Maybe the theme song to the movie Ben was the first clue that Michael Jackson was kinda off. Sure, he had his old nose back then, but that doesn't mean he was right in the head.
Ben, most people would turn you away
I don't listen to a word they say
They don't see you as I do
I wish they would try to
I'm sure they'd think again
If they had a friend like Ben.
Now I'm not sure what they are, but I'm there's someone else out there, other than the King of Pop, who can list the attributes of rats. But as a former resident of New York City, I got no love for them at all. The first time I witnessed a rat was while I was waiting for the D train. From the platform - and not far away enough I must add - I saw that filthy animal scurry down those tracks as if it knew exactly where it was going. Bold. Unashamed. Unafraid of being seen or even worse - exterminated.
New to the city and the product of a suburban upbringing, I just couldn't understand how the critter was down there and nobody was doing anything. There had to have been at least twelve perfectly civilized human beings with me on the platform. They all saw the guy - so why wasn't anybody saying anything? Why were they just looking at their watches, talking to eachother or on their cell phones, and reading the New York Times? I was mortified.
And then, a few nights later, it happened again.
I soon realized that New York City was a rodent's world. The rest of us just happened to live there. My boyfriend at the time was completely unphased at my dramatic stories about all of the rats I'd seen. He'd lived there for several years before I had, and, like many Manhattanites, had accepted this sort of co-habitation that had been imposed on him. As far as he was concerned, if they hadn't found a way into his apartment, he wasn't worried about them. Why worry if they're everywhere? I was unimpressed by his cool, detatched, demeanor about it but eventually married him anyway.
Years later, he told me that the rats disgusted him too, but he'd come to accept it as a part of city life. Today, there's an unspoken ban on all things rodent-related in this house. Of all the random stuffed animals that somehow find homes here, plush rats (mice, too) will always find a way to the salvation Army before J-Jo can say cheese. You will never see any of these kids dressed as any type of rodent for Halloween. Even Minnie is still a mouse.
New Yorkers have come to accept the fact that the island of Manhattan is infested with them, but will there ever be a point that something gets done about it? The recent Greenwich Village Taco Bell that was swarming with rats last week should prompt more people to take a stand. They were playing and climbing on high chairs in there - another reason parents might want to work harder at saying no to fast food in general. You can't tell me there's never been a rat sniffing around a happy meal toy.
Last month's heartbreaking story about an infant being suffocated by his mother as she tried to protect him from rats in their vermin infested Bronx apartment (as the landlord was chilling in his Trump Tower digs) should serve as a reminder of how serious this problem really is.
Ben will never be my friend.