Having a plethora of cockroaches (more than one) and a paucity of exterminators (fewer than one), I decided to select one of the latter from the Yellow Pages. First under "Exterminating & Fumigating (pest Control)" is A. Then there is AAAA Aaron Exterminators, AAA A-Line Exterminators, A Aaron Exterminators, and A-1 Exterminating Co. You feel sorry for A Aaron. If only he'd added four more As, he could have moved up the list. Then you notice that A Aaron and AAAA Aaron have the same phone number and the same address: They're the same company listed twice. After that, you feel a little sorry for AAA A-Line, but not too much. I'm suspicious of companies that think it's important to be listed first; it's gimmicky.

I'm also skeptical of companies that pay for big ads. One quarter of page 663 is an ad for World-Wide Exterminating. I guess if you wanted to send a gift to a friend in Sri Lanka, you could hire World-Wide to kill his bugs by wire.

World-Wide claims to have been "in business since 1932." What a time to launch a new venture! It's the height of the Depression. People are out of work; families are struggling against poverty and despair; banks are failing; the world is teetering on the brink of war, and you say to yourself, "Here's the perfect moment to start an exterminating company! No matter how tough the times, people will pay someone to kill their bugs."

Of course, It's nearly fifty years later, and World-Wide is still in business. Still, I always wonder if a firm has really been operating since 1795 or 1859 or 1910, or whatever their boast. How would I know?

There's Abaco, Abalon, Abbey and Able, Acme, Alert, Allied, and Alpha & Omego Exterminating -- a nice classical touch. They induce the roach to throw himself on his sword, talk your fleas into taking the hemlock.

Atlantic Reseach Labs strives for a scientific tone, listing its devices: "Insectdry, insect bombs, foggers, traps, insect electrocuters [All this time I've just been swatting at bugs with a rolled-up newspaper!], black-lights [to attract bugs from 1967?], spray tanks, bird repellants." I'd be embarrassed to call a total stranger and admit I had a bird problem.

Atomic Exterminating makes you stop and think. Beacon Pest Control: "Control" is a popular word in the business; it has implications of law-enforcement. Like "crowd-control." It's a lot better than "bug-killers," which sounds like someone Richard Widmark played in a movie. There's Bell Exterminating and Ben's Exterminating. I like a fellow who puts his name on his business; it inspires confidence. I'd like banks and insurance companies a little more if there were a Bob's Bank or Edith's Insuranced. There's Bliss Exterminating -- an odd attitude, but it's good to enjoy your work.

Then Canadian, Columbia and Cubano, El Matador and Everbest. Excelsior offers "Squirrel Control." I guess if a gang of squirrels demonstrates at your house -- thousands of them with tiny picket signs, all chanting and marching around -- Excelsior will send people over to stop them from tossing rocks and bottles, to keep things from getting out of hand.

Then there's Exterminare. It sounds like the fanciest-model Buick in 1956 -- the all-new Buick Exterminare, the one with all the options. There's Exterminall: "We take pride in our work." Me too; that's important. There's Magic Exterminating, which does not promise to make roaches disappear, and First National Exterminating, which does not declare that it has "exterminating you can bank on."

Force Fumigating Corp has a nice, martial tone: a Marine combat brigade comes over and assaults your kitchen cabinets. Foremost, Fumigadora Latina. cFumigadora Modelo. Great Kills Exterminating: that must be a group that really enjoys its work, more like a rod-and-gun club than a business. It's not the actual killing they love; it's stalking the roach.

Harder Extermination Service. "Service" is a well-chosen word, genteel and upper-class. Do people want dainty roach removal? Wouldn't they prefer Harder Exterminating Crew or Harder Exterminating Gang, something with a rugged, blue-collar sound, something butch? Helping Exterminating -- they wouldn't even send you a bill; they just want to contribute. Joe's Exterminating -- that's your basic Americana, like a diner called "EATS."

The ad for Pioneer Exterminating has a drawing of a fellow holding a butterfly nedt and chasing what looks like a flying starfish, but is probably some sort of undersirable insect. It says "For Truly Professional Service call Dr. Brody (Phd in Entomology)." Isn't it odd that Dr. Brody would spend years studying insects and then devote the rest of his life to their destruction? There's a movie where the same thing happens to Peter Lorre. He's an archaeologist who, after years of study, has a tragic romance that drives him mad. He runs around the British Museum smashing artifacts. I think he's killed by a mummy (Boris Karloff?) at the end. I wonder if Dr. Brody was the victim of a tragic romance?

There's a Mr. Exterminator, but there's no Ms. Exterminator or Mrs. Exterminator or Miss Exterminator. All in all, it's a conservative business. On the other hand, there's no Lord Exterminator or Sir Exterminator. There's Oriental, Preto, Standard and Superior.(Why take Standard when you can have Superior?) Sure Way Pest Control -- a little Zen for me. Universal Extermination -- there's a certain end-of-the-world quality about that one.

It's hard to choose from among so many skilled craftsmen. Often, when confronting a list of unknown business, I'll pick one named after a president, particularly Washington, Lincoln or Roosevelt. It's irrational, but it lets me feel methodical in a situation that defines method. Unfortunately, there are not exterminators listed that are named for presidents, not even terrible presidents like Harding or Coolidge or Taft or Hoover.

I think I'd to with Exterminare. I always loved the '56 Buicks, especially those snappy yellow convertibles.