“YEEP!” I text my oldest daughter at college.
“What? I’m in class.”
“The rat exterminator — the one who thought all rats were girls — just called to ask me out! AACH!!”
“Bahahahahah!” Paige texts back. “I just passed that around my class.”
I thought back to what could have possessed the rat exterminator to think that I might have been open to this, that this was somehow in the bounds of appropriate.
A few weeks earlier, I’d noticed the peaches in the fruit bowl had been inhumanly gnawed. I saw droppings on the counter.
“We have a rat,” I say to my youngest daughter, Marissa.
She looks at the decimated fruit. We make the same grossed-out face.
I clean, sanitize, feel violated, and toss the fruit bowl.
Next day, the nut bowl is empty, but not by us. We make the face. I call our pest control service.
That afternoon, Marissa sees the rat run under the door into the garage. “It’s big!” she says.
“Bigger than an avocado?”
Showing her how a grown-up handles these matters, I scream.
Next morning, the Rat Man arrives. I show him where I’d found evidence. “She might be getting in here,” he says looking at the holes around the sink pipes.
“How do you know it’s a she?” I ask, thinking maybe female rats nest this time of year. What do I know? “All rats are shes,” he says.
He must have noticed a strange look cross my face, because he asked, “Aren’t they?”
Because I do not want to discuss rat reproduction with this man, I simply nod.
He sets out three sticky traps the size of shoebox lids. As he’s leaving, I ask what I’m supposed to do when the rat gets caught.
“We just set the traps,” he says. “Have your husband take it out.”
I say something, which I now regret, about my husband only being here weekends. He says he’ll check back in a couple days.
That evening, Marissa and I come home to the trapped rat. We scream. I call my best friend. She says I needed to be brave and show my daughter how to handle this stoically. I call my husband. He tries to coach me, suggests I put the whole bit on a shovel. No way.
I look out onto my street, and see a lovely young couple on an evening stroll. I dash out, extend my hand, and, while trying to keep my desperation at bay, say, “Maybe you can help me.”
Valiantly, the tall, strong man armed with nothing more than two paper towels, picks up the trap, and swiftly disposes of it all. I say to the woman: “You are in possession of one wonderful man.”
Next day Rat Man calls. I share the good news. He says he should come over and do a thorough inspection to see if he can find where the rat (she) had been getting in.
“No need. I’m pretty sure it was under the door to the garage. I’ll get that weather stripped,” I replied.
And that was that. I thought.
A few days later, he calls again. “I’m not having any more critter problems, thank you,” I say, and hang up.
He calls again. “Are you busy?” he asks.
“Yes. Thank you. All my critter problems are solved.” Click.
He calls right back. “I was just wondering if you would like to have coffee some time?”
“Look, I am really busy. I have two jobs, two kids, and no time for a new friend.”
“I’m really busy, too, but I would still make time for a new friend.”
“Well, I can’t.” Click.
I text my daughter. “YEEP!”
That night during a family conference call my husband says, “Report him.”
“I don’t want him to lose his job,” I say.
“Don’t rat him out,” says Marissa.
“Punny,” says Paige.
Rats are creepy enough, but what they drag with them is worse. “Rats carry diseases, which they can spread through bites, feces and urine. If they get in your food, they’ll contaminate it,” says Stoy Hedges, an entomologist for Terminix, the world's largest pest control provider.
Big storms, like Sandy, which hit the East Coast last month, often displace rats, and cause them to look for new homes, Hedges said. "Rats are born survivors and will readily move to better conditions to find food and a place to live. In cities, that’s provided by homes and businesses.”
Maybe that’s all the guy wanted.