From Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan:

On the New York City underground rat scene:

“People don’t realize the subterranean conditions out there,” he likes to say. “People don’t realize the levels. People don’t realize that we got things down there from the Revolution. A lot of people don’t realize that there’s just layers of settlers here, that things just get bricked off, covered up and all. They’re not accessible to people, but they are to rats. And they have rats down there that have maybe never seen the surface. If they did, then they’d run people out. Like in the movies. You see, we only see the tail end of it. And we only see the weak rats, the ones that get forced out to look for food.”

On exterminators:

Today, Colon is remembered as the only exterminator ever to tie a rodent to a rope and walk it back to the bureau office, eager to show off its size. ‘I was young and crazy,’ Colon once said.


Rat bites and infestations are still hugely common in US inner cities. Despite all the money spent on “getting rid” of vermin in cities, what actually happens is that the “nice” section of a city gets more or less human-controlled while slums are still controlled by rats. It’s depressing just how many issues get pushed to the side once they’re (literally) out of sight of the scrutinizing eye of the media.

It was also terrifying to read of an early 20th century outbreak of PLAGUE that the city of San Francisco covered up and denied and fired respected public health officials/dissenters over because they were concerned about loss of tourism profits. It started in Chinatown and the only reason they didn’t resort to isolated Chinese quarantine camps (they wanted to) is because that would have meant actually admitting plague existed.

Let’s count the number of ways that logic is messed up.

On a more amusing note, the latin name of the common rat found in American cities is Rattus rattus. Awesome.

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