Today's amNY has a Matt Drudge–style siren on its front page warning you about a potential plague that's set to hit the city as the summer arrives: rat attacks. "There's going to be a major epidemic during the summer with the rodents," Rosemarie Vasquez, a former city pest-control aide, told the free daily. See, Vasquez is among 63 city pest-control workers who were laid off in recent job cuts, knocking the number of on-staff rodent patrollers down by 75 percent. Advocates for the laid-off workers would have you believe that this means the city will be overrun by cat-size rats by June 2011. "We're almost at a crisis mode," said Fitz Reid, president of the union that represents those axed. The only other testimonials as to the impending infestation are from city politicians who express vague fears.
There's not much actual evidence in the story that this summer will be worse than any previous one. Apparently, last year 311 received 10,500 rodent complaints, which is 5 percent more than in 2009. And so far this year complaints are up 9 percent from the same period in 2010. But the city has enacted a successful new program of reviewing entire neighborhoods one at a time and returning every eight to twelve months — as opposed to responding on a case-by-case basis. (City pest controllers are also performing exterminations and inspections after complaints.) This program was launched in the Bronx with positive results in December and will be expanded to the rest of the city throughout the year.
Basically, in an effort to get their jobs back, these pest workers are trying to terrify you (and by you, I mean Intel Nitasha) into thinking that without them, soon enough you're going to be sharing your picnic table in Bryant Park with a fearless, Garfield-size rodent who's going to systematically put his paws on every single one of your french fries before you can get to them, such that you have to cede them to him in a polite but shaming show of defeat. Well, here's some news for you, pest controllers: We already have to do that.
The idea that we haven't lost the war between humans and rats is laugh-out-loud funny. Need any evidence? What about that rat that ran up on a guy's face in the subway the other day? What about the ones manning the elevators in the East Village? The rats that are coming up through your toilets? And who could forget that rat that clearly stole a human woman's boyfriend and shamelessly made out with him on the subway?? These beasts will stop at nothing!
So, please, pest controllers. You can't scare us with the threat of rat happenings that may go on in your absence. We've already seen it all, and we saw it under your watch. Why, just the other day I watched a rat bust through the emergency exit on the subway because it couldn't be bothered to wait for everybody to get through the turnstiles. Even I am usually too timid to do that. Face it — they've already won.