for relational aggression in this one. Dr. Spyder’s insights were quick and piercing.
A few minutes later, there was a knock on the office door. Dr. Spyder donned large dark glasses that covered her red eyes and slipped on black gloves. She shoved arms, four apiece, into each sleeve of a black bolero jacket. She wore only black, explaining to others that it slimmed her bulging middle. The sleeves of this silky jacket always gave her trouble—what with the big claws at the end of her arms.
“Come in,” called Dr. Spyder, and through the door slipped a tall slim woman in a gray pencil suit. Registering the cylindrical body type, Dr. Spyder thought, Aha! Ectomorphic! Anxious! Phobic!
The new client, Ms. Gregory, had an elegant, triangular face with large liquid eyes. Oversensitive, overwhelmed by responsibilities, eh. Dr. Spyder had a way of transforming any observation almost magically into content. She was, after all, an Interpretation Spider.
Raising her cheeks in quiet imitation of a smile, Dr. Spyder extended her broomstick like arm across the desk and shook Ms. Gregory’s hand.
“Hello Dr. Spyder,” said Ms. Gregory, “I like your office art.” Aha, thought Dr. Spyder, a histrionic bid to elicit reciprocal approval. Ms. Gregory glanced at several pieces on the wall. “Very eclectic.”
Aha! Not sure what to do with non-conformity.
Ms. Gregory smiled and Dr. Spyder noted pearly perfect teeth. “Aha, good dental hygiene indicating investment in external appearances to ensure approval. A histrionic maneuver. “Especially that reddish painting there.” Aha, drawn to affectively charged visual stimuli. Color shock!
Ms. Gregory looked around the room and sighed, “I so love art!” Aha! Attempting to bond by drawing attention to our similarities. “I just wish my work allowed more time to enjoy it.”
Dr. Spyder motioned Ms. Gregory to sit. “Please read the informed consent.” Ms. Gregory received the pages with long fingers and squinted at the type–”Oh, I am blind as a bat.” She chuckled while unclasping her purse. “I can hardly read anymore without my glasses.”
Aha! Secondary gain, dodging responsibilities by claiming physical symptoms. Purposely adopting invalidism. Ms. Gregory’s report was almost writing itself, though Dr. Spyder with satisfaction.
Ms. Gregory withdrew something from her purse. She seemed to be struggling to get the large object out. What is that? thought Dr. Spyder. Myopic herself. Those don’t look like glasses! Dr. Spyder squinted—none of her eight eyes were sharp. What have you got there–a book? What?”
Dr. Spyder shuddered with an instinctual fear of big, flat objects used to crush insects and arachnids.
“Yes, a big thick book. “Ms. Gregory raised the book to shoulder height, almost with difficulty given her thin arms. Then she, then dropped it. A thunderous clap rattled Dr. Spider’s ears… “Yes, a book, a famous book by psychologist Paul Meehl entitled `Clinical vs. Statistical Prediction: A Theoretical Analysis and a Review of the Evidence.’ It describes the muddleheaded ways psychologists make inferences.”
Dr. Spyder looked at Ms. Gregory intensely. Who was this woman? And how could she, Dr. Spyder, escape? Apprehensively, Dr. Spyder eyed the corner of the ceiling.
“You don’t remember me, do you,” Ms. Gregory continued. “or your unscientific psychological report that described me as an unfit parent?”
Ms. Gregory picked up the book with both hands and marched toward Dr. Spyder. At so terrifyingly a sight, Dr. Spyder scuttled up the wall.
“Did you never read this book in grad school? Now, high into a corner, Dr. Spyder rolled into a ball and closed her eyelids, waiting.
All was dark. Dr. Spyder floated in mist. Half awake, she spun ever so slightly like an eight- legged satellite. A distant light grew stronger. Vague faces appeared in the mist around her. They were sad faces, faces that she recognized even in her dreamy state to be former clients.
They mocked the test reports she had written about them.
“This parent has a range of behaviors that interfere with appropriate parenting.”
“This is a patient who likely is malingering.”
“This patient is unable to carry out the duties outlined in their job description.”
The voices droned on in an accusatory tone. The light intensified, the condemning chant continued. Dr. Spyder yelled in a voice that to her seemed unnaturally tiny, “No, I can’t die like this. I want to live.”
“You are living,” said Ms. Gregory, looking down at her. Dr. Spyder was flat on her back. Her head hurt. “You fell off the wall.”
Ms. Gregory’s face seemed was so high above her to seem nearly microcephalic. And Ms. Gregory had eight long Daddy long legs… “I guess you now see I am a spider too. A Data Spider. I eat the purveyors of shameless pseudoscientific articles, research and occasionally, as an appetizer, a private practice clinician churning out ridiculous reports.
Daddy Long Legs particularly enjoy eating other spiders.
And it became evident that Ms. Gregory was an old client as well, one who had lost a custody battle because of a report.
“I am so sorry,” said Dr. Spyder. “Somewhere I got…lost.”
Ms. Gregory looked at her hard, saying nothing, motionless. Her face betrayed a slight sympathy.
“I may not eat you. There may be hope for you yet. As a professional you have acted shamelessly. But because I am fair minded, I will allow you choices. You may quit professional psychology or you may complete a two year post-doc on advanced parametric statistics or you can face a complaint with the Florida Board of Psychology. Or, then again, I guess I can simply eat you.”
Horrendous choices, thought Dr. Spyder. She pondered.
Dr. Spyder worked hard on herself for three years. She took courses, studied, took out loans and built a new office in a different county in Florida. She acknowledged that she was not by nature a very clear thinker. She dressed au natural—making no pretenses. A spider she was and she wouldn’t hide it.
She made no effort to conceal her shiny exoskeleton and the bright red hourglass on her belly. Her clients liked her new scary look. During all this time, Ms. Gregory remained her close friend.
Today, she waited for her new client. Nowadays, she did not use a desk but just hung upside down in a corner web. It was more honest. Her reputation was growing as a result of the changes. A knock on the door and a new client entered.
Dr. Spyder extended a hairy arm “Hello, I am Annie Spyder, Attorney, Specializing in Family Law.”
Spider photo available from Shutterstock