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Thursday, October 6, 2011


Spilling a grain of salt is no big deal. Drop one every 20 seconds and you'll soon be in the salt business.

That's how it was with termites eating our house. Bit by bit they were reducing our home to termite shit (called "dust" in the trade).

Seven years ago, little brown piles were sprouting up all over.

Francesca called the Terminix Fumigation Company who told us what we already knew, "You have a termite problem".

We gave them a thousand bucks. They put a tent over our house and filled it with poisonous gas. For $215 dollars a year, we bought an insurance policy that promised they would gas 'em again should they ever return.

It sounded simple, complete, like matters taken care of.

Five years ago it began raining "termite dust" on a bathroom window sill.

We called our friends at Terminix.

An inspector came by and confirmed that our home was on the menu again. A week later a termite terminator stopped by with a can of Raid. He located the tiny hole in the window trim from whence the brown little poops were being expelled. He gave it a spray and reassuringly told us, "He's dead".

He may have killed one of the ant-size creatures but it's sister and brothers were also sitting down for dinner. Each month we'd find another pile, complain, and another guy would come by in a week -or a month- and make his spray can hiss. We were soon saying, "You're trying to put out a fire with spit. You've got to tent our house again". The spray can man would smile and say, "That's an inspector's decision" then the promised inspector would never show up.

The runaround went on for two years.

Terminix never said,"We won't re-tent your house", they just never answered their phone. On rare occasions the messages we left were answered by their "national desk" in Ohio who said "They'd look into it".

We felt like we'd made a bad decision having given them, over the years, $1500 in bug insurance money. They must have taken us, like they probably do with thousands of others, for idiots, the fools born every minute.

I decided to try one more thing, something tat I rarely do, something that I hate to do.

I went lawyer ugly on them.

What the heck, I am a member of the Florida Bar. When I could finally get a warm body to answer my calls (after being put on call waiting for what seemed like forever) I tore into the lady answering the phone in Ohio. I told this sweet farmer's wife in my rare angry voice, "I'm a lawyer and I'm sick of being ripped off by your company! When I file my lawsuit it will cost Terminix a heck of a lot more than the cost of throwing a tent over my house!"

Sometimes it takes a village but this time it took just one crazy man. My amped up outburst did the trick. The company agreed to honor their contract but even then there were multiple delays, no-shows, and screw-ups.

Today, as the sun was setting, the Terminix truck finally came to our house. Of course, they were four-hours late.

A half-dozen smiling Dominicans stepped out. The actually whistled while they worked, Ox-like men hefted 100-pound tarps, like brick-carriers of old, up onto our roof. They clipped the striped sheets together to make our house look like a bad circus. After a hose filled our house with nasty gas, they headed home.

Tomorrow we will get our house back. We will also know that we'll never deal with the unscrupulous fools that call themselves Terminix again.

Better to buy a can of Raid.


  1. My newest phrase is: it's not about doing your job but HOW you do your job. So many stories like yours are happening every day. Is it where we live?

  2. Last time the dry-wood termites made a pile of "dust" at our house, we hired our company to treat the wood with some sort of eternal anti-termite koolaid ("EATK" for short - my name). Cheaper for the company, cheaper for us. The EATK manufacturer promises that termites will eat the dead poisoned bodies of their family members and die, in a serial kuru x Jonestown banquet, But would it work? The bugs did make a couple of short-lived attempts to return in odd, untreated spots, but the guy came and did "spot treatments" (like your Raid can, but loaded with EATK). The house has been termite-free for several years now. The EATK does seem to keep much of the wood (not all) off limits to the dry-wood termites. Now something is eating holes in the wood on which my orchids grow. Bon appetite!