The first time I met my bug guy he hugged me. I could be wrong but I’m fairly certain this isn’t the kind of thing exterminators do upon meeting single male clients for the first time. Maybe it involves a chest bump?
If I were all shacked up the exterminator is one of those things I would schlep off on my partner right along with toilet cleaning duties. We would alternate snow shoveling—I’m equal opportunity like that. It’s not the bugs. I’ve been known to catch spiders and free them back into the dark spawning wilderness from whence they came because …. well … karma. And Charlotte’s Web. It’s the small talk. As a single home-owning woman I’ve dealt with a workman or two. Plumbers have plumbed. Electricians have kept my house from burning down. They made some idle chit-chat but usually quickly got down to business. The window installers and boiler guys barely said a word. Then there’s the bug guy. Perhaps it’s just this guy but I feel as though there might be certain personality traits common among exterminators. Perhaps I just saw Arachnophobia too many times so I was pre primed for a bit eccentric. But the extermination company in that movie was Bugs-B-Gone. This guy: Bugs-No-More. Conclude what you will.
So there I was in my newly purchased first home, my hand still cramped from all that signing. Sometimes when the mortgage is due I still get phantom cramps. So much signing. My closing had been unexpectedly delayed (another story) and all my carefully laid out Type-A plans for having time to clean, paint and move had been tossed out one of the “Bang on it, it’s just stuck!” cottage windows I was now the proud owner of (or would be in about 30 years at a fixed rate). I had done my research in Smart Single Girl fashion. The locksmith had already changed the locks and here comes the bug guy to spray out the rafters before I moved any furniture in.
He came in little protruding beer belly first and the light caught the diamond stud glinting in one ear. Perhaps I infer because his job is rodents and insects but his face strikes me as a mole caught in the sun, all squinty and scrunched. His front teeth are squared off, a small gap drawing my eyes. I reach for the firm handshake. He surprises me with the hug. Apparently my e-mails made him feel like I was “like his cousin or something”. Correct. My e-mails that consisted of nothing more than “Are you available next Saturday instead?” were construed as so warm and inviting that I could probably con my way into some potato salad at the family reunion. I believe that is when I officially, unknowingly, befriended the exterminator so that he’s no longer just the bug guy ….. he’s my bug guy.
And my bug guy is a talker. He sprays and he talks. He sits the sprayer down and he talks. I give him a check …. and he talks. After two years of quarterly treatments my bug guy and me, we’re like this (throwing up middle and forefingers crossed in universal symbol of closeness. I hope. I’m sure there’s an isolated atoll somewhere where I just mimicked a symbolic insult involving a goat). Turns out his eyes were squinty from the cataracts. Now fixed. He’s hoping the beer belly goes down now he’s got a fancy new knee replacement. He digs my deck, wishes he had one like it for him and his girlfriend. She’s nothing like the ex-wife (insert the stage whisper here “She was bipolar you know.” No, I didn’t but I sure do now). If you read my initial post Sleeping on the Diagonal: A New Box you know Rule #2 for general everyday interactions is I don’t do small talk, but apparently something about me screams “Tell me more!” to my bug guy. It’s because we’re like this (fingers crossed).
Most recently I found myself under an ant invasion. I was a month out from my normal quarterly treatment when the attack began. I found a teeming metropolis in the flowerbed on one corner of the house. This was no little hill. This was Beijing. This was NYC ant colony style. I think there were subways under there. I began to see scouts in the house. Before, when I said I often catch bugs in the house and return them to the great outdoors because of karma and whatnot? Ants do not apply. Screw karma. Scouts must die. They have to go before they get the Intel back to command. I stalked the perimeter of the house with generic Big K insecticides searching for marching columns of troops trailing under my siding. I started leaving a bottle of Raid on the counter as a Cold War scare tactic. That worked about as well as you might think.
I was trying to stave off my bug guy visit until it was scheduled. Not that I don’t enjoy pictures on his phone of his oil paintings …. but at regularly scheduled intervals. Then I opened my 20 year old dishwasher one day to find scurrying black dots clambering out of the drain. What. The. Hell. Is this a thing?! Oh, the many times I have been thankful for Google have increased tenfold since I signed on the deed’s dotted line so I know when something is normal and not to freak out. Before I consulted the all mighty search engine I thought “Hey, If I just run it, it should drown them in a scalding, watery grave. Right?” No. Not right. Omniscient Mighty Google thought vinegar and then a rinse might be a nice thrifty, nontoxic method. Not for my tenacious invaders. It was time for the heavy artillery. I resorted to traps in the dishwasher base and begrudgingly called up my bug guy a might early. “Please bring the ant napalm,” I implored. “I’m surrounded!”
So… currently my bug guy has some edema on the knee replacement. But his ticker’s doing good. The abnormality on the EKG turned out to be nothing. And best of all he stopped the invasion. He sprayed his insect Agent Orange while he told me about his brother’s diabetes and I got to go back to using the dishwasher. That’s really why he’s my bug guy. I might be screaming inside my head when he puts the sprayer down to make a point with hand gestures but he always gets the job done. And now, thanks to some carefully executed body language, we shake hands.