This story happened to me when I was first employed as a pest control officer working for a London borough council. I obviously had no qualms about the fact I was going to see some fairly disgusting stuff, like dead rats and filthy houses, but nothing could quite prepare me for the shock of one of my first jobs. What happened was beyond anything I could have possibly expected.
We were out on a job and the boss told me that we were going to see a house that was particularly bad. He told me to prepare myself to be a bit shocked, because as Cockroach Infestations go, this apparently was a totally over-run property. He’d already been and had a go at the roaches, but his previous efforts had done little to rid the house of these pests.
Usually smaller cockroach infestations can be sorted out with a good dose of insecticide. As these creatures like to eat their own excrement, it can be very easy to get insecticide baits into a cockroach community, and then all you have to do is wait for them to die.
After arriving at the block of flats and walking up the standard smelly staircase, we arrived at the door of the flat. A few loud knocks later and we were standing eye to eye with a middle aged Jamaican lady who greeted us in a thick patois. She was glad to see us and all that and invited us in.
When I entered the house, I’d never seen filth like it, but the whole place seemed devoid of the cockroaches we’d come to destroy. I asked the boss what the problem was, because I couldn’t see any of the filthy insects. He pointed to a corner of wall-paper that was slightly unstuck and told me to peel it away from the wall.
When I pulled back the piece of wall-paper I almost jumped out of my skin. Hundreds of the little brown-black horrors fell to the floor, as if they were the only thing left that was holding the wall-paper up. Apparently cockroaches are literally suckers for wall-paper paste. They love eating it and had got behind almost every bit of wall-paper in the house.
The boss got on with the business of laying down the poison and I decided to go and have a look round the house to see how far the roaches had got. Every room I looked in was covered in rubbish. It was no wonder the house had become some kind of safe haven for half of East London’s roach population, the place was a right old pit.
I decided to go into one of the rooms, which looked like the lounge. I espied some half eaten chicken on the floor, which was crawling with roaches. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked around and was certain that there was no one in the room, as the sofa was covered in rubbish and walked towards the chicken, in order to get a better look.
As I got to the plate of food I bent over to get a closer look at the roaches, when I suddenly heard a noise from behind me that made me literally jump out of my skin. I looked round and an old guy had emerged from the rubbish on the sofa and sat up. I’d not even seen him there underneath the pile of filth.
He seemed incredibly unhappy with me and accused me of trying to steal his half eaten chicken. I was so shocked by the incident it was all I could was mumble a quick apology and leave the room. As I got through the doorway to go back and see the boss I realised I’d literally come out in a cold sweat. He looked me up and down and commented on the fact that I looked a bit pale and joked that maybe I’d seen a monster roach. In my mind I had seen something almost as bad. It was the first time I’d got a bit of a shock in my new profession as a pest control agent, and somehow I didn’t feel it would be my last.