For over a year now, our faculty office has been plagued by a small ragtag army of ravenous rodents possessing extra-strong teeth. These rats crouch surreptitiously in the dark secret space between the ceiling and the roof during daytime, as humans scurry beneath them, ignorant of the insidious plans fermenting in those small, yet sharp and focused animal brains.
Perhaps without knowing the potential bomb of horror that would explode the next day, one of these hapless humans started eating merienda with his or her bare hands before proceeding to talk on the office phone. Using his or her contaminated fingers, this still unidentified person then moved the phone around and touched its wire. Conversation over, the person walked away, not knowing that the scent of food (and some particles) had been imprinted on the gray telephone wire.
The next day, our office phone was dead. Overnight, the sneaky band of brothers went through the aircon pipes with their highly sensitive and motivated sensors, picked up the scent of the food like CSI detectives following a trail of blood, found the source of the smell, and proceeded to devour our telephone wires.
It’s either those rodents were really, really hungry or they had morphed into mutants with an appetite for, and the capacity to eat copper wires and dirty plastic without any recognizable side effects.
This shouldn’t really surprise any of us in the office though. Our hairy upstairs neighbors had done damage on seemingly inedible everyday items before. A few months ago, we came back to the office to find that the cover of our purple plastic trash bin now had a big, ragged, gaping hole. The rats had chewed through plastic — not ordinary cheap plastic with the strength of onionskin paper, but thick plastic you have to pay more than P50 for!
It was bad enough that they had chewed through the trash cover, but they had to drag its nasty contents and stuff them into different corners of the office as well! One day, we found women’s (un)sanitary unmentionables stinking up our computer area.
Aside from these affronts, they had peed on our desks, planted explosive poop mines on test papers, printers, books, and other miscellaneous items. Despite the animals’ obvious taunting of our human authority however, none of us had even tried to eradicate these nasty nocturnal attackers.
It’s not for want of the desire see our nemesis dead, nor are we too feeble-minded to concoct plans for their demise. Rather it’s due to human apathy and fear.
After getting over our initial horror, after complaining about their nastiness, after dowsing our tables with alcohol and cleaning up their messes, after swapping rat stories of old, after all that, we all go back to work and well, do nothing about eliminating the enemies. Although I am hoping with all my heart that the phone wire violation will be the last straw and lead to the poisoning and eventual destruction of that merry band of rodents.
Another reason the rats still share the same breathing space as we do is this widespread fear that if we killed even one of them, they would launch a horrific act of revenge upon us.
Filipinos believe that rats are smart. One of my co-teachers told me a story of how she had tried killing a rat that got into her house. She mixed poison with food and left it on the floor. The next day though, the rat was still alive and kicking. So she tried poisoning it again. Still the plan failed. Finally she realized that the rat was smart enough to weaken the poison by drinking water dripping from the back of the fridge. Ingenious! Not to be outsmarted, that night my co-teacher mixed poison with both the food and the water. Thus, the next day, the rat was finally dead and thrown into a trash bin.
Did any other rat wage vengeance and attack their house? According to my colleague, another rat did appear. Rat#2 was eventually exterminated as well and buried underground to prevent further revenge-motivated attacks. Based on this experience, my co-worker firmly supports the widely held belief that if a rat slayer neglects to sufficiently cover up his or her violent act with soil, members of the dead rat’s coven will seek revenge.
Anyway, back to my point. Due to apathy and this fear of rat revenge, none of us has really actively tried to kill the rats. That’s why those rodents are pestering the daylights out of us. But enough is enough. They’ve done a lot of damage. We can’t let them continue annoying, harassing, and attacking us! If they’re still out there, they can still cause harm. We can’t let fear of their supposed power scare us either! We can always do something to assert our rights. We have to weed out bad elements completely and not delude ourselves into thinking that the problem will just go away or solve itself. This goes for our office rats, as well as for bigger “rats” of the two-legged variety out there. So, if you will excuse me, I have to go and plan for the demise of those ravaging rodents.
Jocy So-Yeung is a faculty member of the Davao Christian High School. She is a Fellow for Creative Nonfiction at the 2011 Davao Writers Workshop being held on October 11-15 at Lispher Inn, Matina.