OK, so it was the Orkin lady, not man. But still, those Orkin exterminators have certainly seen it all — giant bugs, man eating garden snakes, lizards the size of a canoe. My brother Doug and I knew we had a roach problem when our dog would cry at night.
Our house on Bullcreek Road in Austin, Texas was an old pier and beam job, no air conditioner, and a tidiness one typically associates with college-aged men. I’m sure roaches got together once a week at local roach chapters and talked about the best houses to set up shop in. “Laninghams! Bullcreek Rd.!” was most certainly heard over all the chatter and the signup line was like trying to get into the latest Harry Potter film. So after hearing the dog cry a few nights in a row, we finally got up and went into his penned-in area in the kitchen to see what was wrong. I vividly remember flicking on the light switch and seeing the dog dead-center on the kitchen floor encircled by an army of roaches like Custer at Little Big Horn. The roaches scattered after the light came or there may have been dog for dinner at the roach motel.
The next day, we phoned Orkin.
Hello, Orkin Pest Control. May we help you?
Bull Creek Rd at 45th
We know the area. High risk. We’ll have choppers there in 10 minutes.
In seemed more like a day to me, but the knock on the door eventually came. We opened it and found the unexpected — an Orkin lady. What were these people thinking sending a woman into battle? Remember, this was 1984. You still didn’t do that. She did look tough and feminine all at once, sort of like Michelle Rodriguez, but not as cute. Our unease at sending this woman into battle was put to rest when she brandished the exterminator wand. Clearly she was battle-tested, the wand scratched and blemished, the attached tank dented and discolored. This was no academy greenhorn. She was clearly loaded for roach.
Where’s the front line?
Take me there!
So in we went and waited at the door while she explored hither and sprayed yonder, then paused, looking baffled.
I see a lot of evidence of roaches but no sign of a nest. This is highly irregular.
That last phrase made us wonder if she was British, but I digress. She asked us if we knew of other places where they might be congregating, and then noticed a small cabinet above the refrigerator.
What’s in there?
Don’t know, Mam. We’ve never opened it.
Boys, back into the green zone (living room). I’m goin’ in.
We retreated a few steps back into the sizable room with two simple chairs and the 12-inch black-and-white TV, and waited. Silence for a moment, the the eerie creak of the cabinet door opening.
There’s a box in here! What’s in it?
No idea, Mam.
Well, whatever lives in there is goin’ down. FIRE IN THE HOLE!
Three seconds later, we heard the scream. It was horrible, like Janet Leigh in Psycho, but worse. Imagine if Janet noticed she’d just broken a nail while being stabbed by Anthony Perkins — that kind of sream. We heard a sound like running water and peeked around the corner to see an ocean wave of roaches cascading out of the box and down the front of the refrigerator. The Orkin lady blew past us like Wilma Rudolph, her wand flailing wildy, spraying bug killer juice on the walls, ceiling, and us. We followed in hot pursuit, clawing and climbing over each other as we dog-piled at the front door. Getting out of the house was priority one, and it was each man and woman for his/herself. Chivalry was out, survival in.
The Orkin lady was the first to escape. After all, she had a head start. By the time Doug and I got out the door, she had backed out of the driveway and was accelerating down the street, flinging our invoice over her shoulder and out the window while yelling, “GOD BE WITH YOU!!”