Termites are an ever-present threat in warm, humid South Florida. Living in our house since 1980, we’d only twice had termite issues. They were the dry wood variety and could be spot-treated in our attic and on the patio below the counter extending from the kitchen.
Years passed while our annual inspections turned out negative. That is, until two summers ago. “I see dead wings, and that concerns me,” said our exterminator. He showed me the evidence outside on our patio. I could barely make out the wings on the screened soffits below the roof. He suggested fumigation at that time, but we procrastinated since we didn’t see any other sign of them elsewhere. The following year, he said the same thing. Our warranty had expired, and his company wouldn’t renew it until we had our house tented. I took a look. The wings seemed a lot more than the previous year. And I’d spotted a suspicious collection of sawdust below one kitchen cabinet. It was time.
We got two estimates, and chose the company known in our neighborhood that was $100 less. They also claimed to use their own labor force rather than outsourcing the workers. This was important considering we’d be opening our house to strangers. We signed the agreement and set the date. The only time available in the coming months was between Christmas and New Year’s.
After we came back from our cruise on Dec. 10, we began the extensive preparations. Our first concern was food. You could only leave behind canned goods or sealed items in bottles or jars. Ditto for liquor. Any open bottles had to go. We could either remove these items from the premises or double bag them in special plastic bags following very specific instructions. Medications also had to be treated this way, and anything else that might be ingested. I added our toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash as well. Supposedly the poison gas would dissipate on its own, so dishes and flatware and paper plates were okay. So was bottled water.
Meanwhile, we began eating down everything consumable in the house until we were forced to dine out. We felt deprived by not being able to go food shopping, one of our daily excursions.
I booked a hotel room with a full-size refrigerator so we could move our food over starting the night before. We also had to open all the wooden drawers and cabinets in the house. Then we had to open all the windows and finally turn over our house key.
It was strange to be displaced. I can’t imagine how disaster survivors must feel when their house is destroyed. It’s disorienting to say the least. Our hotel room wasn’t the most pleasant environment to spend time so we sought places to go and things to do to occupy our time. We counted the minutes until we could return. Drives past our house revealed the sad sight below.
At last it was over and we went home at the prescribed time. We left the windows open for the rest of the day when we came back. Thank goodness for the cooler weather.
My eyes burned intensely at some times. The poison gas is odorless and colorless, so they add a warning agent. I suppose it was this chemical that affected me. Now it’s gone and things are back to normal. It was harder putting items away than packing them. On the bright side, our refrigerator and pantry got a good cleaning out. And we’d never appreciated visiting our favorite grocery stores more. Publix, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market, and Lucky’s—Here we come! It didn’t take us long to restock. First night’s dinner? Baked chicken thighs with mushrooms and green onions, fresh asparagus, and couscous. Next day, I made my vegetable bean soup. Hurray for home cooking.
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