One great aspect about my job is that I get left alone, a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m neither antisocial nor against human interaction. But pest control is one of those careers where you really do find yourself alone quite a bit. Whether one is a bed bug specialist, lawn technician or an exterior-only tech, the customer is at work, or people leave keys so their busy days aren’t interrupted.
I rather like this aspect. When I ran a route, I was always thankful to pull into the driveway and not see any other cars there. I was able to get in and do my job unhindered by sometimes lengthy small-talk conversations — or worse, hearing that 20-minute story that always starts with, “In 1962, I saw these ants that…”
On the list of job perks, perhaps being alone isn’t a Top 5, or even Top 10, but there are so many days you just dread the close contact and wish to be left alone.
AND THEN, THE QUARANTINE HAPPENED
As I write this, our country is in the midst of a lockdown because of COVID-19. Suddenly, empty houses and normally quiet situations have a new face — those that are home alone, too.
In a normal situation, it would be a rough enough day dealing with the sensory overload, of which I’m sure we’ve all had. This, however, has a twist I haven’t seen before, and according to my techs and those in my Facebook group, it’s been quite the experience. It’s as if every service is met with a certain uncertainty, and wary techs now brace themselves all day for the unknown. It boils down to one of two basic scenarios:
1. The cacophony of people and pets.
You’re swarmed by pent-up homeowners starving for interaction, following your every move with non-stop conversation. Their children are talking a mile a minute and showing their latest crayon drawings. Their pets, once confined to a back room on your regular schedule, now sniff and jump on you — or worse, go into defense mode. Your once quiet, quick service is now leaving you looking for the exits.
2. The sounds of silence.
The place is just too quiet, in an eerie way. The client answers the door through the curtains. Plastic separates rooms, and unless you’re dressed like a NASA scientist entering a clean room, you’ll have no access. Muffled conversations occur, but from behind closed doors. A personal check is left for you on the counter, in a sandwich bag. The palpable fear is louder than any noise, and you find yourself looking to just finish and get out of Dodge.
With any luck, these groups will continue to inch toward “back to before” as the COVID-19 curve continues to stay low and we get a handle on things. In the meantime, we must put on our brave and reassuring smiles, and do our jobs with competence and confidence.
Tips from the Pest Cemetery crew
“I’m meeting the entire family at accounts now! The kids are telling me that they love living on planet earth because Orlando is here. I also get stories of a favorite blanket and how it keeps the bad dreams away. At one account, the kids were home alone, and the dog got out of their grip. I thought I was going to die.”
— Billy Albert, Technician, The Bug Doctor, Summerfield, Fla.
“I performed an inside service, and the customer was on the phone with me the whole time from different parts of the house.”
— Randy Butler, Owner, Total Pest & Termite, Greenville, S.C.
“I get both: Some people are just happy as a pig in poop to have an intelligent conversation with a new face; then on the other side of the coin, I get people that go and hide in a corner like a scared cat.”
— Chad Lawrence, Technician, Harlow Pest and Sanitation Control, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Read more COVID-19 coverage here: MyPMP.net/COVID-19
SCHAPPERT is owner of The Bug Doctor, Ocala, Fla., and administrator for Facebook industry discussion group Pest Cemetery. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.