Looking Beyond First Impressions


This is a story about first impressions and the need to look past them.

Earlier today, I spotted this Facebook link, with the following headline:

Oregon Teen Calls Police for Help with ‘Massive’ Spider

Now, three guesses as to what went through your mind when you saw that headline. I’ll bet it was, “Geez, a kid sees a harmless spider and freaks out, calling 911 and wasting police time! What is wrong with America?!

But, credit to the headline writer, it got me reading. And when you read past the headline, you’ll see that there’s more to this story than meets the eye:

When an Oregon teen in a wheelchair was faced with a “massive” venomous spider and no one was home to come to her rescue, she felt she had no choice but to call the cops.

Makenna Sewell, 17, of Forest Grove, Ore., was going to get a glass of water when she spotted a large spider on the back of the living room couch, according to her mother, Shawnda Sewell. She then froze and stared at it for several minutes.

“We do live outside of town so we do see spiders all the time,” Sewell said. “[But] it was in fact the largest spider I had ever seen alive.”

Makenna has muscular dystrophy and is wheelchair-bound. On Aug. 16, Shawnda Sewell said her daughter was home alone when she saw what is believed to be a brown recluse spider, which has a venomous bite. The creature was about three inches across, she said.

Okay, that’s a big spider. And you’ll note that the word “venomous” isn’t one that appeared in the headline that gave us such a negative first impression. Makenna is alone and unable to reach her parents. Add to this the fact that she is wheelchair-bound and dealing with a compromised immune system, you’ll realize that this situation actually has a fair amount of threat in it.

Even so, she’s positively sheepish when she calls the police non-emergency hotline (not, you’ll note, 911):

“I just have a kind of ridiculous question,” the high school senior is heard telling the police dispatcher in an audio recording of the call. “I’m home alone and there is a giant spider on the back of my couch — I am talking giant. I have never seen a spider this big. And I have no idea what to do.”

“I can’t get a hold of my parents so I don’t know if you guys have anything I can do, or if I should just sit and stare at it and wait for someone to come home and kill it,” Makenna continues. “It’s probably as big as my hand.”

The dispatcher is heard telling her that since she doesn’t feel safe, he will send someone over to her house. In the end, a total of four police officers showed up at their house, Shawnda Sewell said.

Who then proceed to re-enact the classic scene from the movie Annie Hall. I don’t know about you, but if I were in Makenna’s shoes and one of the police officers “(shone) a light on the spider and… actually jumps back”, I think I’d find that the single most gratifying moment of the year. See? I’m not panicking unduly; this is actually serious!

“They wanted to make sure that once it falls they could get it,” she continued. “So they surrounded it and knocked it down.”

Though serious, one cannot help but laugh at the image this provokes.

Throughout the situation, Sewell said the officers remained professional, despite the seemingly absurd circumstances.

Though I bet they’ll all be adding that to the stories they’ll laugh over with friends and family come Thanksgiving.

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