Bird control means one thing, going where the birds are and that sometimes can be very dangerous. Leaning out over roof tops walking on thin ledges and hanging from the last rung of a ladder used to be pretty common place when it came to servicing bird control accounts. Today thank God, we as an industry have a little more sense and use equipment like cherry pickers, scaffolding, safety harnesses and of course the old trusty ladder. They say anywhere from one million to one BILLION birds die every year by striking buildings (mostly windows) but thankfully there are not to many serious injuries (at least reported) of pest control technicians doing bird work. While I’m not surprised with this for todays bird control workers I am amazed that I didn’t die back in the day when bird work was a huge part of my route. You may remember my story of the flour mill and how I refused to make a very dangerous jump just so I could treat a silo for birds. That was one sane moment in my career but there were a couple of other times when sanity had ‘left the building’ and yes pun intended. This is one of those.
I wasn’t a tech for one such job but I had moved on up to sales. Baltimore was riddled with pigeons and when they decided to roost somewhere it got messy in quick order. I was called out to a residential home for just such a reason and was surprised to see just how many of these rats with wings could fit on the roofs peak. This was an older styled home and the pitch on the roof was very steep with slate tile shingles. The lady was desperate for relief and young foolish me was ready for the task. There was no place to put any avitrol bait stations and about all I knew to do was attach Nixalite strips from one end of the peak to the other. Since the job was sold at such a high price (all bird work was) our commercial tech was assigned to the task. I had worked with Jerry many times on all sorts of jobs and he’s the guy who took my place in that position. As it turns out, Jerry had more sense then I ever thought of and he wanted none of this job. You see working for THE WORLDS GIANT in pest control we had a lot of advantages and all the resources were available with just one (or 100 calls) but safety equipment wasn’t ever on their list at that time that I remember. We had no ropes, no harnesses and nothing more than extension ladder that almost got us to the top of this roof. Since the job required two of us-one to hold the sharp strips and the other to glue them down I had to have his help and after about an hour of coaxing we made our way up the ladder.
The strips were a bite to carry and kept poking me as if I were carrying a upset Porcupine. I had the glue gun strapped to my belt and besides that I had to be right behind Jerry prodding him along inch by inch. It was a windy fall day and when we reached the peak we were both struck by how high we were. Straddling the very comfortable slate tiles and the now more powerful wind blowing in our faces Jerry did not want to move and was getting more and more apprehensive by the minute. Now I’m not exactly afraid of heights and I didn’t have much of a problem being up there but with no room to trade spots I had to get him going. The plan was to skoot across to the other end and work our way backwards. I knew if we could just get to it Jerry’s mind would at least ease up as he concentrated on the task. Plus I couldn’t carry enough strips in one haul so navigating up and down on the precariously placed ladder a few times was something he would not want to do.
Sure enough I persuaded him to get moving but just about each time he pulled himself forward a big gust of wind would come by. Poor Jerry was really having a time and I know it sounds mean but I couldn’t help but laugh. You see Jerry was no small guy, well I mean he was a little on the hefty side let’s say and by this point he was bent over just hugging that ridge with all his might and he wouldn’t sit upright to save his life. I think some of those slate tiles still have his fingernail marks in them to this day. With his shirt all untucked by now and just how close he was hugging that roof his butt crack started showing for all the world to see. With each inch forward his plumbers profile shined a little more and I don’t know, it just got me cracking up. Ol Jerry didn’t like me laughing for sure and I couldn’t tell him why plus he insisted that I keep one hand on him (which made my skooting interesting-ouch) all the while as he ever so slowly made it to the other side.
Once we reached our end Jerry HAD to sit up and that didn’t help matters at all. The home was on a hill of sorts and the ground below was so much farther down than it was on the back side. By now Jerry was pretty mad and he knew he couldn’t do anything else but get the job done. Going backwards was much easier for him but boy did he whine when I had to go down for more strips. I could hear him yelling for me to hurry as I smiled to the now gathered crowd of interested neighbors all gawking upward at this two man spectacle. When I reached the top there he’d be, hugging those slates and his derriere red from the whipping wind. At one point he dropped the glue gun and his body jolted as he scrambled for the only safe position he knew. I think he poked himself pretty good on the Nixalite and I thought I would never get him to move and actually thought I’d have to call the fire dept. We did however finish the job and poor Jerry was just shaking when he finally touched ground. I tried to pass it off as a routine job but I was still giggling and I’m sure Jer didn’t like that one single bit. When his nerves calmed down enough he muttered a few things and headed for his truck and sped away.
The job was done and I cleaned up, got paid and headed out for my next call. I didn’t have the heart to tell Jerry that this job needed to be checked monthly to fulfill our one year contract so I thought I might save that for another day. I’m sure Jerry’s out there somewhere doing great pest control work and being such a faithful guy probably still with the same firm. I just hope if he ever thinks back about that day he’s finally at a place where he can chuckle too, I know I still do.