Good Capitals, Bad Capitals

An apartment search service called “Rent Hop” has declared Chicago the “Rat Capital” of the United States.  Rent Hop did a study of rat complaints and concluded that Chicago received far more rat complaints than other American cities — 50,963 in 2017 alone.  That’s a 55 percent increase since 2014, and factors out to 1,876 complaints per 100,000 people.  Even worse, the neighborhoods with the most rat complaints also tend to be the neighborhoods with the most uncollected dog droppings.

6432106That’s really a lot of rat complaints, when you think about it.  If you’re a renter in Chicago — particularly in some neighborhoods — you’re pretty likely to have a rat encounter.

The Windy City blew New York City out of the water in the Rat Capital race; the Big Apple logged only 19,152 rat complaints last year, which put it well down on the list on a per capita basis.  Second place on the per capita list went to Washington, D.C.  That should come as no surprise, although it’s not clear whether the D.C. count was limited to only four-legged rats, or also included the two-legged variety.

Fortunately, Columbus didn’t make the Rat Capital list.

Cities used to declare themselves “capitals” as a mark of civic pride.  When I was a kid, Uhrichsville, Ohio — where the Webner part of the family hails from — had a sign boasting that it was the “Clay Capital” of the United States.  (I’m not sure any other municipalities were vying for that distinction.)  Akron was the Rubber Capital in those days, and even now on the highways you’ll see corny signs saying that one town or another is the Friendly Folks Capital or the Smile Capital or the Lobster Capital.

I doubt that Chicago is going to put up a sign about the Rat Capital designation.

When You See Rat Poison In The Corner

Recently I was in an office building when I saw a black box in a hallway corner.  When I took a closer look, I saw that it was a “Rodent Baiter” bearing the prominent legend:  “Poison — Do Not Touch.”

IMG_1184Rat poison!  Rat poison?  And it was displayed in an open and notorious fashion, there for anyone to see.

When you notice a box of rat poison in a hallway corner, your brain receives a strong, jangling signal that puts the sensory organs on high alert.  You tend to tread lightly and keep your eyes on the ground, scanning constantly for any furtive movement that might be a sign of rodent activity and listening carefully for any rustling, scrabbling sounds.  And it’s a useful reminder, too, that lots of people live and work in older buildings that might have rats and mice scampering and gamboling in the basements.

Some years ago one of the surface parking lots in downtown Columbus discovered a major rat infestation underground.  The cellar of the building that had been there was simply filled with rubble and paved over, and the incompletely filled-in area became a rat’s nest.  When the area was exposed as part of some construction project, rats came boiling out of the ground.  Poisons were brought to bear, and for a week or so thereafter you could expect to see a staggering, dying rat, experiencing the final effects of the poison before going toes up.

It was a disconcerting sight — sort of like seeing an openly displayed box of “Rodent Baiter” rat poison in a hallway corner.