OnlyOnAOL: Why yes, sir, that's a live rat in your toilet
By: Donna Freydkin
Indefatigable. Dogged. Determined. Cunning.
Yes, folks, we're talking about the Norway rat, millions of whom are daily facts of life for residents of New York City.
"They're so smart," says filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. "I've been here 20+ years. I haven't had a week go by without seeing a rat."
So he decided to make a movie about them. The Discovery film is based on Robert Sullivan's bestseller "Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants." Spurlock read it, was fascinated, and as a lifelong horror fan, decided to make a frightening documentary that he calls a "genre-bending" film.
Spurlock's worst rat encounter reads like a comedy crossed with a surreal slasher script. He and his girlfriend were living on the Lower East Side before it became trendy, and one night, woke up to hear scratching near his stove.
"I turn on the light, point it to the kitchen, and there's a rat. He looks at me. I look at him. He walks towards the oven. And I see it go into this space," says Spurlock, who went on to close the hole and cover it with wood. But the rat came back. So he moved.
Every resident of all five boroughs has had his or her notable encounter with one of the rodents. If you ride the subway, you see them scurrying around on the tracks. Playgrounds, after dark, are rife with them. And forget piles of garbage bags strewn on streets -- best to just stay away.
"You have to respect rats. I don't think you have to like them," says producer Jeremy Chilnick.
His own rat story haunts him to this day.
"We were finishing a movie and I went into the office on a Sunday," says Chilnick. "We had a small office and the bathroom was a really small bathroom. I crack the door open. In the toilet bowl, there's a giant rat trying to get out. I quickly close the door. I call any exterminator I could find. The exterminator goes, 'That's a rat in your toilet.' He closes the door. You hear the sounds of combat taking place."
Entomologist and exterminator Ed Sheehan, who has vanquished rodents all over the city, says that rats are driven by the same basic needs as humans: "Food, water, shelter. Very simple."