Fascination with Death – Professional Choices

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If you thought pest control was a strange profession, try being a professional mortician. In this article, Alexandra Mosca describes a variety of reasons why she became a mortician and how she conducts herself. One motivation was the desire to comfort people passing through a difficult transition, as she had with the death of a loved one. But a deeper confession was that she always had a fascination with death.

Somewhere, I was wanting to find that confession in her article. Why? Because it confirmed an experience I had as a social worker when I was providing marriage counseling for two morticians. Both of them had lost a parent by age six. It’s a known fact that we often play and replay themes in our lives. Even when we think we have broken out from that theme…. here it goes again! What themes replay in your life and has that impacted your professional choices, as well as how you conduct yourself in that profession?

So I ask you, do people sometimes have the wrong reasons for going into pest control? If you had a pest control worker who jokingly told you that he liked pest control because he got to kill things every day, would you accept on his word that killing things was a primary factor, or would you brush it off as a joke? Is it ok that killing things was important to the pest technician? Is it sick to be in pest control because you like to kill things? How would that impact ones’ openness to green pest control, with its’ emphasis on keeping things alive and all the “warm fuzzies” of green pest control? Can a person fascinated with death possibly be taught to act professionally in his or her role as a pest control service provider or will that fascination with death play itself out in weird and unpredictable ways? Have you hired someone who likes to dwell in attics? Does this person have a severe underlying depression? Is the person kind of shy and scary? Did you just hire a shooter who just hasn’t yet made the leap? What overall risk management issues have been inherited with such an employee? If you would not want your local police officer to have a fascination with death, would you not by the same measure shy away from someone with this type of profile for the pest control profession?

3 Responses to Fascination with Death – Professional Choices

  1. Jerry A.C.E. says:

    I didn’t realize the ultimate goal of green was to keep things alive-not sure if that’s real wise but perhaps that’s just me. I do know many techs who get a thrill out of killing insects and rodents. One I watch on TV in the show Verminators. I forget his name–short guy who’s featured a lot. He often comments, snickers and laughs out loud about his ‘killing profession’. Don’t know him personally but I think he’d be a fine addition to any company. I guess it should be a balance like so many other things in life but I don’t think it’s an unhealthy thing at all.

    Odd thought- but Billy The Exterminator dresses the part of this evil killer (skulls-crossbones-gothic black etc.) but he seems to save just about any critter he can. Perhaps that is a bit unbalanced. Just my .02

  2. Gerry says:

    Hi Jerry,

    As always, thanks for pitching in here with your thoughts.

    Personally, although I enjoy being in pest control and I enjoy the challenge of the field situation, a part of which requires killing vermin, I have never liked the act. I have preferred to gain my enjoyment by focusing on the challenge required to use the best techniques and strategies to deal both with the pest and the human environment in which the pest control happens… but I have never liked killing. There is a certain aspect to killing things that boys growing up enjoy and perhaps there is always a little bit of that boy in us. I am no exception. Yet, for me, it is important that my pest control technicians get over this type of attitude and conditioning.

    Green pest control is often about keeping things alive. Green pest control comes out of an agricultural tradition where the question is asked, “What is the pest tolerance level?” In an agricultural environment, it is understood that there will always be pests. It is also understood that trying to kill all the pests would require an application of pesticides that could leave unacceptable side effects hazardous to our food and water supply. Even in a structural environment, where the pest tolerance level may be zero, the question can be revised as “What is the pesticide tolerance level?” We know what the label says, but regardless, each person has their own tolerance level, due to physical, familial, medical, religious, environmental or purely personal considerations.

    There are regional difference when it comes to acceptable pest control technician etiquette and dress. I think you would agree that the American south and California have very different norms. Here, every day, we deal with customer questions regarding our ability to reduce kills to the minimum required to get the job done. I don’t agree with it, but I have had several prospective customers who would prefer that we transfer rats and mice. That’s an extreme, but it is an indication of sensitivities here. If a prospective pest control technician was to say that he wanted to be a pest controller because he enjoyed killing things, well I think it would be somewhat appropriate to weigh the candidate response based on a knowledge of cultural norms. For example, while WWII era Germans may have been more or less anti-semitic, Hitler and the SS were a bit extreme. I pose this question to our readers so that they can begin to consider at what point does this type of thinking become dangerous in pest control? At what point might this attitude result in unusual liabilities and at a minimum, customer cancellations? If you were attempting to build a green pest control program, this type of candidate would need significant retraining and even education/indoctrination toward environmentalism. Even then, if he had a predisposed character that really enjoyed the kill, it might be hard to direct him toward alternative pest control solutions that were less toxic.

    Regarding Verminators and Billy the Exterminator, they have sometimes surprised me with the green solutions they have proposed,… that is very positively surprised. But there have been other episode where I can only shake my head and wish they were plumbers.

    Thanks again for contributing to this blogsite.


  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wendy Rawley, Gerry Weitz. Gerry Weitz said: Fascination with death and professional choices – http://bit.ly/eSsyt0 – thoughts for human resources and self-evaluation […]

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