Life a' vermin

All New Yorkers have a few ghastly brushes with pests. Read the harrowing tales from our staff and share your own below.



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new york rats

A floater
"In January 2001, I came home to the apartment I shared with three women on 102nd St and Central Park West. I was the first one home. Arriving, as I was, from a fair amount of partying, I headed straight to the toilet to, ahem,"decant"—only to discover a dead rat floating in the toilet bowl. I screamed exactly like an eight-year-old girl, slammed the bathroom door shut and ran into the living room to collect my senses.

"When my three roommates came home, two hours later, I was able to calmly explain the situation. They, of course, screamed like eight-year-olds. These three women—two lesbians and a women's studies major—all decided it was my job as the man to dispose of the rodent. I wasn't having any of that—I divvyed up the work equitably, lifting the rat out of the bowl using salad tongs (since discarded), while one roommate held open a garbage bag. Another roommate took the bag to the incinerator, while the third one cleaned the bowl thoroughly with Ajax.

"I've since learned that rats can swim up through toilet pipes, but to this day I don't know whether that rat came up via the plumbing or fell in after running around the bathroom. Either scenario terrifies me."—Dan Avery, Around Town Editor

See no evil
"I was walking the streets late at night with a friend who is deathly, deathly afraid of rats. As we were about to turn down a rather desolate block on the fringes of Chinatown, we saw a couple of rats scurry across the street ahead of us. My friend panicked and swore that she wouldn't walk down the street. I convinced her that it was okay, that any detour would be a waste of time, etc. She agreed to venture down the infested road, provided she could keep her eyes shut while I guided her. It seemed silly to me, but in the interest of not walking five blocks out of my way at 1 in the morning, I agreed.

"She closed her eyes, and we began our journey. The street was fairly isolated and filthy, and, not being a rodent fan myself, I kept us moving briskly. I could feel my friend's heart beat with terror, which compounded my own antsiness. Suddenly, when we were about two thirds of the way down the block, a rat the size of a Cooper Mini darted out from the shadows. It appeared so quickly, in fact, that I had no chance to steer my friend away, and she accidentally kicked full force. It went arcing up in the air, landing several feet to the side in a pile of garbage bags.

"'What was that?!?' my unseeing friend demanded in panic. 'Was that a rat?!?' Thinking fast, I lied, 'No, no, it was just a cardboard box, don't worry about it.'

"'Are you sure?' she asked, still afraid.

"'Yes, of course. We're almost there.'

"This was several years ago. I've never told my friend that it was a king-size rat that she punted across the street that night, and I don't believe I ever will."—Anonymous TONY staffer

Rat battle royale
"A couple of years ago my friend Paul lived in an apartment on the Lower East Side with his dog Buster, a small terrier mix (foreshadowing alert: terriers were bred to hunt rats). Over the years, Buster had caught several mice, a handful of cockroaches and occasionally a rat. One night, Paul was awoken by a sound in the bathroom. He sat up in bed and looked over at Buster, who was also wide awake, fur up. Paul and Buster go to the bathroom. At this point, Buster is totally jacked; Paul holds him back and peers into the bathroom. At first all he sees is water all over the toilet seat and around the floor. Not good.

"Then, behind the toilet, Pual sees the soaking wet tail of a cat-sized rat. Buster sees (or smells) it too and just goes bananas trying to get at it. Paul is like, what the fuck do I do? (Remember, this is before 3-1-1.) Call an exterminator? Go back to bed? Get a baseball bat? The rat is huge, covered in toilet water, and terrifying. Paul looks at the dripping rat-tail, then down at the dog, who is going crazy to get into the bathroom. Back at the rat. Down at the dog. He shrugs, lets the dog go and shuts the bathroom door. Commence Thunderdome.

"Squealing, banging, thumping noises echo through the apartment—he could almost see the two of them rolling around in a cloud of dust with stars popping out, Looney Tunes style. After about five minutes, the noise settles and Paul opens the door. He sees a wounded rat and a panting dog. He shuts the door again. Five more minutes of banging, squealing, thumping. Then silence. He slowly opens the door.

"The walls are covered in blood. Blood on the floor, the tub, the towels, everything. The rat is lying dead on the floor and the dog is jumping up and down, victoriously celebrating the fight of his life! For days afterwards, Buster was the proudest dog on the Lower East Side. And after cleaning up pints of rat blood, Paul was the most traumatized dog owner."—Shauna Cagan, Production Coordinator

CAN YOU TOP THESE? We dare you. Write in with your own rodent encounters in the comments box below.


Also see:

  Rats  |  Annoying celebrities

bed bug

Good night, sleep tight …
"About a year ago this month, I found the most beautiful and reasonably priced apartment on Craigslist. It was in Jersey City, mere blocks from the PATH, and had hardwood floors, granite counter tops and three huge bedrooms. My then roommate and I jumped at the chance to snatch up this gem. By October, we had moved all of our belongings into the apartment and it was starting to feel like home. Sure, the area looked like Newark at night, there were homeless people sleeping a few feet away from my door and I had to turn up my iPod to drown out the gun shots...but I had bay windows! Those minor details did nothing to dampen my love for the apartment.

"What did concern me were the sudden welts that I had developed all over my body. Huge itchy sores that I thought might be hives from the cockroach spray we recently purchased. (Did I mention that we had cockroaches?) The doctor told me that they were definitely not hives but rather bites of some kind. Since I was fairly certain that cockroaches were not prone to biting, I did a little research and discovered that I had bed bugs. By this point my entire body was covered with big, itchy red welts that would prove to take weeks to heal and would scar my body and sleep patterns for months.

"We had to throw out all of our furniture and dry-clean all of our clothes and sheets. I came to find out that the prior tenants discarded all their mattresses after a few months of occupancy and our landlord never thought there was a connection. The three of us moved out after three weeks of living in the apartment and weren't even given our security deposit back! It cost us thousands of dollars and I still occasionally wake up scratching in the middle of the night out of habit."—Leigh Wolinsky, Events Manager

CAN YOU TOP THIS? We dare you. Write in with your own tales of creepy-crawlies in the comments box below.


Also see:

  Rats  |  Insects

Kanye West

Biel at the ballet
"Pretty Jessica Biel, whose hobbies reputedly include ballet, was at the premiere of Boris Eifman’s The Seagull with a pack of girlfriends. If you like acrobatic melodrama with as few steps as possible, Eifman’s your guy.

"The production wavered between being incomprehensible and being just embarrassing (particularly the brightly costumed Russian dancers in the hip-hop section), and the funniest moment occurred during intermission, courtesy of a member of Biel’s entourage. Referring to a long piece of stretch fabric that was manipulated into all sorts of shapes, she asked, 'Does anybody know what that white thing was?' They giggled."—Gia Kourlas, Dance Editor

[Note: this story was taken from a TONY blog entry posted on April 19, 2007.

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