As a FEMA contractor, Chris Tarantino knows how to deal with disasters. But on Tuesday an emergency caught him off guard: thousands of spiders swarming inside of his rental car.
"It was like a spider tornado hit the front seat," said the now-safe Rochester man.
Tarantino is a contractor for FEMA who travels the country holding classes for emergency workers on topics like social media for disaster response and recovery. He flew to Fort Myers to teach Florida's disaster staff Thursday.
"Dealing with emergencies is my bread and butter," said Tarantino, whose Epicenter Media & Training is described on Twitter as "a communications-focused public safety and technology consulting and training firm."
Tarantino is self-admittedly tech savvy and said he reflexively started tweeting about the alarming arachnid activity.
"This was just that level of ridiculousness to share. I feel like I had to get it out there," Tarantino said. "They had literally just hatched."
His first terrifying tweet was at 3:42 p.m.
He had just finished up a nice wrap for lunch at The Lodge in downtown Fort Myers and went for a walk. Tarantino was just reaching in his backseat to grab something out of his backpack when it happened. At first, he thought maybe the sun was playing tricks on him.
"It wasn’t until I looked a few times that I realized the gravity of the situation," Tarantino said. "I’m just glad they didn’t decide to hatch while I was driving, or else I’d be dead."
At first I was in disbelief.... You know how the sun can distort your vision? I thought it was that. And then one crawled up my arm....— Chris Tarantino (@Tarantino4me) May 31, 2016
He said when he sent out that tweet, he thought it was between 20 and 50.
"This didn’t just happen," he remembers thinking.
He called Hertz, informed them of the hellscape that once was a Dodge Charger.
"I told them I’d drive it to them," he said. "I can handle it, I’m a pro," he remembers thinking.
"In my professional opinion, it wasn’t a disaster yet," Tarantino said.
HE. WAS. WRONG. — #Spiderpocalypse2016 was nigh.
There are thousands. So many baby spiders asbfjsbsnsvansbjs @Hertz is hopefully coming to rescue me.— Chris Tarantino (@Tarantino4me) May 31, 2016
He found the epicenter near the gas pedal. Although no bigger than ants, he said it looked like the seat was crawling. And how does one wait out #Spiderpocalypse2016? With a kolsch, of course. (Cheers.) He went back to The Lodge a different man and ordered a Fancy Lawnmower brewed by Saint Arnold Brewing Company.
He said the waitress wanted to see it, so he walked her back to spider-filled hellhole and they gazed upon the horror together. It gazed back.
And then, a mirage appears — customer service.
@Tarantino4me Hi Chris,— Hertz Corporation (@Hertz) May 31, 2016
If you need to exchange, please contact our roadside team at 800-654-5060.
He said the Hertz folks were kind and took responsibility. He even got the manager's cell phone number to expedite his rescue. The only thing that pushed it along quicker was the beer. (Cheers.)
@Tarantino4me That's great to hear! We hope the rest of your trip is safe and spider-free. Let us know if we can help any further— Hertz Corporation (@Hertz) May 31, 2016
He used the time to catch up on spider-free conference calls.
OK, and make use of the greatest "Home Alone" GIFs the internet has to offer.
Hertz took away the insect-overrun car — no, no one drove it; Hertz took the devil car away on a flat-bed truck — and delivered Tarantino a new Dodge Charger "just without the spiders."
To think that five hours before #Spiderpocalypse2016 his only complaint was spotty Wi-Fi by the pool. If only he knew the terror that awaited him.
I guess my only complaint is that the Wi-Fi is spotty at the pool... pic.twitter.com/Syy2GdH9ph— Chris Tarantino (@Tarantino4me) May 31, 2016
He said he plans on finding the silver lining in #Spiderpocalypse2016 and use it as a teaching moment for his social media course Thursday.
"This is a good opportunity to push preparedness. It could have been a disaster today," he said.
Follow @ben_brasch on Twitter.