By Niles Reddick
The exterminator finally arrived. He apologized, said he left a message about being late, but when I questioned where he left a message, he gave me my work number. It’s impossible to get a message if I’m not there to get them is what I should have told him. His hair was matted to his skull from the heat and humidity and he smelled—a mix between chemicals and sweat. His shirt revealed his name was Fred, and he was over one hour late, and I had been ready to write this company off, like the other two.
The first exterminator I’d used for over two years, but they showed up when no one was home, sprayed the yard, and left a bill at the front door. Their bill said, “We’re sorry we missed you.” No, they weren’t. I reminded them time and again that if they would let me know when they were coming, I’d be home to let them in to spray. Spraying outside did nothing for spiders I smashed on the way to the coffee pot at four in the morning. At first, I’d call them back, play phone tag multiple times until we finally connected and arranged an equally suitable time. This part of the process normally took three days to arrange. Finally, I gave up, spiders multiplied inside because the poison outside gave them a reason to come in and hide. One day, I saw my neighbor who said, “I noticed this pest control company pulls in and puts a bill on your door, but never sprays.” I left two voice messages, sent two emails, cancelled their service, and mentally dared them to mess with me.
The next pest control company was a national one and I thought they might be better. Though I hated their slogan, commercials, and their ugly emblem plastered on their vehicles, I arranged an appointment, and the fast-talking redneck gave me a great sales pitch. I thought he’d done such a good job, I imagined he might get elected for a local or state office if he ever ran. Like most political ads, he slammed his competition with innuendos, hand gestures, and eye rolls. Before he handed me the estimate, I asserted I had another company coming for an estimate, and he shuffled back and forth like a kid who needed to use the restroom. His estimate was more than a doctor’s co-pay, but less than a car payment. It wasn’t my intention to increase my monthly expenses.
Finally, I landed Peace’s Pest Control in the yellow pages. With a name like that, their tie-dye character wearing sunglasses and holding a sprayer with a peace sign with an upside down roach, and a slogan that read, “For Peace of Mind, Call Peace’s,” I figured I’d give them a try. I can’t say that Fred looked or acted like a hippie, but he seemed nice, minus the smell and having arrived late. My intuition reminded me to keep a distance, and I couldn’t quite get my radar focused enough to know what bothered me. He smiled, gave us some extra spider traps, and doused our base-boards with liquid from his peace sprayer. It could’ve been sugar water or urine for all I knew. He told my wife the spray was dog friendly in case the dog licked it. I figured as dumb as our dog was, that was likely. I asked my wife if we should follow the man around, but she didn’t think so.
Within ten minutes, he was finished and I figured he’d fetched a nice hourly rate. If I made that much an hour, I’d have peace, too. We didn’t see a spider or ant or any sort of insect for a couple of weeks, but one morning, my wife asked if I’d seen her diamond earrings. I hadn’t seen them, of course. It wasn’t like I go around looking at her jewelry on a weekly basis or that I would move something from where she put it. She searched and searched, trying to recollect the last time she’d worn them somewhere and never could locate them. I suspected Fred the exterminator because he’d been the only person in our house and had gone into the rooms by himself, so I made the call to Peace’s, just to find my own peace. The lady was very nice and said Fred no longer worked there, that his wife had inherited some money, and they moved closer to some family. I didn’t share my suspicions, but I couldn’t dismiss them and figured the exterminator moved from place to place spraying and stealing. !