I loved the commercial route, I truly did. It wasn’t long ago, (maybe 3 or 4 years?) that I saw an ad in my pest control associations magazine for a commercial tech to work for one of the fastest growing grocery stores on the east coast. All they wanted was a certified applicator, I was that and an ACE- I’m pretty sure I could’ve been a shoe in.
I did several such places way back in the day and those were some of my favorite accounts. Always a challenge and the rewards of whacking the snot out of a potentially devastating infestation before during or after it was discovered was something I relished. I thought long and hard about answering that ad and giving up this owner thing for the stability, prestige and recompense that I had experienced so long ago. It was 50k a year, benefits, and included perhaps 1/2 of my state (Florida). Travel and over night stays would be a bummer but gone would be the constant whiney customers, no more endless calling to schedule, I could sell my business and have a real sweet nest egg. Truck breaks down and needs $800.00 in repairs?,?, not my bill!!! Equipment repairs, chemical bills and worrying about techs showing up or just quitting out of the blue? HA!! That’s on YOU! No more 941 forms, matching social security, insurances, etc.etc.etc….. but again, I’m getting ahead of myself. Much like Michael J.Fox in Back to the Future I guess I’ve clued you in to where my path is going. But let’s stick to the 80’s for now. In the end, I couldn’t give up what I had and working for “the man,” well, it just wasn’t is the cards for me at that point.
Plus, the thought of a massive food account brought to my mind the nightmare that I experienced as a commercial tech. The one that broke my back. The account that had me reeling for answers and I was left all to my own trying to figure out just what to do. It was like the movie Ground Hog Day where every Tuesday I’d get up (if I wasn’t up already) and begrudgingly trek the 24.7 miles to downtown Baltimore and park my little truck in front of this behemoth account (how do I remember the miles? read on)….only to wonder…what the hell am I doing here? Only to have the same exact experience AGAIN and AGAIN. It was that account that put me on a new path, one that sent me to the lowest lows and one I truly thought, was my end as a successful pest control technician.
Tuesday morning 2 am. I don’t want to go in. I’m all alone and not even the janitors will take the time to talk with me. No branch mgr., no entomologist to back me up and no HUGE team as in the first night of “shock and awe” to bring this wild account to a manageable level. Nope–just me and our huge initial service didn’t even put a dent in what was the worst account I ever had. The absolute worst part was that after this enormous account was sold and all the accolades given to the salesman, I was left standing all alone…standing there every Tuesday morning unaided having to run the equivalent to a marathon at a sprint’s pace just to get it all in in 3 short hours…(fyi-I never got it all done) this place was huge. What was even worse that that— a month or so into the service–I was approached and asked by an early morning vendor- “why wasn’t I coming across the alley to service his stall?” OMG– on the initial I was stuck inside the main hall and didn’t even know there was more to the place–turns out–there was 20 or more outside vendors included in the contract…arrrrgh
I sit in my truck and fiddle with the radio dial, reset the milage button and straighten up my paper work or just anything to buy more time. Because I know once I step out that truck door all hell breaks loose and on most Tuesday’s, it starts before I ever get inside. This morning however I sit an extra minute because in my mirror I see a man walking back and forth looking up to no good. He starts walking up to the truck and ALL MY ALERT ALARMS start going off. Is he a robber? Is he a drunk? Will he stop and knock on my window asking for money? (that happened so very often)… He did stop, he knocks on my window. A big imposing figure of a man towering over my tiny truck and he wants to sell me jewelry. He opens his jacket and has 15 or more watches all glistening in the dim parking lot lights. He presses for a sale and I’m worried next will be a black shiny gun and he’ll want more than just a peaceful transaction. In a low and humble tone I say “not interested in the watches” and he then reaches into his pockets… he pulls out rings and bracelets as if he’s Tiffany’s or Sax 5th Avenue top salesman out for a stroll… still not interested but I play it coy, my hand on my metal notebook, my only weapon at the time. He then pulls out a woman’s diamond studded bracelet that just dazzled the eyes. He was pressing hard for a sale and I was trapped with no help in sight. (a common theme at this account) It was beautiful and the price tag was still on it. $450.00!!!! I was taken aback both by the stunning beauty of the piece and the price. Not to mention his non stop sales pitch and the ever escalating tone of his voice. His demeanor was intense and my weak and feeble attempts to fend him off weren’t at all working. Suddenly I wanted to be INSIDE my account from hell or at least see a janitor coming out with a trash can or just somebody else on the street I could yell to and get some help. They never came,… not to be… not on Tuesdays. This account was all me and the riff raff I dealt with every time I ran out to fill up my B&G or just pulled up was always there. Always pitching me for some such thing. “Do you have a dollar?” Can you go back in and grab me a sandwich?” “I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you let me in that door” or my favorite–well, not really, “Hey baby, $10 bucks and I’ll”……. you fill in the blank. I’m pretty good with people but boy did this stretch my skill. On this morning in particular I thought for sure I was in trouble.
Long story short I told the man I’d buy the bracelet but I only had $10 dollars. I pulled out my wallet and opened it wide so he could see there was only one folded up wrinkled bill inside. Ten dollars. He took it and moved on. Back at the office I relayed my story and only got laughter from the other techs and a raised eyebrow from my branch mgr. Everyone said it was a fake and would turn my wife’s wrist green in a week but to this day, she still has that piece and it is shall we say… authentic.
I know that jewelry was stolen but what could I do? I know too, all the ladies of the night that hit up on me on those Tuesdays were also just as destructive- the homeless that only wanted a dollar or those who wanted food were all bad news but here I was EVERY TUESDAY morning dealing with that outside of my account only to face a more horrifying reality INSIDE.
Things had to change.
I made several attempts to voice my displeasure about my new account and asked for help many times. Never once did Mr.Cobb come to my recuse, nor my Regional mgr. who touted my “perfect fit” for the route and only deaf ears were the result of my concerns to my branch boss. This account was killing me but it did not start out this way.
If you’d like to read more about the description of this account I’ll supply the link here. It is the one that broke my back. I am somewhat ashamed to admit this and I will confess– but hey—we all have or limits. Especially when you’re left alone to dangle in the wind, left hanging out to dry. Why this happened after all the “love” and support I had, I do not know. But there I was, accosted outside before I ever made it in and accosted inside with every food stall I treated. I’m not sure which was worse. Human rats crawling all over me in the parking lot or real rats and roaches (only the bravest mice as well who somehow survived the cannibalistic nature of the larger rat–I saw several feeding frenzies) using me as a prop to jump from one place to another. In EVERY food stall I’d scoot out at least one rat. It was like I surprised him that I was bold enough to come inside while it was dining. The roaches…the roaches didn’t even care that I was there. I’d squirt them with my Dursban LO and sure, some would die but hell, that was just a small sacrifice as the rest would scurry and find temporary refuge until I had to move on. If I had a dollar for every rat that ran by my foot or went up my leg as if I was a convenient ladder to jump up on the counter… well, let’s say I might have $20 bucks…..ENOUGH TO BUY 2 DIAMOND BRACELETS BUT NOT ENOUGH TO MAKE ME HANG AROUND THIS PLACE!!!!!!! ENOUGH ALREADY– holy crap!!!!
And I’m gonna admit something else… something only my family knows…mainly my kids cuz they both worked for me and I told them all sorts of stories…READY? Please don’t hold this against me….OK?
One morning/night… I got to a stall and there was a rat caught in a live trap. (not one of mine-stall owner set it) He was thrashing and banging and he he just wanted out. He was a big one. Well, I had had about enough of being tormented by these god awful creatures that I actually sprayed that sucker right in the face with my B&G full of Dursban…… There I said it… I admit it —- after 20 plus years of only a select few knowing of this horrible night…now you know. I killed a rat using my noxious spray. I watched as he twitched and tried to wipe his eyes and shield himself from my spray but to no avail. As my liquid cholinesterase inhibitor racked and ruined him with tortuous pain I guess I got caught up in the moment and wanted to seek my revenge for this horrible weekly nightmare I was in all out on him. It was at this moment that I sank lower than the vermin (human and otherwise) that I’m complaining about in this story… I had become that lousy uncaring rat that I loathed. The rat still twitching and writhing sought refuge in the back corner of the trap and tried unsuccessfully to use his tiny little hands and arms to block my rage but he could not….. he died I put this creature through a slow and horrible death. It was/is not something I’m proud of but I did it. I sprayed that sonofabi*tch until it started twitching and died a slow horrible death. It was, I guess, a way of paying back for all those times I had to endure the humiliation of not being able to put a dent in their population. The times they jumped from one pipe to another to avoid my traps on a string (a technique I learned and worked well bagging 50 or more rats per service yet dag gum it— they just kept coming) So the damn thing died… I’m not proud of it and damn it, once done I moved on but….. unceremoniously as I moved to the next stall one of his replacements ran across a counter to some food scraps near by his fallen comrade. No regard for me, no pity for his writhing brother caught in a trap, no thought as to who I was and what I was there to do….. nope, just an ongoing nightmare for me that would never end… oh and did I mention? The stop was $122.50 bucks a week in production? So at 15% I MADE A WHOPPING $18 DOLLARS AND 37 CENTS? Well, maybe I didn’t and yes, I agree, it doesn’t excuse what I did…
Whew!!!! I don’t feel any better for writing that!! I thought I would. Still, it is the truth and it is the night I knew that this account had ruined my glorious tech career and I HAD TO GET OUT… it was the following day, I put in for the sales position that was just recently vacated and my branch mgr. JUMPED at the chance to get me under his wing…. I should’ve known, that wasn’t a good sign.