ROBERTA KELLEY, EXTERMINATOR

Years in the business: Since 1996.

Why pest control? In ’96 my husband said, “would you be interested in joining the business?” I was so tired of working in an office, in a cubicle, on the phone all day in customer service and so I said, “hell, yes, break me out of these walls!”

Define pest: In the springtime, you’ve got wasps, ants, carpenter bees, spiders. In the spring, termites swarm. Then in August, you run into bee and flea season.  Then in the fall… spiders and rodents. Also Asian beetles – “ladybugs”.

On gender I: People don’t like getting in crawl spaces and they see a woman show up out there, they’re amazed.  Those men go, “you’re gonna get in that crawl space?”  So I go, “well yeah, that’s what you’ve paid me to come out here to do.”

On gender II: Men are especially afraid of spiders.  I don’t know why, but men are probably more afraid of spiders than women.

On urban dwellers with summer homes: People like that are great for my business.  They want to live with nature, but they don’t want any bugs coming indoors!

What makes you nervous? Whenever I open that crawl space door, I always take my flashlight. Know what I’m afraid of?  That a snake’s going to drop down on me… In all these years, I have not came across a snake, thank God, ‘cause that would really scare me.

Grossed out? Ummm no.  No, not yet.

Claustrophobia? Some of those crawl spaces are really bad. Those older homes you do have to slither around in there on your stomach like a snake.  But, no.

Always look out for: eyes.  Because that flashlight hits eyes… you see those beady eyes looking back at you, then I back out because it could be a skunk.

On getting stung: I’ve only been stung like three times.  Yeah, only three times and every time I’m always like, “I forgot how painful that was.”

On limits: I’m not going to come kill something if they’re in their natural habitat. Now if they come inside and they’re causing a nuisance, if they’re getting into your food, and things like that, then no, I don’t feel bad about – and actually, you’re only killing a few that are inside.

Love about the job: I love being in business by myself.  I love being my own boss.  I love being in a field where there’s very few women and I like people.

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