Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Rat Man Do

I'm a cat veterinarian, and this blog is supposed to be primarily about cats. But I'm also a native New Yorker, and today I filmed a quintessential New York moment on my iPhone that involved a different four-legged creature, as you will soon see.

I live in Chelsea. I take the number 1 train to work. Every morning, I go through the turnstile on the West 28th Street station, and take my place on the platform. Like most New York subway riders, I obsess over where to stand on the platform so that the train drops me off right at the stairs on the platform of my destination station. My place on the 28th Street station is at the far north end, so I can get in the first car. Not just the first car, but the first car, fourth set of doors.

At about the level of the fifth car is a green dumpster.

Several mornings, while waiting on the subway platform, I've been startled by the site of a black rat zooming at high speed along the base of the platform wall. The rat runs from beneath the dumpster, along the wall, to the end of the platform, and then down those steps to the subway tracks.  It’s a black rat.  Medium sized.  Can’t tell if it’s the same rat on those mornings, but I think it is.

One morning, I thought that it would be pretty neat to film the rat zooming along the wall, but with a camera that would be right down at the rat's eye level. I don't know why I thought this would be neat, but I did. With the advent of smartphones, this should be pretty easy, no?

I didn't expect there to be so many obstacles. The main obstacle was the presence of other commuters at my end of the platform. Many mornings, I'd get to the end of the platform, set down my iPhone, set the video camera, and patiently wait. Then I'd see up ahead another passenger heading up to my north end of the platform. Muttering curses under my breath, I'd go over and pick up the iPhone. I didn't want anyone spotting the phone. Reason 1: I didn't want them to take it. Reason 2: I didn't want them to know that I was filming. I don't know if they would realize what it was that I was trying to capture on film, but if they did realize it, I'm sure they would think I was crazy. Anyway, this was by far the major reason for not capturing the rodent on video.

The second obstacle was the absence of rat. The vast majority of mornings, he just didn't appear. A few mornings, I got to the level of the dumpster just to see him up ahead, halfway down the platform! Yes, a few infuriating mornings I missed him by, like, thirty seconds!

This went on for months.

But a January brings hope anew, and this morning felt different. I arrived at the turnstile just in time to see my train pulling away. Just missed it. Normally, I'd be silently fuming, but this morning, I saw it as an opportunity. The next train wasn't due for 7 minutes. Lots of time to catch a rat. As I passed the dumpster, I saw that the platform was wet from the melted snow above dripping down from the nasty ceiling. A wet platform seemed a more rat-friendly environment.

I went to the end of the platform, set down my camera, and waited. The minutes passed. Passengers went through the turnstile at the middle of the platform, but amazingly, none headed up to my north end. The clock ticked away. Train due in three minutes.  Train due in two minutes.  The LED light flashed. My train was a-comin'. An announcement blared that my train was approaching the station. Alas, another unsuccessful morning. And then…

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