When Phobias Collide- The Professor & Me

What do you get when you cross a fear of chemicals, a 130 IQ and a lady who practically screams bloody murder at the mere sight of a cockroach? Well besides the makings of a great story I can share with my readers it is perhaps one of the best examples of reason over hype I’ve ever had in my many years of pest control. It also gives me hope that the news of traditional pest controls demise has been greatly exaggerated. By the way, this is my 500th article and I wanted to THANK ALL OF YOU for reading my blog and all the many supportive and nice gestures I’ve received over this time in my life. So for my 500th, I thought what better thing to share than a story which seems to be what everybody enjoys.

Back to School

For a college apartment complex this one is very very small with only 14 buildings total but it does have a little slice of everything that you’d find in the larger university settings. Young adults from far and wide learning to spread their wings, living together and getting experience first hand and maybe just a bit too much pizza and way to much beer. The kids are great and not excessively unruly, they really can’t be because a ‘courtesy officer’ lives on the grounds and they even have one apartment set aside for the traveling professors. This one apartment is nestled away in a corner and has always been the cleanest and quietest on the grounds. Still it’s ‘connected’ living and what one apartment has pest wise is often shared with its neighbors.

I met the latest transient teacher while on a routine visit and she seemed nice enough, well once her look of horror went away as she gazed at my sprayer. “NO NO, not my apartment” she shrieked as I explained my reason for being there, “I can’t have chemicals where I live.” Now she wasn’t negative or condescending but she was definitely taken aback that pest control was now something she had to deal with. We agreed that I would skip her place but I was there if she ever needed.

The Calls Begin

It wasn’t long before my office took the call and this fine educator was seeing bugs. This time when I showed up I left my sprayer in the truck and only brought in some sticky traps knowing she wasn’t ready for any kind of my brand of service. She literally let out a huge sigh of relief seeing me without my arsenal of death. I knew she was nervous about my coming but I really wasn’t prepared for what I saw. EVERYTHING in her tiny apt. was covered in plastic or sheets with sticky notes placarded on each item with instructions and a history of exactly what she saw or was afraid of. “That’s a lot of work” I said with a smile, “I’m sorry to disappoint you with just some glue traps.” I guess she sort of had a flash of embarrassment and she tried to play it off as if it were just a 15 minute project. She made no bones about being happy that I took this approach and complimented my sensitivity. She was also thrilled that I made enough time in my schedule to visit the 4 other apartments that surrounded her and try and solve her problem by cutting off where the roaches were coming in.

We sat for awhile and talked about bugs of course but also the chemical approach in eradicating them. She was surprised about just how little chemical was in a finished mix, how long it would take for a roach to die while sitting in the dried solution and that I wasn’t a big believer in fogs. Still, my short little chat couldn’t sway her fears and pushing through the plastic I placed a whole bunch of traps and we both hoped for the best.

Now the complex isn’t infested mind you and each summer we do a huge ‘clean out’ while the kids are gone. It doesn’t take long in the school year however and pizza boxes build up, beer flows and pests take advantage. Our traps did some good for the scholar but she couldn’t even look at the bugs stuck in the glue. For all the dread she had over chemical applications she had at least as much for insects. With each service I spoke to her more about what would do her home the most good and I even started bringing my tools inside. My strategy of a surrounding barrier was fading and even though she was as clean as a whistle the german roaches were starting to take hold.

Enough is Enough

For such an intelligent lady she was tormented with fear but I could tell that her logical side of her brain was beginning to see the light. We didn’t have ‘organic products’ back then per se or at least any that really worked (do we have those now?) and for her it was coming to decision time. Live with a growing number of bugs on a daily basis that sent her into a tizzy or have a professional service using chemicals that she was so deathly afraid of? I’m not sure exactly what it was I said or didn’t say but there came a day when she had had enough.

We made the day for treatment a Friday and she was heading out of town. I met her at the door and she handed me the key. I began to explain (again) what I’d do but she simply smiled and said “I trust you.” With that she left and I was alone. There was no plastic, no sticky instructions and for once no lengthy conversations about the benefits of service. Just a card on the table, kittens I think, that said Thank You and inside was a crisp and clean $10.00 bill. This complex was a huge account for me back in the day and although I spent way more than 10 bucks on sticky traps and time just for her it was symbol of victory to me. Of course I took advantage of her being gone and treated as thoroughly as I knew how but my barrier had to be invisible so I took great care in sinking all my products where they would never be seen. A few roaches scattered mainly from the fridge but she had taken to heart my teaching on populations crashing with good sanitation, reducing moisture and even caulking up cracks. (she went a bit crazy with the caulk) All in all the service was quick and as I was leaving I dreading her coming back to see dead bugs.

The Breakthrough Takes Hold

That Monday I didn’t get any call from the professor, nor on Tuesday and now I was a little worried. Did I kill her? Did she keel over at the sight of belly up roaches? I didn’t see her for a few months actually but I knew she was there. I let myself in each month and did maintenance service. No notes, no kittens and no bugs Thank God but I could have used another $10 bucks. I guess she was busy and when I finally saw her the home was all boxed up and she was moving out. Her job kept her traveling so it was off to another school. She told me that she did have some bugs to clean up but rarely saw a thing since I began treating her home. She wanted to call but remembered my saying the residual would suffice if we just gave it time. It was like she had changed and was totally different. She was no longer held in fear by things so minute. “You taught me a lot, she said but I think I’ll be living off campus in my next job.” We both laughed and I wished her well and I couldn’t help but feel a little sad.

I wish I could say that my power of persuasion and vast knowledge of all things pest control changed this woman giving her the will to overcome. I think however it came down to a choice of two perceived evils that turned into fears; One fear won out in the end and broke through the barriers and shed the most light. I guess this is what you get, when phobias collide.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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