“[W]e understood that our vocation, our true vocation, was to move for eternity along the roads and seas of the world. Always curious, looking into everything that came before our eyes, sniffing out each corner but only very faintly – not setting down roots in any land or staying long enough to see the substratum of things; the outer limits would suffice.”
— Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries
“The pest guy is here!” my wife announces from where she stands by the kitchen sink, hands immersed in soapsuds.
I peer out the side window. A white pickup truck sits in our driveway with the engine idling. The magnetic sign on the driver’s door advertises a local pest control company. They are here to do the bi-monthly pesticide applications to our house and garage. This will be their last scheduled visit to our home until spring.
I slip my arms through my bulky vest, reach for my cap and step out the kitchen door onto the stoop. A brisk breeze shoots across the back yard and stings my cheek. I zip up the vest and raise the padded collar around my neck.
A young Latino sits in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, head down, jotting notes on a clipboard resting in his lap. He looks up as I approach and rolls the window down.
“Hello,” he says with a wide smile. “I’m here to do the pesticide application to your house and garage. Is this an okay time?”
“No problem,” I say. “I’ve got the day off. Do you need to access the basement? I’ll open the hatchway for you.”
He descends from the truck and reaches a portable sprayer from the rear. He pauses to don a heavy camouflage coat before following me around the house to the other side. “It really got cold,” he says with a shiver.
“It’s almost Thanksgiving,” I say. “Winter is just around the corner.”
I bend down to open the hatchway, then descend the concrete steps to the basement. In the dim grey interior my hand finds the switch , and the cellar floods with light.
The young man proceeds to make his way around the periphery of the stonewall foundation, pumping the tank, applying a fine spray as he moves along.
“I haven’t seen you before,” I say. “Have you worked for the company long?”
“This is my first season,” he says. “I picked it up as a part-time job. Actually, tomorrow is my last day.”
“Really? You don’t much care for the work?”
“Oh, the work is fine; but it’s seasonal. We all get laid off for the winter. Next week I’m heading out to California on my motorcycle until spring. I’ve got some good friends out there. If I can find a full time job, I might not come back.”
“I imagine they’ve got pest control services out there too,” I say.
“Oh, I wouldn’t work in pest control,” he says. “Actually, I’m a trained massage therapist. I used to have a good job working at one of the local hospitals, but that fell through. I picked up this gig just to get me through the summer and fall. I figure I can probably find work as a massage therapist in California.”
“I’d wager the odds would be pretty good in your favor,” I say.
He finishes the application, and we retreat back up the concrete stairway. I secure the hatchway doors. “The garage is out back,” I say. “I’ll open it up for you.”
The wind cuts against our faces as we round the back corner of the house.
“It’s cold,” he says. “Glad I’ve got my heavy coat. I don’t care much for winter.”
“That’s New England,” I say, as I pull up the garage door.
He sprays an application along the perimeter. “I’ll treat the outside of both buildings,” he says. “You don’t have to wait outside. I’ll just pop the receipt in your mailbox when I’m done.”
“I don’t mind,” I say. “I just got back from a morning walk myself.”
He sets off and shortly finishes his assigned task. He stows the sprayer in the back of the pickup and reaches into the cab for the receipt. “Here you are,” he says with a smile.
“Thanks,” I say. “Good luck on your cross country motorcycle trek.”
“Yeah,” he grins. “I’ve never done anything like that before. It’s a little scary, but it should be fun. I like to explore; I like to meet new people. I just hope I can beat the snow.”
I watch him back the white truck out of the driveway and disappear down the street.
To be young and free, I reflect; unencumbered, looking ahead to a cross country trek to California, where sun and surf await one’s arrival; away from all pests, if only for a season.