August 20, 2007

I saw a rat today.

It was standing on the sidewalk in Brooklyn Heights in broad daylight as if it were a cat or a squirrel. It didn't run away as I approached, so I stopped and looked and contemplated getting out the camera, while a woman approached from the opposite direction. She didn't notice the rat until she was 5 feet away from it, at which point she murmured "oh, ooh, oh my" -- humorously -- and deviated from her straight-line path in a neat little arc. Having proven its point, the rat disappeared into the ivy ground cover, and I proceeded along my way. Was I upset? Only that I didn't get the photograph. I know there are rats. What does it matter if they make themselves visible to me? Am I to object to the sheer boldness? It's not as if we locked eyes and he gave me a wanna-make-something-of-it look. He was simply comfortable in his ecological niche, and I understood the situation.


From Inwood said...

Prof A

If you lived in a private house in Queens as I did, there would come a knock at your door & when you answered the man would say: Rat Patrol.


Rats exist in all cities, though not all are as big as the Norwegian Rat in NYC & other N. E. cities.

Urban areas: Rats Я Us.

BTW, Lawyers in NYC (maybe elsewhere also, but rent control exacerbates the situation in NYC) have developed the “I only have the cat because of the rat” letter.

Works like this. Landlord in a rent controlled apt discovers that my aunt has a cat, which she has had forever, & sends her a lawyers' letter that he is gonna evict her because she is harboring an animal in violation of Section 123 of the standard lease. Real reason is to get her to move so that he can increase the rent. (Note: NYC may've adopted a law to overcome this "no animal" section since I left.)

When he gets my letter, no more problem. Aunt now thinks I’m Clarence Darrow.

Worked in Baltimore when landlord was giving # 1 student-daughter a hard time also.

No wonder so many people think lawyers are rats!

XWL said...

I'm a little shocked that Maxine wasn't the first to comment on this development.

(and that was almost my first question on the proposed vlog from yesterday, "Have you seen a rat yet?")

Donald Douglas said...

Rats are just fascinating.

I saw the biggest one last year when I was walking into my building on campus. He was scurrying away, so I didn't get as good a look as I'd have liked. Was he ever big though!

Burkean Reflections

Maxine Weiss said...

The rigors of urban life. It's no place for delicate and dainty ladies trudging about unchaperoned.

A man can walk anywhere at all hours of the day and night. But, for a woman, there are certain places, and certain times of day you can't go.

Life is so unfair.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Where are the eye-eating ants when you need them?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Maxine was born in a year of the rat. Coincidence? I think not.

titus11 said...

Girl, the rats are your friends. Say hello to them and move on.

They will respect your space and you will respect their space.

You are in the big city now and you need to accept your new environment. Enjoy the rats and make peace with them.

I can tell you are already thriving and enjoying your surroundings. There is nothing better than enjoying your city. You may not have a boyfriend (I don't know and don't care about your personal situation) but you can be in love with your city and you will love your new city. It is all you need.

S.S.Stone said...

We have a huge rat problem up here in Toronto, but I've never seen one up close like that.

titus11 said...

I love Toronto. If I had to live in any other North American city it would be Toroto, Montreal or Boston-all amazing cities. Maybe Mexico City too.

Oh and Omaha...not.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kev said...

Urban areas: Rats Я Us.

OK, From Inwood, I have to know the HTML code that gets the R to go backwards like that; I didn't even find a command when I did a View Source. That's extremely cool...

Theo Boehm said...

Am I to object to the sheer boldness?
How does one object to a rat?  Seems a bit like lying to a cat.
Maybe those unflappable New York rats should join the Navy and see the world.

Cedarford said...

Prof Althouse, hope you have settled back into NYC and your year at Brooklyn Law will be rewarding.

Don't feel bad about about your lost photo op with the rat. As a former resident of NYC I'm sure you know there will be many, many other such photo op opportunities with photogenic rodents!

(If only they had sleek furry tails and hadn't been associated so closely with plague, sewers, and human corpse-eating - I'm sure rats would have a better reputation. And be thought of as cute ground squirrels.
Like the cute ground squirrels out West - which BTW, do carry plague thanks to it spreading from Chinese immigrants who were carriers)

Roger said...

Maxine--its entire possible for a lady to walk around if her chaperones are Smith and Wesson.

joe said...

Did the rat ask, "you looking at me, lady?"

Ann Althouse said...

No, he said "I'm walking here."

Trooper York said...

Just wait until you hit the Clark St subway station around 1 in the morning...they have the rat olympics on the tracks...some of them are big enough to slap a saddle on to ride in the rodeo...just be aware that they can often be found in ivy in the front gardens of Brooklyn Heights as they build little burrows and communities...think of them as city hobbits with bad press.

knoxwhirled said...

Was I upset? Only that I didn't get the photograph.

Props to you. I would've peed my pants.

joe said...

Say hi to Ratso for me, next time.

Trooper York said...

From Inwood...I thought the Rat Patrol was a TV show with the gunfighter form El Dorado as the lead...did they have those really cool jeeps with the machine guns on the back

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
From Inwood said...


I always used the ANSI Character Set, or sometimes the IBM PC Extended Character Set. But recently there was a discussion on this Blog using the symbol for “almost equal to”: ≈, which for some reason is coming out here in micro type. All I could do was use the symbol for “tilde”: ~ I felt so not with it.

Then one day I went to

Microsoft Word,
Unicode Hex,

& found it, along with the Cyrillic letter El: “Я” & a host of symbols.

I no longer feel so ≠!


From Inwood said...


The almost equal to sign comes out OK in the final here, but is micro in the preview!

Good thing or I'd feel so ≠.

From Inwood said...

Trooper Y

Rats in the ivy in Bklyn Heights. How can they afford it!

(OK, old joke.)

Look in the ivy in the median flower beds on Park Ave sometime. They're there too.

BTW, based on my days delivering liquor to posh restaurants, you wouldn't want to have seen the kitchens of most if you were eating there. I suspect that plus ça change….Never saw a rodent, but vermin…. And, yes I saw the rodent problem recently in one of the fast food NYC eateries. It could happen to you.

Further BTW, we bought our house in Queens from an very old, very mannerly, very proper, very polished, very tasteful immigrant. (He showed my wife how to instruct the servants in cleaning the heating pipes in the basement. He didn’t realize that, as polished as I was, I would be the one polishing & cleaning!) When the inspector’s report showed termites in the paneling in my seller's basement, said seller kept telling his lawyer & me that it couldn’t be true. He was not a dirty person.

I think that the Rat Patrol came later, after he was dead or else it would, undoubtedly, have caused his death.

Trooper York said...

From Inwood....when I was a young whippersnapper first starting out, I did the taxes for a Chinese cafe on Ann St in lower Manhattan, just off Broadway which was next to an empty construction lot with a deep pit… had stopped for some reason and lots of restaurants were tossing garbage into the pit...One hot summer night in August in 1977…...about 5,000 rats came boiling out of the pit and spilled out to Ann St and started chomping on car tires, street refuse and the assorted pedestrians… can look it up… was a big story in the Daily News at the time… makes the current Taco Bell story lock like a mere "bag of shells" as the great one would say.....and that's the best rat story I can give you...wait a's August...hmmmmm.

From Inwood said...

Trooper Y

I'd say that we have hijacked this site, but it's not like it's about the deeper meaning of things or beauty, truth, & goodness, anyway, so with the indulgence of Prof A, one more rat story.

#2 daughter, with her newly minted PhD from U. Wisc., got a one-yr job teaching in a small college in the Plains. (She is now tenured at a better place, Deo gratias. Got tired of moving her. Want ceiling fans put up? Door Locks put in? I'm your man. OK, I'm more glad for substantive reasons. (BTW, never saw the rim lock which is so ubiquitous in the N. E. I imported them from NY for her. Her doors, unlike the rest of the complexes she’s lived in, looked like the one in Seinfeld.)

Anyway, rats. She got a garden apt & one day when a contractor was doing some renovations/repair, she asked him why there was a trail of brown stuff on her floor.

He told her she had a rat. She, based on her NYC background, which cannot be erased by 5-6 yrs of Mad Wisc., assumed that he meant Rattus Norvegicus & was quite upset. She was about to run to the office of the development, but he calmed her down & suggested that the management would only poison the rat, which might then die under the floor or in the walls, & wouldn't that be fun to smell. He recommended that she get a rat trap from the local hardware store & put peanut butter on the bait area & voilà. (OK, perhaps she used the word voilà in retelling it, not him.) He then said that since she was so upset, he would pick up the remains the next day for her.

She duly went to the hardware store & asked for a rat trap. The clerk produced what we referred to in NYC as a mousetrap. She demurred, as we say in legalese. She told him it was way too small to trap her rat. He replied "Ma'am, if your rat’s that big, you need a pistol."

Trooper York said...

From Inwood....I don't think we hijacked the site...just a thread...which is like clipping a few bottles out of the crate and sending it off...we will just pop a few rocks inside the box and hope they don't notice until it gets to its final destination.

Kev said...

From Inwood--thanks for the tips! I'm not sure when the situation will come up (talking about that particular toy store, maybe?), but it's always good to know stuff like that. (You wouldn't believe how much stuff I've learned just from the View Source function, but the backwards R didn't come up there.)

hdhouse said...

Assuming that this "rat" carried a briefcase and a copy of FRCP, could you tell if he worked for a wall street firm or out of Cadman Plaza in a phone booth?

From Inwood said...


You're welcome.