A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.
"I tell people I'm a doctor, and that's what I am. If they want to get into detail, I say, 'I'm a property doctor.' A doctor worries about one person at a time. Me, I gotta worry about everybody in a building.
"Bedbugs is really big right now. Roaches. Ants. Rats. Mice. Your mice are very curious, and your rats are very paranoid. Rat mothers teach their children, 'You're the ugliest thing on the face of the earth, and everyone's going to try to kill you.'
"When it comes to rats, I'm all over 'em. I'm the new marshal in the place, and it's time for everybody to leave or die. You gotta breathe on 'em. You gotta let 'em know you're not going away. I'm like a fisherman—I'm not happy unless I'm bagging.
"One guy had a meat market. The rats were feeding on protein, and they were quite large. The guy sent me down to the basement and said, 'Watch out for my cat.' When I came up, I said, 'Yeah, I found your cat, but I need a shovel. Did you have that cat declawed?' He said, 'Yeah.' That cat didn't have no way to defend herself, and the rats saw her as another meal. It looked like they ate half of her.
"Another lady had mice, and I saw she was holding her cat, and I said, 'Gosh, you got a cat?' She says, 'Yes, well, my cat's never been subjected to mice.' You gotta get a cat with the big buffalo head and the one eye, the kind that'll do battle.
"Rats don't care where you live—in a paper box or in the White House. People ask me, 'Where can you go that they don't have 'em?,' and the answer is, 'Nowhere.' I got an invoice in every ward in Chicago.
"With bedbugs, you gotta work with the people that live there. If they got carpet, you tell 'em they need to vacuum it three times a day, and you hope that they do it once a day. I've seen people throw their furniture out by the Dumpsters, and two minutes later, somebody's dragging it into their unit.
"I meet everybody, from every nation, and there's good and bad in all of 'em. Exterminators are not prejudiced. We don't care if you're Martians. Not only am I getting paid, but people are thanking me for showing up, taking care of their problem. Saving the children, saving the pets, saving marriages.
"I've met guys whose wives were sitting in the middle of the room in a laundry basket, freaked out. They were gonna split up because the wife was gonna go live with her ma. But I cured her phobia, so she's planning to stay. There's no way anything's gonna get in their house, and if it does, it's gonna be mine.
"If I go to a hotel, it takes me two hours before I can put my head on the pillow. I inspect, inspect, inspect, inspect. I sleep and get out of there. I keep my clothes in an airtight bag. I'm paranoid now even to go into restaurants. I eat mostly at home."