It’s not what you know; it’s what you grow.


This is an older story, but it came up the other day and I felt it had to be shared. Hopefully I’m not being like Jude Law’s character in I Heart Huckabees with his Shania, tuna fish story.

Here's a teaser to spark your interest.

Jonas & Clark as Orkin Men

While I was going to school, I spent two summers working as a pest control technician for Orkin. There’s actually a lot of blog-worthy experiences that came out of that job, but today I want to focus on a social phenomenon I like to call “The Mustache Factor.”

After completing my five-day training course at “Orkin University,” I was feeling pretty confident. After all, I graduated valedictorian of my training class—I even have the plastic coffee mug to prove it…errr, at least I did until I lost it.

Anyway, when I first started servicing accounts, I noticed, to my dismay, that the homeowners didn’t seem to trust me. They would follow me around their houses, watching me like a hawk and peppering me with questions about what I was doing:

  • Homeowner: “Are you sure you can put that there?”

  • Me: “Yes”

  • Homeowner: “Is that safe for my kids?”

  • Me: Yes.

  • Homeowner: "Are you sure?"

  • Me: “Yes, I’m sure. I was valedictorian of my training class.”

  • Homeowner: “What chemicals are you using?”

  • Me: “The right ones”

  • Homeowner: “How long have you been doing this?”

  • Me: “Did I mention I was the best in my training? I got a friggin’ coffee mug with the Orkin Dude on it. Lay off!”

  • And so on.

At first I just chalked it up to being new. “I’m not exuding confidence.” I thought. But after a month or two, it was still happening. Then, one day I had an epiphany. I was at the workers’ comp doctor’s office for a mandatory drug test. (For all of my friends that work in cushy offices/cubicles, this is a fairly common occurrence in blue-collar jobs—especially those that involve driving a company vehicle.)

As I sat in the waiting room looking at all the other blue-collar workers, it was like going back to my childhood days watching the Sesame Street segment “One of these things is not like the others.” The painters were in their paint stained-overalls, the contractors had Nextels and tape measures on their belts, the mechanics had grease-stained hands and their names on their shirts, and the landscapers had grass-stained shoes. I had my white Orkin shirt and was feeling pretty good about myself because I had my flashlight and mirror-stick on my belt, but then I noticed my failing.

As I looked around the room, every single other guy in there had a mustache. It was incredible. I realized I was missing a key status symbol for my line of work. I thought about the other guys who worked out of my Orkin office. Yep, they all had mustaches too. In fact, even the lone female pest control tech that worked there had a bit of a mustache.

Why didn’t my training cover this? Dr. Bug (as we so fondly called our our Orkin U instructor) had failed me.

I set out to correct my faux pas and immediately started growing a mustache…three weeks later I had something that vaguely resembled one.

I know this might be hard to believe, but as soon as I had a mustache all the questions stopped. People no longer wanted to know if this was just a summer job; they didn’t ask how long I’d been doing it, or even follow me around their house. I just went in, did my job and left. It was awesome!

Could it have been coincidence? No way! Just to be certain, my buddy (who I’d convinced to go to Florida and spray bugs with me) grew a mustache too. The results were almost exactly the same.

A few weeks later, my then girlfriend and now wife, told me how ugly I was with a mustache and vowed to stop kissing me unless I shaved. Off came the mustache and away went the trust. I couldn’t believe it. To this day, my buddy and I still talk about “ Mustache Power.” I even think it has something to do with why Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein managed to get so many followers.

What do you think?

Note: If you visit, the guy on their home page is obviously not a real Orkin man. I would guess that he’s a paid model, but I can’t imagine anyone paying that guy to model. He’s most likely someone on their website design team that just dressed up for that picture so they’d have something to put on the site.

Clark, orkin Man

The downfall of the 'stache.

Clark & Linda

Linda Winegar

My greatest blessings call me Mom.