I guess it doesn't matter. The point is, here I am, up in the hills, house-sitting for an affluent friend. Well, friends, I guess, but only sort of. Don and Jens. Don is a pirate, and he makes a lot of money doing it. He is really devoted to good piracy, and is very handy with a sabre. He's also got the biggest home entertainment system I've ever seen. It's like a single mountainous wall of electronics (and this week, it's all mine!). His husband, Jens, is a ninja. He makes good money too, but he's very reserved. You can be in the room with him for hours and never notice he's there. Jens and I never really got close; I sort of have a complex about very quiet people - I always worry that they're mad at me, and just keeping quiet about it. He's a nice guy, and we're always friendly with each other, but somehow after all these years, we never clicked. Maybe it's all the ninja stars and the smoke bombs.
Anyway, Don and Jens. Huge house. Happily married for six years now. They had their hard times, and it's pretty difficult getting social acceptance for their relationship - pirates and ninjas get along so poorly - but nonetheless, they've shown the world that they're here to stay. Don's pirate friends just keep the ninja jokes down when Don is around, and Jens' clan have stopped sending assassins to stealthily eliminate Don.
As I was saying. Jens and Don. Huge house. Mine for the week.
The only problem is the spiders. They're huge and disgusting, but I can't smash them. This is not because of the lofty principle of ahimsa, it's because they're so darn glib.
You see, part of Don's entertainment system - it's definitely Don's because Jens never uses it - is a Spider Translater. Don got it after successfully recovering some buried golden treasure, when he was looking to burn some money on cool toys, but I really wish it just wasn't here. I can hear the spiders talking, and they can talk back to me.
Whenever I roll up a newspaper and get ready to smash them, they always manage to talk me out of it. Every time! Spiders are so creepy!
Here's the last exchange, as an example:
Ted: "Okay, this time I'm going to smash you, spider. No more guilt trips."
Spider: "You'll be able to kill more spiders if you listen to me for a few minutes."
Ted: "You're just trying to trick me into not smashing you. La, la, la, I'm not listening!"
Spider: "I'll teach you our secret spider techniques, and then you can fight back! Aren't you sick of spiders taking advantage of you?"
Ted: "Okay, talk, but after the talking, there will be some squishing."
Spider: "Have you considered the wisdom of the principle of ahimsa?"
Ted: "Spider secrets, or the shoe. No more philosophy."
Spider: "Okay, there's actually a few different techniques. I'll tell you the first two."
Ted: "No, tell me them all."
Spider: "Okay, there's ten total. The first one is to phrase every aggressive situation as a cooperative one, preferably appealing to principles of a higher wisdom."
Ted: "What do you mean?"
Spider: "For instance, I might ask you to 'try to look at things from my point of view.' On the surface, I'm asking you to broaden your mind, and subtly accusing you of being narrow-minded, while hinting that there's truths you could learn. But in fact, all I'm really doing is asking you to start assuming that everything I want is correct."
Ted: "You spiders are complete vermin, aren't you?"
Spider: "Other examples of this principle are the false apology, and the syrupy hedge. With a false apology, I phrase something as an apology, but then include a clause that it's the other person's fault. The apology gets them listening, and then the blame hits harder. For example, I might say, 'I am sorry that you couldn't find another way.' The syrupy hedge begins or ends with a statement of affection, but the meat of the sentence is vitriol. That way, the whole thing is framed as constructive criticism, but in fact, it's just abuse. So, I could say, 'Darling, I adore you, but you're really being vicious and vindictive by crushing spiders.'"
Ted: "Oh, hey, the big long-legged spider in the bathtub used that on me, and I fell for it!"
Spider: "Of course you did, my friend. But that spider was just doing what it had to do to survive."
Ted: "Yeah, I guess so... Hey, you're doing it! I'm going to smash you up!"
Spider: "The second spider trick is controlling the compromise. If I keep the initiative, and steer the conversation, I can present you with what seems like a deal. And, in fact, it is a deal, but I've cherry-picked the deal so that the things I offer aren't things I really mind, while the things I'm asking you to give up are things that are a real problem."
Ted: "Can you give an example?"
Spider: "I might ask you to avoid smashing me, and in exchange, I'd offer you something which I would phrase as a big thing, but which I don't really care about."
Ted: "Like what?"
Spider: "No examples come to mind at the moment, unfortunately. The important bit is this: I need to propose the compromise while you're still making plans, and phrase it in such a way that it seems like what I'm offering you is better than what I'm asking from you. Even better, that you'll get everything you want, with just a slight modification."
Ted: "This sounds familiar..."
Spider: "Spider technique number three is switching between concepts which are logically equivalent, but emotionally different, while pretending they're the same. So, I might switch between the details of a concept, and the principles behind the concept, and go back and forth between them, as suits my conversational example. Or I might phrase something as something you could gain, then, halfway through, switch it around as a potential thing you'd be losing, instead. People are loathe to give up something they already have, but they'll willingly pass up gaining a new thing."
Ted: "Can you give an example of that?"
Spider: "Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you. You can smash me then, but in the meantime, I'd like to live a little longer. You don't want to miss out on the rest of the techniques you're learning, do you, my friend?"
That was this afternoon. I feel so bamboozled. I know I should just smash the spider without listening, but they always get the word in. I'd turn off the stupid Spider Translater, but I don't want to muck with Don's entertainment system.
What can I do?