Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who Doesn't Love A Rotting Rat Corpse?

You know you're raising city kids when the rotting rat corpse in front of your apartment building is the highlight of their month.

A few months ago we saw the first rat carcass. I saw it first when I almost stepped inside its guts  . . . AGAIN. You will recall of course, how I stepped inside a dead rat on Thanksgiving in Central Park a few years back. Thankfully, this time I stopped my foot just in the nick of time, in mid-step, and it hung in the air, suspended over the flattened rat for a second before coming down to the ground a few inches away.

"Careful kids," I warned, "There's a dead rat here."

You would have thought I told them there was a UFO here or a sarcophagus from ancient Egypt.

"WHERE!! WHERE??? SHOW ME!" they shrieked, overcome with excitement and disgust and curiosity.

"Gross," shuddered Seconda. But it didn't stop her from staring at it for five solid minutes

"Don't worry," I said, "I'm sure it will be gone by tomorrow."

I don't know who I thought would dispose of the rat carcass but ignorant me just figured someone would take care of it.

Of course the next day, the rat corpse was still there.

"What's going to happen to it?" Primo asked.

"Good question," I replied, "Maybe I"ll call 311."

I have never called 311 in my life. I'm just not that sort of person. But this seemed the perfect channel for getting information on the disposal of vermin remains.

And it was. The operator told me she'd transfer me to the Carcass Removal Department.

Let's take a moment here. That's a real thing. I didn't make it up. Did you know there is an entire group of people within the sanitation department who specialize in the removal of carcasses? Can you imagine a worse job?

I was dying to ask them what kind of carcasses they mostly dealt with, what was the weirdest carcass they'd removed, how many carcasses they handled on a weekly basis, where they found the densest population of carcasses and all SORTS of things like that. I wanted to make a freaking documentary on the NYC Carcass Removal Department. But we were walking to school and I only had a minute. So I just gave a very specific description of the place on the block where the squashed rat remains lay and they said they'd take care of it within 72 hours.

"Amazing," I told the kids, "What an incredible system."

Except that 72 hours later, the rat remained. And 96 hours later. And a week later. I intentionally didn't look at it again but the kids kept me updated on its decay. It appeared that dogs had gotten into it. People had stepped on it.

To say that I don't like rats is a gross understatement. But even I felt bad for the rat. Even a rat deserves some respect after death. Not that I was going to take care of it. I don't care about the rat that much.

And besides, it was the biggest news in my kids' life. Every day, they told someone new about the dead rat. We had a few playdates over to our place that week and every time, it was the first thing they advertised to their friends:

"Oh my God! There's this dead rat right in front of our house and it is SO GROSS!!!!! Don't worry, I'll show you!"

Their friends were equally excited to view the attraction. It was downright macabre.

Somewhere between week one and two, the rat corpse disappeared. It was more of a stain than a skeleton by that point but still, it was obvious that it was disposed of, rather than just evaporating. I was glad. Until the dead squirrel appeared in almost the same exact location a few months later. This time I didn't even bother to call Carcass Control. If I was a member of the vermin clan, I'd avoid that particular patch of sidewalk though. Really.