Bwogger Jordan Merrill ventures deep into the fiery pits of the 116 St. subway station to sit down with the famous subway rat affectionately known as Rat. 

My palms are sweating, a sure and obvious symptom of my nervousness. Normally I bring a list of questions to these kinds of things, but I didn’t have time to prepare one, which I make a split-second decision to confess. “I’m winging it, Rat, so you have to help me.” Rat just flashes me a reassuring yet mischievous grin and asks, “aren’t we all?”.

Rat, born in the lively, formerly industrial neighborhood of Gowanus, Brooklyn in 1974, likes to purport that he comes from an “average, middle-class background.” He earned his stardom after immigrating to Manhattan in 1999, where he warmed the hearts of commuters everywhere by scurrying up and down the tracks of the 1 train. He finally settled down in the 116 St. station in 2011, after the financial crisis of the late 2000’s started to look up.

I must admit, now that I’ve moved a block south to a new dorm, it’s been quite a while since I’ve really sat and focused in this subway station. I almost didn’t recognize Rat, but who could truly forget his signature beady eyes and slimy tail? Most would agree that he is a prominent sex symbol among Columbia and Barnard students, but not everyone knows the softer, more human side of Rat.

“Please, have a seat,” he smoothly motions to a spot on the floor of the station next to a puddle of dog urine. I sit, and for a moment I forget what we’re here for. I can tell he’s like this with everyone he meets: suave, confident, determined to make people feel comfortable.

“How has it been staying in the same place for so many years? Do you ever miss the adventurous life of a wandering NYC rat?” He chuckles and gives me a knowing look. “Of course! I’ll always miss my wild twenties. Going from Midtown to the Village, and then back to Midtown again, all in one day? That’s all a rat can really ask for. Those days have to come to an end at some point, though, or it starts to get weird. My hair is starting to turn gray, and I think I have children now, though it is hard to tell when you’re a rodent. I just needed that sense of stability that comes from being around the same rats, you know?”

I, a human, do not know, but I nod my head earnestly, “So what are the other rats here like?”.

“They’re disgusting and wonderful! Most of them don’t know English, so it’s been super cool for me to learn rat language. It’s something that’s easy to pick up on when everyone around you is speaking it. Anyways, yes, I do love the other rats here. We have this fun game where we station ourselves in the tracks on Friday nights and see who can be the first one to snag a slice of pizza that a drunk person drops on the floor. It’s like that meme, you know? Pizza rat. We saw that one on our secret rat iPhones that all rats have–I mean we heard some humans talking about it once. So it’s super fun to bond with others in this community.”

I see the look of joy on his face, and realize that a circle of rats has surrounded us to listen in. My nerves return; I’m not used to an audience, but I go with it. “So are you seeing anyone?” I ask coyly.

“Squeak squeak.”

Huh? That’s really weird. I’m not sure why he started speaking rat after spending this whole time with me speaking English. After this, Rat and his posse scurry away into a hole in the corner, and I’m left sitting on the floor by myself. I’m confused and a little offended, but I pick myself up and walk home.

I tell my roommate about my talk with Rat and the weird turn it took at the end. She gives me a puzzled look and says, “Jordan, there is no rodent sex symbol at this school named Rat. Also, the carbon monoxide levels in the room tested too high. Utilities is coming in an hour to fix it.”

rat eating nutella via Bwog Archives