New Yorkers are a notoriously hard to shock bunch. We ignore the Naked Cowboy in Times Square, snooze through subway preachers' monologues of fire and brimstone, and only bat an eyelash at the breakdancing kids on the A train if one happens to sock us in the eye with an overstuffed Air Jordan. The best and worst of humanity seethe past us every day, all day, from every conceivable angle, and the only way to deal with it all without going crazy is to assume the attitude of the nonplussed. But there is one thing that I have found that universally penetrates the steely armor of the New Yorker, one bit of stimulus that will make us sit up and pay attention, and it scuttles about on decidedly un-human legs.
Rats. Mice. Roaches. Bedbugs. Pigeons. But especially rats. Forget the weirdos: these are the real enemies of the city-dweller. I have watched grown humans shriek in fear and sprint to the other side of the subway platform at the sight of a wayward rodent snuffling about the tracks. Mad taxis, gangs of thugs, and just about any other disturbance of the peace is nothing against the looming threat of Rattus norvegicus. So while I may flinch at their tactics, I have to hand it those pest control companies who really know what they're doing when they round up all the ickiest creatures great and small, then plaster their likenesses on their billboards. I don't care what I have to do, I don't care how much it costs, just make it . . . go . . . away.