Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Little Rats on the Prairie

The year I moved to New York City, the Village Voice published an article detailing the extraordinary number of rats on the island. At that time, there were 8 million residents of NYC with 4 million commuters and visitors daily, totally 12 million people frolicking above what can only be imagined as a scene from Ratatouille - swarming, writhing nests of rodents. And their tally, you ask? Ready for this? 60 million. That's 5 rats per New Yorker, people! My very own 5 European brown rats. Only here's the kicker: I have a phobia of rats. It goes past the willies. It supersedes being grossed out. It transcends fear. I have a visceral response to the mere suggestion of rats. Ew. Ew. Ew!

In the 10 urban years I spent loving my city, I grew more tolerant of the rats' presence. I learned to ignore them. I pretended the movement I'd see in my peripheral vision on the subway tracks wasn't a colony of them. I wore rat blinders. I watched and enjoyed Ratatouille, even that scene when the old lady shot guns her ceiling down and they swarm like flowing water down into her house. (Ew. I got shivers and goose bumps just writing those words. Gross!)

But why? How did a nice suburban girl grow up with a rat phobia?

It's Melissa Gilbert's fault. In Season 1, Episode 18 "Plague" of Little House on the Prairie, there is a rat infestation and subsequently an outbreak of Typhus. When the source of the rats turns out to be a grain shed, the shed is swiftly burned to the ground by Pa Ingalls, our hero. It was violent and shocking, very, very scary, and not to mention super icky. I was only 4 or 5 when I first watched it. I was damaged rats good after that.

A few weeks ago, one of my oldest and best friends sat on my patio, worried that there might be rats in the backyard since we live off a green belt and there are lots of critters creeping around in the evenings. She proceeded to tell me that her fear started after watching (bap-bada-bah!!) Little House on the Prairie as a child. I knew we'd been friends all these years for a reason. We're kindred rat spirits. After all, the year of our birth is the Year of the Rat.

1 comment:

  1. Rats are disgusting creatures, especially dirty nasty NYC subway rats. Ew!!!
    Fear not the innocent field mice that might be in your backyard. They are clean Californian mice that enjoy the ocean breezes and the golden sun :)
    LOVE your blog Lady!