*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told by a family friend, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
Some people are afraid of insects. I can understand why; they can be creepy, and crawly, and some of them can even fly. But of all the insects out there, the one that scares me the most is the praying mantis. Those things look like they're straight out of a horror movie.
They're big, they're green, and they have those long, spindly legs. Just looking at one is enough to make my skin crawl. And don't even get me started on those huge jaws that they use to devour their prey.
Thankfully, I've never had the misfortune of encountering one in real life. But even so, I know that I would never want to come face-to-face with one of those things.
What would you do if a praying mantis crawled up your skirt or your pants leg at work? Would you run and scream? Would you toss your clothes aside while jumping up and down until the insect fell to the ground? Maybe you would faint. I know I would, and that's exactly what happened to my mother's coworker after a praying mantis crawled up her skirt and didn't come back out.
At the age of sixteen, my mother left high school to enter the workplace. My grandparents didn't believe in education. They preferred to send their children into the world to make a living as soon as possible.
My mother didn't mind dropping out of school to work at a jewelry shop. "I was pleased to be working and earning a paycheck to help my family pay the bills," my mother told me. "Besides, I had a lot of interesting experiences at that jewelry shop. I wouldn't exchange my time there for anything."
One hot summer day, a praying mantis found its way inside the jewelry shop where my mother worked and terrorized one of her poor coworkers. My mother has never forgotten the excitement of that day.
Because it was hot and the shop had no air conditioning, the manager opened all the windows and even propped open the doors. Besides the outside air, an assortment of insects, from flies to mosquitoes, found their way inside the building via the unscreened windows and open doors.
One of those insects was a large praying mantis that made its slow and steady way to one worker before anyone noticed its presence. The woman didn't spot the praying mantis until after it crawled up her leg. Even then, she didn't so much see it as feel it as it clung to her thigh.
She stood and let out a blood-curdling scream before running around the room, still screaming, while shaking her skirt to try to dislodge the large insect. Then she passed out cold.
When she hit the floor, the gigantic insect emerged from her skirt and made its way onto the shop floor, where another worker gently shooed it out the door to live to terrorize another day.
The woman regained consciousness before anyone could call an ambulance, but she cried and shook for the rest of the day. Fortunately, she was uninjured, but she wasn't okay emotionally. Coworkers gave her coffee and snacks in a futile attempt to calm her down, but she was inconsolable.
I felt surprised to learn that the woman returned to work the following day, none the worse for her tangle with the scary insect. Personally, I probably would have quit my job on the spot. I've quit for less.