Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Now That's a Good Neighbor

This past weekend my husband and I were on the road yet again—this time we went to my hometown in Michigan for my cousin's fiancée's wedding shower. It's a five-hour drive from Chicago, and we arrived at my parents' place around 5:30 PM Saturday evening. The shower was set for 2 PM on Sunday. Alas, I was almost back home in the Windy City by that point.

What happened was that I woke up Sunday morning with a nasty case of food poisoning (I guess I was due after avoiding the worst of it when my husband got so sick last month). Although I was really annoyed/upset/disappointed to have come all that way for nothing, ultimately I decided that it wouldn't be cool if I was running out of the room every five minutes while the guest of honor was opening her gifts. We decided to cut our losses and head back immediately—figuring that it would be better to drive during the daytime hours, especially if I got worse and we had to find a hospital.

Thankfully, I didn't get worse, and slept it off after we got home. I spent most of Monday lying low as well, and then finally felt back to 100% yesterday evening, at which point I decided I needed some fresh air.

Like everywhere else in the country, Chicago's been in the midst of a miserable heat wave, and so I thought that since I've been slacking on helping out around my condo building, I would spend some time watering all of our plants and front "lawn" (read: small patch of already mostly dead grass).

So I am spraying the hose around our plants for about fifteen minutes and was feeling very peaceful. The sun was going down, and since I actually like to be hot, I considered the ninety-degree evening pretty perfect.

But then out of the corner of my eye I saw a small gray mass move from the sidewalk in front of our place, through our front gate, and onto our lawn. At first I thought it was a bunny, because 1) it was that big, 2) they usually come out at dusk, and 3) I'd seen one chilling among our plants in the recent past. But as this thing darted across our lawn and into our bushes, I noticed its long tail. That's right, a huge-ass RAT had run past me, within inches of my flip-flop-wearing feet, in what was still pretty much broad daylight. After rustling through our plants, it emerged seconds later to run for cover into the stairwell next to our building.

I must have shrieked (although I don't remember doing so) because a bunch of people walking in front of our place stopped and gave me a look like "Are you OK?"

Now, we're no stranger to rats in Chicago. I will spare any weak-hearted readers the gory details of some of my previous run-ins, but I will say that there's only been a few times in my fifteen years of living here that I've been in really close proximity to one of these guys. Usually I see them from afar, in the alley, and in the dead of night when I'm walking my dog. So I was a bit stunned—and yes, perhaps even slightly impressed—by the boldness of this rat last night. (On a related note, when I was trying to find rat pictures for this post, I realized that Chicago rats are way, WAY bigger than normal rats. I really, really, really wish our rats looked like this cute little guy.)

But back to my front-yard drama. The problem was this: there's no way out of the stairwell that the rat ran into. It's a dead-end. I knew that the rat must eventually come out the same way it ran in. And that would be OK... except that the water valve was also in that enclosed area and the water hose was still running.

Normally I am a semi-brave person. (Really, I am. REALLY!) But last night I was like, "You know what... after this food poisoning debacle and driving ten hours to Michigan and back within a day, I am just not in the mood to be bitten by a rat." Or maybe what went through my head was something more like, "Aww, HELLS NO am I going to get bitten by this #*$%ing rat and come down with some deadly rodent disease! That is not how I'm going to go out!"

My husband had just left to go meet friends for a drink and wasn't going to be back for about three hours. I figured that everything was so dry out front that it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to leave the water hose running in the grass and make my husband face the Rat Cave when he returned. But I didn't want my upstairs neighbor to think I'd just abandoned the task randomly. So I called him, explained the situation, and ended with, "I'm sorry, but I've spent the last 24 hours recovering from food poisoning and the last thing I need at this point is to get rabies or some strange rodent disease." Clearly I envisioned the rat not only running out at me, but also actually stopping to bite me.

Now, what you need to know about my neighbor (I will call him "A") is that he is ALWAYS coming to my rescue. It's kind of ridiculous. Since 2003, every time something has gone wrong with our building or inside of my condo, my husband has been gone and I've had to call A to come help me. (My husband swears he doesn't have any sort of sixth sense about this stuff, but I'm beginning to wonder!)

So A confirms that the rat has to run out the way it came in, and that he, too, has had encounters with the little guys back in that same area. But he said that we didn't need to wait for my husband to return—he would come out and face the Rat Cave in order to turn off the water.

Now picture this: A walks slowly into the cubby, reaches the water valve, and turns it off. Then he comes back out, gathers up the hose, and goes back into the cave with it in order to get the coil out of our yard. AND I AM STANDING BEHIND HIM, ARMED WITH TWO SWIFFERS.

In retrospect, I really have no idea what I thought I was going to achieve by having the Swiffers on hand. Did I plan to hit the rat with them? Was I going to throw them? Most likely if I saw the ran run out I would've screamed, dropped the Swiffers, and busted up the steps to our building. But I think the whole debacle provided some entertainment for passersby on our street, that's for sure.

I texted my friend Nerdy P about all of this once I was safely inside, and she wrote back, "You were going to BEAT A RAT, gangsta style!"

And so I would like to thank my neighbor A for helping me out yet again. I'm positive that if *I* would have gone in to turn off the water, the rat WOULD have charged me. Because that's just the kind of luck I've been having lately.

Rest assured I will be buying a little token of appreciation for A very soon.

- e


Sammy Jean said...

Chicago rats are the worst! They're everywhere, and they're not afraid of people. Kind of like the pigeons of the sewers. And of the subway tunnels. I swear, the Grand Red Line exit is the WORST.

And on an unrelated tanget, I thought of you the other night when I was at work. I work nights and weekends waitressing, and a LOST character walked in! Honest to goodness! It was Kim Dickens aka Cassidy, as in Sawyer's-con-woman-girlfriend-who-also-showed-Kate-the-ropes Cassidy. I wasn't waiting on her, but I just HAD to say hi! She was very nice. I didn't chat much, as she was about to eat her dinner. But since I live in DeKalb, it was a big deal! We don't get celebrities out here... ever.

Dennis Quaid and his family also ate at the restaurant I work at too that same day. DQ, Zac Efron, and Kim Dickens are all filming a movie out here. :D

Jill said...

Rodents of unusual size! Dah!

Aunt Sue said...

Poor little ole rat. Just lookin to chill out under the steps on a hot summer day. You could have wet the swiffer and given him a back rub. :)

Elaine said...

That wasn't so bad, although I would've freaked out way worse than u did. But where I live sewer rats (the humongous kind) have a tendency to kind of enter houses through the toilet, that's right! you go away for the weekend and when you get home there's a god awful rat in every toilet of your house.