The summer that I was 14 going on 15, I spent a week babysitting in the wilds of Quebec.
The week started with me travelling to a cottage (that the family I was helping had rented) in the dad's awesome convertible. I realised about 20 minutes outside of Ottawa that convertibles are not only stupid cars, but also that, if I had been given the choice, I should have chosen to wear a bike helmet. Because it felt really dangerous. And not in a 'Hey man, this is dangerous in a totally cool way', but more of a 'Omigodwe'regonnadieifwegoover50mph' kind of way. I also wouuld have worn a helmet because my hair was basically a birds nest at the halfway point of the journey. And no amount of conditioner would de-tangle it. Not even the amazing-smelling L'Oreal Kids strawberry 2-in-1. With built-in de-tangler. It was horrible. I still have nightmares.
When we finally got to the cottage on the lake (it was real pretty, and had a long-ass dock that I was TOTALLY wanting to fish off of), I got settled in, and got down to babysitting. Which basically consisted of me sitting on some rocks down by the dock while the eldest kid collected toads in a bucket. The baby didn't need looking after because it had horrendous hayfever, I think. Or it was lazy. It basically just slept all the time and when it wasn't sleeping, it was getting ready to sleep while it ate. If I ever have children, I want a more active child, instead of one with allergies to the outdoors. That baby was really boring.
A couple of days went by without much to write home about. Well, there was a moth in my bedroom that I managed to get rid of without any drama.
But then after a couple of days of me wrestling with my birds nest hair and showering in what turned out to be a really poorly built cubicle (the water would drip through to the kitchen below after you were in it for more than 5 minutes, which is obviously not enough time for a teenage girl to shower.), I went down to the dock to help the kid with its toad collecting.
Then I saw a monster. A REAL MONSTER.
It was on the side of the dock and it was about to launch a nuclear attack on the kid I was meant to be protecting for what turned out to be $20 a day. I should have let the monster eat the kid, but damnit, I just couldn't.
Also, it had a friend who would have eaten me. So I took the most obvious action.
I told the kid to get off the dock. I didn't tell it why, I just said 'Get off the dock, Kid*. We need to get away from the dock and get in the house.
Me: 'Because your mom wants you inside.'
Kid: (screams) 'MO-OOOM! WHY DO I HAVE TO COME INSIDE?! I DON'T WANNA!'
The Mom: 'What? You don't have to come in! Stay out there for as long as you want so I can drink copious amounts of wine and forget that I'm in the wilderness where I am super, SUPER uncomfortable and terrified of every piece of nature around me! You're fine, sweetie!'
Kid: 'Why did you think my mom wanted us inside?'
Me: 'Because there's a giant monster on the dock, that's why.'
Turns out the kid was more bad-ass than I was.
Kid: 'Woah! Cool, I wanna see it! SHOW ME NOW.'
Me: 'Fine, but I'm carrying you, because you're not wearing shoes and I am. And it looks like it'll go for the toes first.'
Kid: (laughs crazily) 'Coooooooooooool!'
Me: 'No, it's not cool, because I only have sandals on. And that means my toes are the ones it's gonna get. We'll look really quickly and then run, OK?'
Kid: 'Whatever. SHOW ME THE MONSTER.'
So I carry the kid to the bit of the doc where I last saw the monster.
I looked over the side.
IT WAS GONE.
That's when the fear really set in. It was going to crawl up behind us and drag us, backward into the lake, I just KNEW it.
So I told the kid it wasn't there, and wasn't that lucky? It looked totally bereft, because it wanted to see a monster and get eaten, I can only assume.
I took one last look and that's when it happened.
The monster jumped up onto the side of the dock and its friend was with it. With eggs on its back. Licking its lips.
OK, maybe not the last bit. Lake spiders don't generally have lips, but these were the biggest fucking spiders I'd ever seen in my life, so far.
I picked the kid up in the quickest, most swift movement and sprinted down the dock, up to the house.
The mom was standing at the back door and had heard my strangled scream of 'RUN! RUN THERE'S SPIDERS EVERYWHERE!!!!!' and had prepared a flame-thrower and grenades for getting rid of nature. She said to the kid that she wasn't ever going outside again, and she suggested I do the same.
The best part of the week wasn't the monster evading though.
The best part of the week was when the mom finally allowed us back outside (like, 20 minutes later), and we decided that we should play basketball. There was a rusty hoop in the driveway and a ball that might as well have been filled with sand; the amount of bounce it had in it.
So we're playing a bit of pass the rock (no bouncing would ever happen)and avoiding tetanus, and the mom is given a perfectly good reason not to wear fucking slippers outdoors, in sand, on a driveway. Because she stood on a Garter snake. And it freaked her the fuck out. I have never seen a grown woman run that fast, apart from when my mum sees a mouse. It was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed.
Needless to say, I was so happy that day that when I was asked if I wanted to go home a week early, because they wouldn't be needing a babysitter so much anymore, I jumped at the chance to get away from Shelob and her husband. And I also never had to see those damn lake spiders again. And the parents paid me $100 for five days work.
Mental-scarring doesn't exactly pay well (hey, that's the title of this post!), but I did buy a front-row ticket to see the Backstreet Boys' Ottawa concert. It was amazing and totally worth a week of hair that resembled a birds nest and spiders the size of a grown man's hand. The cherry on top of the crazy? Never having to babysit for that family ever again
I hated that family.