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.
This home was so ridiculously infested that the memories and vivid pictures still play in my head all these years later.
After doing pest control in New York City for several years, I thought I had seen it all after working in some of the most bizarre locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Yes, I expected to see different pests in central Pennsylvania, and I did see things I never dealt with in New York, such as ants, spiders, fleas, termites, and such. The entire transition experience was exciting and different, and I was eager to learn new treatment techniques outside of city dwellings. However, I did hold a level of arrogance when it came to roach and mice treatments. When this is all that you do every day and every possible scenario you think to yourself there’s nothing that you can’t handle. I had been trained by the best and experienced the worst. How would a silly little roach job in Lancaster Pennsylvania challenge me?
That is until that hot summer day sometime in the early nineties that I drove onto a typical city block. The sales rep for this particular job sold it over the phone without any inspection or interview whatsoever, so no one had any idea what I would be heading into.
I parked in the middle of the block then walk toward the house on the corner, my destination. It was a late afternoon, and many people were out on the streets and their porches. As I approached the house, equipment in hand, I started to hear comments:
“Are you going to the bad house?”
“You need a blow torch, not a spray can.”
“Good luck in there.”
I’m sure there that there were a few other comments that I can not recall word for word, but most were along those lines. I just laughed my way closer to the house. Thinking to myself, “At this point, okay, well I guess it’s pretty bad. No big deal. What would someone from Lancaster consider bad?”
Then, as I am about 50 feet from the house, I notice something I had never seen before. Roaches walking around outside. Yes outside! Keep in mind 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 is safe to come out to feed. In very heavy infestations, when the population is huge they can no longer hide, you will see them in more open areas of the home. These guys were outside on a bright, sunny day with lots of noise and people walking about.
No, this is not right. Something is going on here.
My heart starts pounding as I get closer to the door and I can see clusters of roaches hanging out 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 my cop knock) until, finally, a kid opens the door in very dirty clothes. As he opens the door, 20+ roaches fall from the door. I asked the boy to please go get his mom or an adult. The exterminator is here.
At this point as I am waiting for someone to come to the door, the smell of roaches is so overwhelming it is throughout the air outside on the porch. After listening to about 10 more minutes of yelling and screaming, an adult finally opens a door and I enter. To my utter amazement, as I am walking around doing inspection, I see hundreds upon hundreds of roaches easily numbering into the thousands everywhere I turn. If I lifted up a piece of paper, 20 roaches would run out from underneath. Curtains and blinds had hundreds. Chairs, the oven, the refrigerator — they were in every single appliance.
It was so heavy the ceilings along the edges were loaded with clusters of them, and even the kids’ toys had them nesting inside. They were all over the beds. Then I noticed something so sad, and so difficult to comprehend. All the children had little to no eyebrows. I believe the roaches were feeding on the eyebrows and eyelashes being that the population was just so heavy they were resorting to anything to eat.
You can imagine the poor sanitation conditions here. There was old, rotting food throughout the home. Chicken bones throughout the floor, old McDonald’s food, and flies and maggots. How could this be? What had happened that an entire family would be living in these conditions?
I began my attempt to treat this on my own, starting at Ground Zero: the kitchen. Once I started, roaches rained down on me. I had to constantly stomp my feet up and down to prevent them from crawling up my pants, as they were running frantically away from the spray. The walls are moving. The floors are moving. I have to take a break.
I head outside to find the nearest payphone to call my boss and tried to explain what was happening. Since this was not inspected or interviewed properly, we both decided not to charge for the treatment. The salesperson would go back to the property to adjust the plan.
I never went back to the property. After the people were made aware of the cost involved in correcting this situation, they refused to get any more treatments done. I did advise my boss at the time to make the public health department aware of the unsafe conditions.
I wish I had the chance to see this job through. It was an exciting challenge.