I was fortunate in my career that for the first 3 months I did nothing but train. It wasn’t that this was standard protocol mind you, the branch that hired me just had some difficulty finding ‘just cause‘ to fire the man I was to replace. (political correctness run amuck you might say) So train I did. I watched every instructional video they had, read every book and took all the classes and tests. Now I did find this fascinating & I soaked up everything I could but being in an 8 x10 room everyday was a bit much. I did on occasion get to go out on some trouble calls with the service manager and got to see pest control applied first hand. However these were usually angry customers because they still had bugs. So my first impression of the actual job was much different then the pristine people in the videos and the perfect scenarios described in books. I was eager to see what the real job entailed and got my chance toward the end of my education. I was going to ride shotgun for a week with a real tech doing real route work just like a man should. I was psyched!
When the morning came for my first tag a long day I waited outside the shop door not knowing which tech it would be. I was early because the guys hardly ever came to the office until the day was done so I didn’t want to make my trainer late. Right on time the little Chevy pickup barreled around the back of the building and out popped a boisterous figure all in a hurry. With the unmistakable ugly green tie, shiny black shoes and the the cleanest white service shirt I had seen any tech wear, the technician shook my hand with a solid grip and said, “Hi I’m Chrissy, you must be Jerry-Let’s go.”
I don’t remember being to shocked to be honest, I saw her around with the rest of the guys but never very much. She was all business and as I soon found out, she knew her stuff. Her route was the inner city of Baltimore and it was a busy one. We went non stop from house to house everyday and she showed me how to tackle everything from sewer rats to carpet beetles. Chrissy was an excellent communicator but not real big on small talk. She had a way of turning things in to a sort of contest which I found very motivating. (but I didn’t beat her in anything) We used to fold our own cardboard mouse stations back then and she could whip those things together in about 3 seconds. She was a great inspector and challenged me to find more roach hiding spots than her. She was very articulate when it came to why things were done and safety was huge with her. I found that no question was ever a stupid one and she always took the time to explain things until I understood.
Perhaps the biggest things I learned from Chrissy really wasn’t pest or chemical related. Chrissy knew, I mean she KNEW her route and the people in it. Let’s face it, here was this strawberry blonde female showing up at peoples doors to provide pest control and the chips were already stacked against her. More than once we received raised eyebrows and voices of concern that a woman would #1 being doing this kind of work at all and #2, that she’d be any good at it. These fears were always soon put aside when they saw her work and never came from established customers. They knew, that Chrissy was top notch and they were always glad to see her.
I’m not sure what drove Chrissy to excellence really. Was it because she had to prove herself on a daily basis and show she was just as competent as any male? Maybe she aspired to become a manager one day and perhaps she had seen some of those same raised eyebrows in corporate. I do know that this lady made a positive and lasting impression and definitely got me going in the real world of pest control on the right foot. We became friends over time and worked on some pretty big projects together. It was great working with such a pro and even after I was somewhat accomplished in my job I could barely keep up with this whirlwind.
The typical stereotype of women in pest control is something I think still lives on to this day and rightly or wrongly I think we all tend to judge. (Chrissy was anything but typical and although she was as tough as nails, she was petite and very lady like when not killing bugs.) I guess it is odd to see a girl sticking her head up under a sink looking for roaches or coming face to face with a rat and not shrieking out of the room. Isn’t it natural to think that she can’t possibly do the nasty work required in pest control? Won’t she just fold at the first sign of trouble and will she really go into a dark crawl space or attic alone? Maybe she should just stay behind the desk and answer phones. Shouldn’t a guy be doing this work?
Truth be told I too prejudge whenever I see a female pest control technician but it’s not in the way that most do. I compare the lady techs I see to one of the best professionals I’ve ever known and automatically count them out as even being close. I’m here to say that this is wrong, bias and completely judgmental but somehow, I don’t feel to bad about it.
What say you?
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