It’s Tuesday, 2:30 am: It is my first stop. A weekly account that is the crown jewel of my branch, indeed the envy of the region and one that rivals any in the entire company. The company, that is at this time, the largest pest control firm in the world.
As I enter the acre and a half sized room the bright lights accost my eyes with an unrelenting glare. The huge expanse is eerily quiet as I survey my account from the top of the marbled stairs. The reflected shine from the walls, tiled floors and counter tops gives the illusion of a city on a hill, a respectable establishment beyond all reproach. For a moment I’m lost in the spectacle, briefly taken in with the mirage.
Then, right on time, from a remote corner of the market I hear the faint squeaking wheels of the janitors mop bucket from what seems like a mile away. The dark figure moves slowly as the sound grows clearer. Deliberately his measured strides take the same path in the farthest isle along a seemingly endless row of food stalls. Until finally I watch as he reaches the huge bank of switches on a far corner wall. A sight I’ve come to dread.
With the same sound a prison door makes when shut on a convicted inmate being put away for life……..Ka DUNK!!, the large levered arm is pulled down and the gigantic overhead lights go dim. The slow diminishing glow of their filaments fade faster than my eyes can adjust. Then quickly, too quickly, as he’s done a thousand times before, this seasoned custodian pops off all the ancillary switches….Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap, and suddenly, this once brilliant bazaar goes ghostly dark.
As the sound of the squeaky mop bucket fades into the darkness but in less time than it takes my vision to adapt to my now dim and shadowy world ….comes that weekly peculiar reverberation. A slow and mounting chorus of haunting commotion. Slowly and sporadic at first I know these sounds don’t belong and it’s these noises I have trained long and hard to eradicate, it’s what I’m paid for. But as I’ve come to learn, no matter what my efforts are, this hubbub will never go away. Those dreadful audible snippets that are my most predictable precursor of whats to come and it’s just another reminder of the hell I’m in for. The battle I can’t win.
It begins slowly with the unmistakable squeaks and squeals that make you shudder and strain to see the source. Unexplainably, I hear a utensil fall to the floor & then a pot and pan that clang for no apparent reason. Then as if that’s some sort of signal the same types of noises begin to take place on all sides of the room. The sounds just seem to invite more clamor and the activity is audibly growing yet I still can’t focus on the source. Suddenly, a sharp high pitched squeal that simultaneously comes with a loud but empty SNAP!!! For a moment, the entire structure grows strangely silent again. Slowly, the dark figure of the custodian peeks his head back out from the darkened entry as if he was waiting, waiting for his prey to fall victim to a trap he tried so diligently to set in the most advantageous way… His silhouette at first excited takes a moment and peers in the direction of the trap….dejected, his body language signals another failed attempt and he disappears again into the darkness. The silence is broken by trash can being tipped on its side.
With each moment that passes, the sounds grows louder, more frequent, intensively deliberate and soon with reckless abandon and little or no care of any consequence. It’s at this time, my eyes are focussed and now I begin to see what my ears could only help me imagine….it is now, I come face to face with my weekly horror. It is now with a tight grip on my sprayer and firm hold on my tool box, I slowly, reluctantly make my way down the stairs and into the chaos.
It’s Tuesday, 2:37 am and I want to be anywhere in the world. Anywhere but here.