Would You Rather the Rats Fall on You or You Fall Into the Rats?

Would You Rather the Rats Fall on You or You Fall Into the Rats?
Image:PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP (Getty Images)

Here’s a pleasant thought experiment for this dreadful Tuesday, sponsored by (I’m sorry) a tweet from New York micro-interest blog Gothamist’s Jake Offenhartz and inspired by two rat-forward lawsuits currently pending in New York City. Would you rather a bunch of rats fall onto you, or would you rather fall into the pit of rats?

New York is a special place for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that for the most part, human beings and vermin coexist in relative harmony. Sometimes that harmony is disrupted, as a man named Leonard Shoulders discovered in October, when the sidewalk beneath him collapsed, plunging him into a pit simply teeming with rats. Shoulders’s lawsuit was filed nearly a year to the day that another man, Robert Peterson, filed a lawsuit concerning rats; in his case, the rats rained down from the ceiling of the building he was working on like manna from heaven. This is terrible news for both parties involved, and I hope they get everything they asked for and more! However, the timing of these lawsusits makes for an interesting question:

This conundrum, for which there is no good answer, is a specifically New York City issue, as it is one of the few cities I’ve lived in where the rats run over your feet if you’re not careful, and are oftentimes large enough that they resemble kittens or pug puppies from afar. It’s not that I think about this scenario often, but the timing of these lawsuits coupled with the general unpredictability of the world at large has made me really think this through.

At first blush, falling through the sidewalk onto the rats sounds appealing, only because the rats are disgusting, but also soft. They would break your fall just a little bit, and also, if you happened upon the correct kind of rats, maybe they’d crowd-surf you to a safe exit. On the other hand, there’s a good chance that the weight of your human body would uh, break some of the rats, so that when you stand up, you’ve thrown out your back, twisted an ankle, and are covered in a thin layer of excreta, rat entrails, and tiny broken bones. Also, you’re in the ground and have to wait there for someone to come get you, and your phone probably fell out of your pocket on the way down. Sucks. No thanks.

The reverse of this scenario, while still shitty, is somewhat better, if only because there is a reliable means of escape for you, the human, and also the rats. If the ceiling gives way and rains down a scrum of squealing, writhing rats, you’re in for about 20-45 seconds of abject terror and pure body horror. The feeling of the panicked rodent feet scrabbling across your face is one that you will likely never be able to forget, but the thing about this scenario is that both parties in question are very interested in leaving the scene of the crime. Once free from their ceiling prison, after taking a detour on your face, the rats will bounce and you will be free yourself to burn every item of clothing you were wearing and shower for one to five hours, depending on the water pressure in your apartment and your tolerance for pain. The psychic trauma of this will be more difficult to face, but doing that work is a lifelong endeavor, and you’ll recover eventually. It could be worse, as they say, and worse is falling into the rats, not the rats falling onto you.

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