All rodents on this campus bend their knees to their king.

When you go into Lerner Hall, you normally go up the stairs, turn around, and walk into Ferris. If that’s not your path, you might turn left and take the elevator to the fifth floor for a meeting, rehearsal, or performance. Wherever you go, it’s probably a reservable, numbered room, with walls, chairs, and the usual creature comforts.

But Lerner has a hidden side. Service elevators can take you behind Ferris. A set of double doors brings you to Roone’s backstage. And if you venture all the way down, past the Party Space and into the bowels of Columbia, you will find him.

The Rat King of Lerner Hall.

The university has had its fair share of mouse problems. Let me be the first to tell you that these are not isolated incidents. It is The Rat King who determines which vermin go where, and what tolls they exact.

Don’t believe me? Request an audience with the Rat King of Lerner. It’s an easy process. Exactly 30 minutes before building closing (12:30 am Sunday to Wednesday, 2:30 am Thursday to Saturday), call back elevator on the East side of the building, by Lerner 572/573. Take the elevator to 1R, and then immediately to C. (If you get into the elevator without access to 1R, you have failed and will need to retry on another night.) Prop open the door on the left, as it leads to an exit staircase, and if things go awry, you’ll need it.

Now, enter the cellar cage across from the elevators and push any janitorial carts into the main hallway to make room for an audience. You may already notice signs of The King – droppings, the clattering of tiny feet, a certain scurrying rush in the air. The next step is the most crucial. In the center of the storage room, place an offering. Avoid food offered in Ferris, as the rats already have full domain over their pizza and cornbread muffins. You will need to find the right food to offer deep in your soul. When in doubt, deliver mozzarella sticks.

Soon, a small convoy of rats will drag the offering away, revealing the Rat King of Lerner’s true perch behind an abandoned stack of tables. Listen carefully to his wise squeaks – they come from the wisdom dozens of generations of uptown rats. If at any point, you interrupt or anger the Rat King of Lerner Hall (such as by not addressing him by his full title), you’ll need the exit route you opened. Otherwise, state your business and be done before the building closes, lest you be trapped with the rats for the rest of the night…

Image (of a MOUSE not a rat) via Pixabay.