Giant Rats In Restaurants
When Rats Talk Back to Cats
Are Rats Dining With Us? A Survivor's Tale
Every once in a while, like every other day if you live in New York City, another harrowing tale of rattus giganticus makes the rounds, inspiring fear and loathing (this sentence dedicated to Hunter S. Thompson) in everyone who dreads the idea of a rat that is bigger than a rat ought to be. Naturally, many of us chalk such sightings up to hysterics, urban myth, and plain old garden variety exaggeration, and simply don’t believe it. A rat the size of a cat? Nah. A moon landing? Eh, maybe. Considering the manifold mental masturbations running rampant throughout mankind at large today, some of us are coming to realize that many a Tom, Dick, and Mary simply relish having an outlandish tale to tell for fun and profit. Many just make stuff up out of thin air then sit back, relax, and wait to be paid. So the giant rat scenario becomes even more unbelievable when one considers that many of these monster sightings are said to be from from rats living in restaurants. Despite the hustle and bustle that restaurant workers are ever in a state of (at good restaurants, anyway) it still seems quite unreasonable to think that a creature as big as a cat could live amongst the pots and pans, bags of flour, and jars of Grey Poupon for any length of time without being noticed then summarily flushed out. Thus, the skeptics among us have to wonder at the truthfulness of such outlandish tales of gargantuan rats dining along side us, maybe just at our feet, nibbling at our shoelaces while we nibble our Ratatouille . We all suspect, at least subconsciously, that the teller of such a tale might also be moonlighting as a rat repellant affiliate, or, worse, whip out their universally comprehensive rat-free restaurant list, which can be ours for just a measly $9.95 at Clickbank. (Yay Clickbank!)
So, yeah, distrust is at an all time high. Distrust in general. You have to be somewhat jaded to get by in today’s post-Jerry Springer world. So I’m not expecting you to believe what I’m about to share with you here. Nor will I beg you to believe me so that I can feel loved and respected in a bid to sleep well at night. (I never sleep well at night, under any circumstances, but that’s another story for another time.) So you do what you gotta do, friend: believe what you gotta believe, and distrust who you gotta distrust. After I tell you my giant rat in a restaurant tale, I won’t take your reaction personally. Yes, I maintain that it is 100% true. Yes, you are free to believe, indeed, to know, deep down in your heart of hearts, that I am 100% full of it.
But no, I will never recant.
Once upon a time (remember the 90s?) when I was younger, dumber, and had a lot of free time on my hands, I regularly frequented a particular donut shop in Dallas Texas, meeting friends there to chomp down fried bread, chase coffee with soda, and talk about what careers the future might hold for young, aimless twenty-somethings such as ourselves, say, ten or fifteen years down the line. (We didn’t like the answer then, nor do we like it now.)
My friends and I spent a good decade hanging out in this joint, so we thought we knew it well. The food and coffee were good, the store was clean and was continually being spit-shined by the staff. Though it was part of a national chain, it was still a family owned franchise with lots of personal attention paid to it by the owners and staff. I point all this out, dear reader, to let you know that this was not some shady, hole-in-wall, fly-by-night, den of dirty donut dining. No, no, this place was respectable. Impeccable. It did a bustling business. It had been around for forever it is still around today: a veritable stalwart amongst the donut kingdoms. So dining there never gave us pause for alarm.
one fine day, circa 1998, my friend Mike and I stumbled in there with growling stomachs, a tenspot, and our trusty chessboard in hand. (Yes, chess geeks, I am one of you!) The place had about twenty tables, all of them empty, and it was about two in the afternoon, so there was no problem with space being available for us to sprawl out in. We weren’t typical loiterers. We were regular loiterers who had come to spend our tenner on sugar and caffeine. So the staff didn’t care if we whiled away the afternoon pushing plastic pieces around in an effort to quietly humiliate each other. Rather, we were making the place look alive and happening!
So, about twenty minutes into the game, Mike had a hard decision to make. Should he murder my queen and risk losing both of his knights? Mike loved knights (the sneaky bastard) and the prospect of a game without them, this early on, was indeed troubling to him. So he had to think long and hard about this. Well, the minutes ticked by and the silence set in and I, teetering on boredom, began to look around. No other customers to be seen, clerk probably taking a nap on a bag of flour in the back room, dead silence, stillness reigned. I was so bored with Mike’s indecision, I was starting to count the bricks in the wall when...wait, what was that by the drink case? You know the drink case I’m talking about. The big rectangular refrigerator with the glass face, housing a large assortment of milks, juices, and sodas: standard restaurant apparatus found in all donut shops worth their salt. And from behind this one...something stirred.
I turned my head sharply to the left, and though I am no mouth breather, for a second my nostrils refused to work and my jaw fell slack. For there, less than 15 feet away from me, stood the largest rat I’d ever seen. Big as a cat--not a kitten. A cat. And a big cat at that, at least a ten pounder. And this fat fellow had sauntered quite casually and quite completely from behind the drink case and was now staring back at me, blinking with as much surprise to see me as I was to see him. He must of thought, due to the long still silence, that the coast was clear, that he was finally free to be a rat out in the open to do his rat thing out in the open without the prying eyes of a hysterical public to interfere with his quest for lunch and a continued heartbeat.
We stared at each other, rat and I, for about five seconds. It was an eternal five seconds in which every good feeling I had acquired so far on that wonderful sunny day quickly evaporated, leaving me no sensation save a huge dose of queasiness. Then the girthy rodent did a slow about face and shuffled back behind the drink case just as casually as it had first wandered out.
“Mike, did you see that?”
“Leave me alone. I’m about to make my move.”
“But did you see that that?”
Mike shrugged. “The cat? Yeah. Probably slipped in by accident.”
“That was no cat!”
I told Mike what I’d seen. He finally looked up at me, hoping I was joking, and blinked hard when I told him, yes, monsters are real and they don’t just hide in pools of darkness under the bed anymore. They come out into the light now, Mike. Into the light! After a moment’s hesitation, when he saw how serious I was, Mike said he believed me. Then he shook his head, mumbled something about calling the police, and looked back down at his chess pieces.
Damn. He didn’t believe me.
Well, somebody else might. I marched up to the counter, called the clerk over, and explained to him what I’d just seen. Then it was his turn to be a mouth breather, because he had a “crazy” man in the store, a regular customer “crazy man” at that, telling him that a 10 pound rat lived behind the store’s drink case. The clerk politely looked behind the case. (Of course, the rat was gone by then. You don’t get to be a rat that big living in a busy donut shop by being a stupid rat!) The kid actually looked behind the case a couple of times, probably just to humor me. He never believed my story either. For once, I knew how Bigfoot witnesses feel when they’re recounting their fantastic skunk ape tales in the face of pathetic nods and rolled eyes. And based on that feeling, I can say, without a shred of doubt, that it truly sucks to be a Bigfoot witness.
I don’t blame Mike or the clerk for not believing me. I mean, who’d want to believe it? I saw it with my own two eyes and I still didn’t want to believe it. Still, now I knew. I knew those giant rats really were out there. And not only were they out there, they were eating well. In restaurants!
I lost the chess game. I forfeited to Mike. You just can’t recover from spotting a giant prehistoric rat when playing games of high mental concentration. And I forfeited the donut shop too. I never went back there, closing the door on yet another youthful haunt.
But the idea of a ten pound rat rolling around in chocolate sprinkles, then making some more chocolate sprinkles of his own, still haunts me to this day.