This post has been submittd to the Postie Carnival for Monday, January 29, 2007.
The company that brought me to Hawaii twelve years ago provided quality assurance for DOD housing. Under the master DOD contract we inspected military housing for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. We were called in after subterranean termite ground treatments had been done by other pest control operators to evaluate their work. We looked for evidence that every area that should have been treated had been. We analyzed the treatment documents to make sure that the materials used had been appropriate to the job, and that the correct mixture of the chemical was applied. We measured the distance between holes drilled in slabs to ascertain whether the application complied with label requirements, and we noted whether holes had been properly filled after treatment. We applied **bio-technology** to determine whether the treatment had been effective. If work seemed dodgy, we took soil samples to send off for high-priced analysis that would prove definitively whether or not effective ground barriers were being applied. We evaluated fumigation efficacy also. The gases used leave no residues, so the only ways to determine if an effective kill had been obtained were to tear up the structures looking for live termites or to apply our bio-tech device. Our method was less costly and more aesthically pleasing. :0)
A lot of the local pest control operators resented us, understandably so. No one likes a competitor to be given the power to prove that they're doing lousy work. There were a few operators who took a different view. They realized that they could use our services to evaluate and improve the quality of their own work. One company signed a contract for us to provide quality-assurance monitoring for every job they performed. Others had us spot-check a few dozen jobs a month.
The day after I arrived in Hawaii I was provided with an employee from one of those companies to help me get acquainted with local ways. He greeted me wearing shorts and a company tee shirt. I thought that was very unprofessional, but soon discovered that it's not only considered appropriate in Hawaii, it's the only
way to go if you're going to do physical labor in a tropical climate. His name was Clyde and I still remember that my first impression was also impaired by his bad breath. He was "local" and I had some difficulty understanding his speech, but he was patient with me and we were communicating well before the day was over (well, I thought
we were.) He took me to several vacant houses that his company had recently treated. We discussed his treatment methods and he introduced me to a few structural features that I had not routinely seen in mainland buildings. One of these features was the shallow, pre-made trusses that form the roof support for most Hawaii homes. The attics don't have much space because of low overheads and are extremely hard to navigate.
At one location I preceded Clyde up the ladder to look at an attic. As I pushed up the hatch that provided entry, something fell down my shirt. To say that I was surpised when it began to crawl around in there is an understatement. I forced Clyde back down the ladder and proceeded to paw around in a very un-ladylike manner, trying to capture what I assumed would turn out to be a cockroach. When it managed to crawl inside my bra and contacted my skin, I knew it was something else. It was soft and warm, and managed to squeeze itself into a space at the band of my bra without the scratchiness that an insect with an exoskeleton is known for. I finally managed to get a grip on the intruder and pull it out. Clyde was by then stooped over in laughter, looking like he was about to pee himself. I opened my hand and my captive leapt to a nearby wall and scurried away, to Clyde's shout of "Wooaaah! Spahk 'em!" I collected the few shreds of dignity that I had left and we carried on with our workday.
A few days later I was in the warehouse of Clyde's employer, hanging out with several of "the guys." I pointed to some activity in a corner and said "I'm surprised all those 'spockums' can live in here where all the pesticides are stored." This seemed hilarious to all of the assembled workers and most of them laughed until they had tears in their eyes. I stood there feeling awkward and embarrassed, waiting for an explanation. That was the day I learned that spahk' em is another local way of saying "look a dat!" Geckos are just called geckos.
I rememberd Clyde when I saw him a few months ago at a pest control conference. He remembered me, too. Apparently the story of the day we met has remained as fresh in his mind as it has mine. He introduced me to a fellow he was standing with. "Hey, bra, dis dat spahk 'em girl wit da **bio-technology device** I tol you bout."
Sheesh! I worked with that man for two years. You'd think he would remember me for the fine service I provided!
**This bio-technology utilized each inspector's four-footed, wet-nosed, tail-wagging partner. I'm not using the more obvious words here because I don't want old boss to stumble across combinations of keywords that would let him find my blog. ;0)
Labels: language, life in Hawaii, termites, work