Wednesday, May 04, 2005


So a couple of weeks ago I read this book
Rats by Robert Sullivan. Most of the book is about the author observing rats in an alley in lower Manhattan. I have observed some rats in the lower part of my apartment building, so I was riveted. Sullivan says that an interesting part of his book tour was that dozens of people would come up to him after readings (or maybe even during) and tell him their own personal rat stories. I have two short ones.

1. We have a trash chute/compactor room in the basement of our building. You can't put things like heavy boxes or stacks of newspaper down the chute--you're supposed to carry them down to the compactor room. Since this room is below ground and since it is filled with (albeit bagged) trash and since its walls are perforated all over by pipe openings, it is an all-you-can-eat buffet for rats. The first rat I ever saw in there (I thought it was a cat at first) jumped from the ground to the top of two rake handles that were leaning against a wall (talk about agile) and tried to hide in an opening under a pipe in the wall, but since it didn't go all the way into the whole in the wall (created by a square block removed for a round pipe), I could see its tail hanging down the wall. The tail went down the length of two cement blocks--I would guess 16 inches.

2. One night my wife and I were leaving a friend's apartment in Washington Heights and walking back towards the A train. When we got to the steps of the subway entrance, we could see something brown running up the steps. It was a medium-size rat (less than a foot long), but it was essentially telling us: "Don't walk on these steps." We stopped a few feet away and backed up pretty quickly when it looked like the rat might begin to chase us down the street. Luckily it stopped at the top of the stairs.

Evidently, some people in the world eat rats.

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