This is the story of the worst roach job I’ve ever done.
The photos in this post are from a heavy roach job done in 2008. As bad as those may seem to you (and it is), it was nothing compared to the worst job I have ever done. Unfortunately, there are no pictures for this job since it was done back in the early nineties before portable digital cameras.
I thought I had seen it all after doing pest control in New York City for several years. Working in some of the most bizarre locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I expected to see different pests in central Pennsylvania, such as; ants, spiders, fleas, termites, etc. The entire transition was exciting and seemed abnormal at times. I was eager to learn new treatment techniques outside of city dwellings. Although, I did hold a level of arrogance when it came to roach and mice treatments.
When you think you’ve dealt with every scenario possible, you approach every situation with an air of confidence. I was trained by the best, and experienced the worst. How could a silly little roach job in Lancaster, Pennsylvania challenge me? Until a hot summer day (in the early nineties), when I arrived at a typical city block. The sales rep for this particular job, made the sale over the phone. Without an inspection or interview, I had no indication of the severity of this infestation.
I arrived at the home and parked in the middle of the block. As I approached my destination in the late afternoon, many people were out on the streets and porches. As I walked up to the house, (equipment in hand) I heard neighbors shouting:
“Are you going to the bad house?”
“You need a blow torch, not a spray can.”
“Good luck in there.”
I just laughed as I was on my way to the home. Thinking to myself, “At this point, okay, well I guess it’s pretty bad. No big deal. What would someone from Lancaster consider bad?”
When I was about 50 feet from the house, I noticed something I had never seen before. Roaches walking around outside! Yes outside! Keep in mind that roaches are nocturnal. It’s their natural behavior to hide in cracks and crevices, out of sight and out of danger until late at night, when it’s safe to come out and feed. In very heavy infestations, roaches can no longer hide. You will see them in open areas of the home, further and further away from the food source. These guys were outside, on a bright and sunny day, in plain sight.
No, this is not right. Something is going on here.
My heart begins pounding as I get closer to the door. I can see clusters of roaches gathering around the windows and the door jamb. I knock on the door, but they don’t hear me right away (since the music is playing really loud). People are upstairs yelling at each other. So, I continued to bang on the door louder with every knock. Until finally, a kid opens the door in very dirty clothes. As he opens the door, twenty plus roaches fall from the door. I politely asked the boy to get his mom or an adult, and let them know the exterminator was here.
As I’m waiting for someone to come to the door, the scent of roaches is so overwhelming that I could barely breath fresh air outside. After about ten minutes of yelling and screaming, an adult finally opens a door, and I enter. To my utter amazement, as I am inspecting the home, I see hundreds upon hundreds of roaches everywhere I turn (possibly thousands). If I lifted up a piece of paper, twenty roaches would scatter from underneath. The curtains and blinds had hundreds. Roaches were in chairs, the oven, the refrigerator — they were in every single appliance.
This infestation was so heavy that the ceilings along the edges were loaded with clusters of roaches. Even the kids’ toys had roaches nesting inside. They were all over the beds, headboards, and dressers. At that moment I noticed something so sad and so difficult to comprehend. All of the children had little to no eyebrows. I believe the roaches may have been feeding on the eyebrows and eyelashes of the tenants due to the extremely excessive population. It was just so heavy, that they were settling for anything to eat.
You can only imagine the poor sanitation conditions here. There was old, rotting food throughout the home. Chicken bones scattered throughout the floor. Old McDonald’s food, flies, and maggots. How could this be? How could an entire family live under these conditions?
I made an attempt to treat this on my own, starting at ground zero; the kitchen. Once I started applying insecticides, roaches rained down from above (on my head). I had to constantly stomp my feet, and shake my legs to prevent them from crawling up my pants. There were so many roaches, that the walls appeared to be moving. The floors were moving! I had to take a break.
I decided to head outside, to the nearest payphone (back in the beeper days) to call my boss and explain what was happening. Since this property was not inspected or interviewed properly, we both decided to forgo the charge for the treatment. The salesperson would have to go back to the property to adjust the treatment plan.
Unfortunately, I never went back to the property. After the tenants were notified of the cost determined to address this situation, they refused to get any more treatments. I did advise my boss at that time to make the public health department aware of the unsafe conditions.
In the end, I wish I had the chance to see this job through. It was an exciting challenge.