“We’re starting a new account today,” said Crew Leader Carl, as we turned into a newer subdivision. “The customer said she hired us based on our reputation. Because this is our first cleanup, we’ll want to do an extra-thorough job, to make sure we live up to her expectations.”
“Knowing our reputation, does she even have expectations?” I asked.
Carl looked at me in the rearview mirror. “Congratulations. Now you get to clean the mowers after work.”
I crossed my arms. “When it comes to you, Carl, I expect nothing less.”
We stopped in front of the house and jumped out of the truck. The other guys unloaded the mowers and weed-whackers while I grabbed my pruners and trash can. We all scattered across the yard and got to work, with motors whirling and buzzing.
As we worked, Carl wandered around the front yard with his arms crossed, supervising.
Stan, one of the younger members of the crew, was pulling weeds along the side of the house, which was just bare dirt with no landscaping.
“Hey, Boss!” he called out. “Check this out! There’s a red anthill right here, and just a few feet away, there’s a brown one. They’re not that far from each other.”
I was walking toward the side yard myself to help pull weeds. Carl followed me, and together, we approached Stan.
“Oh, yeah,” Carl said, looking at the two anthills. “What’s cool is that if you mix them together, they’ll fight.”
He grabbed a twig and held it atop the red anthill. Within moments, two or three were crawling along the end.
Then, stepping carefully, he walked toward the brown anthill. He held the twig over it and shook it so that the red ants dropped off.
The three of us bent over and watched as the brown ants swarmed over the three red ants. One of the red ants made a beeline away from the enemy hill.
Behind us, we heard a small cough, and we all jumped. We turned to see a woman standing there. None of us had heard her approach.
She frowned. “Are you the guys they sent to clean my yard?”
“That’s right, ma’am,” Carl said, dropping the twig and standing straight. “We’re the landscape-maintenance professionals.”
“Landscape-maintenance professionals?” The woman’s eyes narrowed. “Right.”
The way she drew out the last word, she almost sounded skeptical.
“That’s right,” Carl said, frowning. “Professionals.”
He turned to Stan and me. “Hey guys, don’t just stand there. Do something about this ant problem, won’t you?”
He turned to the homeowner. “While my laborers tend to the pest issue, ma’am, allow me to show you the other improvements we’re making.”
Together, he and the homeowner wandered off.
Stan looked at me, his lower lip sticking out. “That’s not fair. Why does he always have to denigrate us in front of the customers, as if we’re second-class citizens?”
“When it comes to Carl,” I said, “I expect nothing less.”