Living in the retirement capital of the world I have the distinct honor to serve many members of our society who have dedicated multiple decades to their careers. Retired postal workers, military, executives, home makers, (do you ever really retire from that?) professionals of all stripes and my list goes on and on. 30 years seems to be the norm when I ask how long they were at it but it can and does go higher. What I rarely hear from these folks, “ I wish I could go back or I loved what I did.” Instead, most are happy to have hit the finish line, are done with work and now want to spend their days on the golf course or playing cards at the club house. For them, it’s as if it were a sentence of some sort that they had to serve and they just now are seeing the light of day.
Every once in a blue moon I get the distinct pleasure to actually service a retired pest control technicians home. While it’s more common to run into one who’s only had a brief stint in the industry and then moved on to other endeavors. There are some who sit there, watch me work and then nonchalantly tell me they owned or worked for a company for 30, 40 or more years. These people are always the best and it’s fascinating to hear their stories. With each of these encounters, I almost always ask, what made you retire and how old were you? The answers are telling & one theme always comes through…you may be surprised.
Active Older Techs
When I started I was just a young buck at 22/23 but one of the first things I noticed was that there was more than one senior citizen roaming around the office. 2 were salesman (top producers too) but there were also a couple senior technicians. At first I didn’t pay it much mind but shortly after being thrown into the field, I really started to wonder just how these “old guys” could keep up with this fast paced job that was kicking my butt?
We often did big clean outs for large commercial accounts as a branch and these guys were the most efficient and steady and never seemed to join in on the whining or complaining of the huge work load we all were tasked with. Truthfully most of that came from the mgt. and sales force but I digress.
Throughout my career there’s always been the older tech. I see them in my town now on a daily basis and without sounding too condescending– it’s obvious they’re older, some look as if they could’ve or should’ve retired 5 or 10 years ago. Believe me, I’m no spring chicken & I also know looks can be deceiving. But on the other hand, I never see these techs looking unkempt, 1/2 shaved, sloppy, cigarette hanging from their mouth and looking like they’re po’d at the world as they run the yellow arrow and speed past the front of your truck. Instead, this silver haired tech actually exudes a steady sureness, a calm confidence that they’ve seen it all and know just how to tackle any problem you may have in your home or business. Let me ask you, which one would you feel most comfortable letting into your home?
What’s The Limit?
Recently, I took over the accounts a tech/owner who did almost exclusively termite work all in or should I say, ‘under’ mobile homes. Now I’m not sure just how many homes the average tech crawls under but I think I’d be accurate in saying this guy did way more than the average. He was 73!!! Seventy three!!!
If you’ve never been under a mobile home it can be quite the adventure. Steel girders that support the home are often very very low to the ground and to get under you either have a 23 inch waist or start digging like a mole. Plumbing pipes, air duct work, low grade and all sorts of pitfalls await you as you crawl face down on your belly trying to treat or inspect this 30 x 60 maze of piers. This while dragging 100 feet of hose or a hammer drill and the extension cord that gets wrapped around every obstacle that you have to crawl back to untwist. It aint easy.
Now in full disclosure he did slow down in this last year a bit and even at full stride it wasn’t a full blown route the way most big companies would measure it. But still, this great tech did it almost everyday. Inspections, renewals, treatments and yes even a few retreats. (it doesn’t matter how good you are we all have those). His hammer drill was one of those old 20 pound jobs that was as big as a Tommygun and he did drill anything and everything that needed it. Raise your hand if you know how to long rod! Don’t see that much anymore. This tech would probably still be going but he passed away suddenly. It was a shock to all of his customers. They couldn’t believe this vibrant man who loved what he did was suddenly gone. Suffice to say, if his body hadn’t suddenly given out, he’d be doing his thing for another 10 or 20 years. I know this to be true because I met his father in law, the original owner of the company and he was well into his 40th year of pest control before he too, had to retire. He said if his oxygen hose was a little longer, he might just get back to work. He was truly a delight to talk with. He is 97.
So How Old Do You Have To Be and What Was That Consistent Theme I Listed At The Top of This Article?
To answer the first question I can no longer say that any age is the defining mark where a pest/termite technician needs to think about hanging up his B&G or drill. Not after seeing what my 73 year olds example did. But cruel as it is, our bodies wear out and some just want to enjoy their golden years fishing or spending more time with the grand kids while they can. I completely get that. For some it’s 65, for others, much later.
However, that said!!! Without fail, every tech/owner who has been in the industry that many years ALWAYS remarks…. It was sad to let it go, I wish I could’ve done a few more years, I miss it, best career a person could ever have, wouldn’t trade it for the world and other variations along these lines. Then of course comes the stories and the back and forth of the wildest scenes you can imagine. Horrific rat calls, snakes, raining roaches, unruly clients, amazing accounts and encounters.
And there, just for a few moments you can see it in their eyes, shoot, you can feel it in your
soul. The excitement, the thrill and all the great feelings and adventures that came along with being a pest tech suddenly bubble up to the surface and for a moment…just a brief time, they truly wish someone would hand them the keys to a ratty little pick up truck and they could go off into that daily adventure just once more.
Why do pest techs finally retire? I don’t know, you tell me. But I can tell you this, when the day finally comes, they do so with a tear in their eye.