I was thirty years old before I ever encountered a live scorpion — outside of a zoo exhibit, that is. Unfortunately, I found it in my dream apartment: a thousand-square-foot loft-style space overlooking a pool and with a garage underneath.
The scorpion – about two inches long and creepy looking – was brought to my attention by my two pugs, who were both just as freaked out by it as I was. I trapped it under a glass and put a telephone book on top. You never know – that sucker might have been strong enough to turn the glass over! Then I called apartment maintenance to come and remove it, all the while making a wide circle around the glass and warning my dogs to stay away from it.
I thought that would be the end of it – after all, it was just a single bug, right? Wrong. A few days later, I picked up my washcloth and jumped three feet off the ground – a scorpion was soaking up the moisture underneath! Once more, I captured it under a glass and called maintenance.
Now, one scorpion is a fluke. Two are a trend. The next day, I went to the office and asked to be moved to another apartment or released from my lease. I was told there were no other apartments like mine available at that time and that the complex was not responsible for scorpion infestations because they are indigenous to the area. When I pointed out that I, a Phoenix native, had never seen one in any of my various homes, they said I must have been lucky. In an effort to reassure me that the apartment was clear of the poisonous arachnids, they agreed to have it searched via blacklight. They found half a dozen small scorpions – babies. Now, the smaller a scorpion is, the more poisonous. Despite the complex’s effort to exterminate them, I was in full freak-out mode. I shook my shoes every time I went to put them on; I never went barefoot in my apartment; I even shook my clothes and towels with vigor. Scared for my dogs, I asked my grandfather to take them in – leaving me alone in the infested apartment.
I was only six months into a year-long lease. I was irritated, but I didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. However, that didn’t mean I had to be silent. In a move that earned me the nickname of Scorpion Queen from my friends, I made a sign: “Ask me about the scorpions in my apartment at T** T***.” I taped it in the back window of my car. Every afternoon when I gathered my mail, I parked the car right next to the Prospective Residents’ spaces. More than one person asked me about them, even as my friends laughed at me and my sign.
The next time I went into the office to pay my rent, the apartment manager took me aside and asked what she could do to help me in my situation (and get me to take the sign out of my car window).
“Let me out of my lease.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Then I guess I’ll be leaving the sign in my car.”
With only four months left on the lease, the agreement we came to was this: she would have an exterminator visit my apartment weekly to check for scorpions. After that, I never found another one in my apartment. In fact, I only saw one more while I lived there: a huge granddaddy of a scorpion that seemed to stare at me through the glass doors leading to my balcony for at least an hour one afternoon. I didn’t have a glass big enough to trap him under – and besides, he was on the wall. There was no way in Hell I was going to knock that sucker down. He was gone before the maintenance guy showed up.
Ten years later, the thought of that apartment still gives me chills. And, by the way, I’ve never seen a scorpion, outside of a zoo, since.