Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.
When I was in 10th grade, I studied civil disobedience and non-violence, by way of the civil rights movement and Gandhi.
There are a few things I remember about the great Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: His birthday is October 2; he applied the concept of non-violence to achieving India’s independence; he shaved his head with Gillette Fusion HydraGel Moisturizing Shave Gel; and he wore a dhoti made by Michael Kors.
I also remember a few quotes: “There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for”; “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”; and “Complete nonviolence is complete absence of ill will against all that lives. It therefore embraces even sub-human life not excluding insects or beasts.”
I remember reading that Gandhi would actually step around bugs on the ground to avoid squishing them.
And that’s where Bapu and I differ.
I’ve been killing bugs for years. On purpose. For as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, but I consider bugs a nuisance. And now that there’s a bed bug crisis in New York City, I’ve decided to follow the money and become an exterminator.
Screw forklift operating. This is supply and demand, baby.
I am determined to land some interviews in the extermination field. So I solicit the help of my best friend, Laura, for a mock interview. We do it over martinis, which makes it extra productive.
“You have a lot of TV, print and online experience on your resume,” she says, straight-faced. “Why are you interested in being an exterminator?”
“I’ve always had an aversion to bugs. I grew up in a wooded section of Washington, D.C., and the bugs there weren’t only ugly; they were damned annoying. Those 17-year cicadas are like, super gross. I remember when one got in my car when I was on the Key Bridge, and –”
“OK,” Laura interrupts. “Now, as you well know, there’s a bedbug crisis in many urban cities across the country, particularly in New York. Is there anything you hate more than bedbugs?”
“No, seriously, Caitlin — they’re going to ask you why you want to be an exterminator. What are you going to say?”
“Well, I think I will say I’m an equal opportunity murderer. I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-death penalty, and I’m pro- bug killing.”
“Thanks for your support!”
We finish our martinis, and I decide to pound the pavement tomorrow and hit up every exterminator company I can find by phone.
I get on the horn the first thing in the morning, before my researcher temp job starts.
“Pest Zappers, where we ZAP your pests — or your money back. This is Lloyd, can I help you?”
“Hi Lloyd, my name is Caitlin and I’m really interested in working for Pest Zappers. Are you currently hiring?”
“What kind of position are you interested in?”
“Exterminator. Or assistant Exterminator. Wait — what exactly does an exterminator’s assistant actually do?”
“Helps mix the chemicals, disposes of the vermin — ”
“Well, what do I need to do to apply?”
“Well, let me ask you this — do you have any experience with pests?”
I refrain from making a joke about the people I worked with at Snapshot.
“No, no ‘pest’ experience per se.”
“The manager is probably going to want to see some experience on your resume and ask for a few references.”
“The references I can do — the experience I can’t make up. Though I’ve killed a lot of bugs in my life — does that count as experience?”
“Um, not really.”
“Well, can I apprentice or intern to get experience?”
“Why don’t you call back on Monday and ask to speak with Carl — he’s the manager. He may want you to come in and fill out an application.”
“OK, thanks Lloyd. Oh, wait — Lloyd? Let me ask you — what kind of person makes a good exterminator?”
“Honestly? One who’s not easily grossed out. We get all kinds of pests. Beg bugs, bats, water bugs, roaches, termites, rats, mice –”
“Well, I can handle everything but the rats. Can I put that on the application — vehemently opposed to killing rats?”
“Can I tell the manager that I’ll kill anything but rats?”
“It’s not pick and choose, you have to exterminate whatever customers need exterminating.”
“Oh. OK. I’ll call back Monday, thanks.”
Then I peek at jobs online; I am especially interested in those that don’t require any training. One listing says, “Must be in good physical condition and not claustrophobic as job sometimes requires crawling underneath houses. Also must be comfortable working with heights, as occasionally required to climb ladders, walk on rafters, etc. Will be working with and around pesticides, dust, dirt, grain, etc. Pre-employment physical required. Also must not be afraid of bugs, spiders, etc. Work can be very dirty at times. Will be drilling holes in concrete and structures to apply pesticide for termite extermination.”
Crawling under houses? Walking on rafters? Sounds like a job at fucking Ringling Brothers. Yippee! When do I start?
I continue to make calls and manage to get an initial phone interview at Orkin for next week. Psyched.
I’m convinced this is a good idea. I mean, who the hell needs another lawyer? Another writer? Another painter? I’m going to be an exterminator! I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to realize my calling.
Caitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page and Tweets at @MsOToole.