Who Says That the Spirit of Invention Is Dead in America? Or, a Brief but Ultimately Horrifying Exercise in Not-So-Free Association Involving Pizza, Rats, and the Various Meanings of "Viral"

This photo was originally posted on Pinterest, and it has, as they say, gone viral:

Pizza and Rats 1

And if you happen to live in or are visiting a big city such as New York, this clever bit of American ingenuity may just keep the rats from dragging off your pizza slices when you’re not looking:

Pizza and Rats 2

Oh, and, by the way, that rat with the pizza slice is cute only on camera.

If you have ever come close to stepping on a rat on a city street, you know that it takes quite some time before you are able to walk normally again. You get a weird hitch in your step because every shadow looks as if it is about to run up your pants leg.

And it is a very tactile exercise in the power of imagination.

And if you have never had that experience, imagine that your pizza was being made in one of these kitchens:

Pizza and Rats 3

Pizza and Rats 4

This little sequence of images demonstrates very definitively, I think, that digital reality very often does not really mesh with actual reality.

And, in some instances, what goes viral in the digital reality is, paradoxically and very ironically, indicative of contamination and even contagion in actual reality.


If those images are not enough to give you the heebie-jeebies, Business Insider has provided the following list of ten “fun facts” about New York’s rats:

  1. It’s an urban myth that there are as many rats as people in New York. In fact, the real number of rats is closer to one-quarter of the number of people (or about 2 million rodents). [That’s reassuring?]
  1. All New York City rats today are the same species: the Norwegian rat (Rattus norvegicus). This is the same kind as pet rats and lab rats. It’s also known as the brown rat, the sewer rat, and the alley rat.
  1. The average adult brown rat is 16 inches long and weighs 1 pound, but some have been reported to be as long as 20 inches and weigh up to 2 pounds. [Yikes!]
  1. They reproduce incredibly fast. Rats are sexually mature at two to three months old and can produce a litter of five to seven pups every couple of months.
  1. Rats eat everything (pizza rat is a case in point). They can survive on just an ounce of food and water a day, which they can easily get from NYC’s trash and food waste.
  1. As you might expect, rats are crawling with nasty bugs that can make us sick, like the bubonic plague. One study found that NYC rats carry the bacteria E. coli, Clostridium difficile, and Salmonella, as well as rat-bite fever and Seoul hantavirus (which can cause serious fever and sometimes death).
  1. There are even stories of rats attempting to eat humans. In 1860, the New York Times ran a story about a dead newborn baby whose nose, upper lip, cheek, and toes were reportedly chewed off by rodents.
  1. Urban dwellers beware: Rats can easily wriggle up toilet pipes, as a recent National Geographic video demonstrated. [If one cannot feel secure while seated on a toilet, where exactly can one feel secure?]
  1. New York City has found some innovative ways to deal with its rat problem. An organization called the Ryders Alley Trencher Fed Society (R.A.T.S.) trains dogs to hunt rats in any way that they’re needed.
  1. But rats aren’t going anywhere. According to The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, they may be some of the few animals that could survive the next mass extinction. In fact, all of us mammals are descended from a rat-like creature that emerged from the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs.

If you are a masochist, the article in Business Insider includes photos or videos with each of those facts and is available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/amazing-facts-about-new-york-citys-rats-2015-9?utm.




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